At their November meeting, the faculty spent a large portion of time in confidential deliberations as a committee of the whole before discussing academic censorship.
Watson Bartlett, Professor of Biology and Conservation and faculty chair pro-tem Stuart Allison started the Nov. 6 meeting by briefly explaining that the meetings would continue to not follow all of Robert’s Rules to the letter but that he did want to move the meetings in a more formal direction.
After hearing from Student Success Coordinator Laura Bush and Director of the TRIO Achievement Program Riza Lopez encouraging faculty to support the first-generation student celebration on Nov. 8 the faculty unanimously granted contingent approval to 31 to graduate in December.
They then moved into a committee of the whole, closing the meeting to all non-faculty.
After the committee business was finished and the meeting was reopened to the public, Philip Sidney Post Professor of English Robin Metz motioned for the Exec Committee to discuss academic censorship. The conversation focused on how the issue related to the cancellation of the Winter Term play “The Good Person of Szechwan.”
Faculty members raised concerns about if and where to draw a line between censorship and preventing harm to students, especially in regards towards racism and students of color. Some members also worried about the timing of the statement and its message to students while others felt the national climate made now the proper time.
There were also some questions on if the cancellation amounted to censorship or if it was just criticism by students. Having a committee review syllabi was cited repeatedly as an example of academic censorship but the faculty were split on whether the student reaction to the play infringed on academic freedom. Theatre Professor Neil Blackadder, who was going to direct the play, noted that he did not feel that his academic freedom had been limited.
The motion was voted on by ballot and defeated 32 to 20. President Teresa Amott informed Allison during the voting that the existing language on academic censorship was in the college’s by-laws and therefore any changes would have to go through the Board of Trustees.
Director of the Center for Intercultural Life Tianna Cervantez then informed the faculty about an event to be held Nov. 7 to begin a discussion about guidelines for events such as guest speakers in regards to consideration on how the event will affect different demographics at Knox.
The meeting ended with the President’s report and the Dean’s report. Amott touched on possible effects of the lowered student-faculty ratio from the drop in enrollment in recent years and possible gradual reduction in faculty numbers.
Interim Dean of the College and Vice President of Academic Affairs Michael Schneider focused on enrollment closeouts in his report. The college had around 300 closeouts, forcing them to add new classes for Winter Term to accommodate the students affected.