News / November 13, 2019

Faculty Briefing: Dean discusses Knox’s future, academic calendar

In the last Faculty Meeting of the term, Knox faculty debated the necessity of a new ad-hoc Committee to address Knox’s budget, discussed increasing the length of 2s-5s classes for the 2020-2021 academic school year and explored the options and implications of redesigning Knox’s academic calendar.

 

Ad Hoc Committee

Dean and Provost Michael Schneider told Knox faculty that he attended the Associated Colleges of the Midwest Deans’ Meeting a few weeks ago. There, he recounted Knox’s intent to create an ad hoc committee which coordinates among existing subcommittees in order to address the overall urgent status of Knox’s budget and future of the academic program. Schneider said the reaction from other college deans was, “You don’t have that already?”

Information and school policy derives from various faculty committees — such as Faculty Personnel or Budget and Financial Priorities — but the issues the committees confront are affiliated, Schneider argued. He said the committees would benefit through the introduction of an additional overarching committee staffed by the Dean, two members from each committee and three untenured faculty members.

Besides coordination among the existing committees, Schneider said the mission of the ad hoc is to offer more representation for the faculty not in those committees. The 3 to-be-elected untenured faculty members could even be visiting professors not on tenure track. The Executive Committee possesses the power to create this ad hoc committee and already voted in support of instating the ad hoc for one year. Unless there are objections, Schneider said, elections should occur as soon as possible.

Faculty members did voice objections. While faculty not in the Executive Committee hold no power over whether the ad hoc is or is not created, faculty expressed concerns that there already exist too many committees and creating another will not streamline communication.

Other faculty were concerned that while existing subcommittees have clear objectives, the ad hoc has a vague charge. This vagueness could heap indefinite amounts of work onto already overworked professors, expose vulnerable new or visiting professors to blowback and erode the authority of existing subcommittees.

Schneider responded that the ad hoc itself will not decide policy and that it will not be staffed by any persons from the Executive Committee. A faculty member from the Faculty Personnel Committee attested that they found it difficult to communicate to other committees when information was siloed within each committee and that the ad hoc would be a supportive measure to share expertise and background.

 

2s, 3s, 5s courses

As Knox gears up for its ten year re-accreditation, the Executive Committee is re-examining what amount of time classifies a course versus a credit.

Schneider highlighted that 2s, 3s and 5s classes use 180 minutes a week, compared to MWTF classes which use 280 minutes a week. Schneider said 2s, 3s and 5s classes fall far below the common standard of time for a college credit.

2s, 3s, 5s classes were originally intended to be for seminar classes, implying the student does a greater amount of work outside of class. Yet, over the past decade, while other sections have grown by about five percent, Schnieder presented that 2s, 3s and 5s sections have increased by 40 percent.

In order to meet the required standard of minutes for a college course, the Executive Committee proposed adding fifteen minutes to each 2s, 3s and 5s class beginning Fall of 2020. Faculty expressed concerns that this increase would cut into Tuesday and Thursday afternoon time slots traditionally designated for some curricular activities.

Schneider said to alter the course schedule any further would require a complete restructuring of the periods. The Executive Committee has been exploring alternatives such as removing the 4 slot in order to encourage more use of the 1 period, but ultimately, has not yet made a decision.

 

Alternative Academic Calendar

Knox operates on a quarter system but without the summer quarter. As of now, the Executive Committee and Curriculum Committee are exploring alternative calendars that may better fit the needs of students and improve faculty work life.

Schneider said more students are coming to Knox from farther away. As student demographics shift geographically, a long Winter Break is undesirable for students without the resources to return home. In a 2015 survey of graduating seniors, the individuals who said they enjoyed the trimester system were those with higher GPAs and, by nature, the poll excluded all those who dropped out.

Schneider said the committees are in the process of narrowing the various models of consideration, developing assessments as to how each calendar would work for each department and examining the costs and impact on new student recruitment. This is in order to bolster student retention, relieve faculty from the need to create curriculums three times a year and yet still retain the unique strengths of the trimester system.

Once the decision is made, the calendar would be adopted through phases. First, recruited students would be notified. The next year, the new calendar would enter the catalog. The year after that, the entering class would be required to graduate under the new calendar. Two years later, after the programs are shifted, the calendar would be fully adopted.

Among many possible models, Schneider highlighted a specific calendar he dubbed the “I-Term.” The I-Term has two 12-week terms, plus two 3-week intensive terms. The course work would follow a 3-1-3-1 pattern. Currently, less than one percent of schools are using it.

Sam Lisec, Co-News Editor
Co-News Editor

Tags:  faculty comittee faculty meeting briefing

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