Faculty       Chairs/Directors    
Dean of the Faculty/Vice President for Academic Affairs
 

FACULTY MEETING

September 5, l997
Gannett Auditorium

MINUTES


President Porter called the meeting to order at 3:37 p.m.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

The May 2, l997 and May l4, l997 faculty meeting minutes were approved as written.

PRESIDENT'S REPORT

President Porter announced that the Diversity and Affirmative Action Committee has revised and strengthened the sexual harassment policy and will be initiating a program to make sure that everyone in the College community understands this policy. The Committee will be asking for volunteers to help with this effort. He said he will be sending a copy of this policy to the College community. He reported that the search for the Diversity and Affirmative Action Officer has been reopened and that we hope to begin interviewing candidates toward the end of this term, with follow-up interviews in January, if necessary. The President said that Barbara Beck, Director of Human Resources, will be circulating a copy of the job description, and he invited everyone to make recommendations of anyone they feel might be appropriate for this position.

The President announced that Karl Broekhuizen, Vice President for Business Affairs and Treasurer, will be reviewed during the l997-98 academic year under the regular program of administrative reviews. A review committee will be appointed shortly.

The President reported that "we have more students on campus this year than we had anticipated. We had planned to open with approximately 2l60 students, scaling back from the 2200 we began with last year. The summer melt was not as great as expected; consequently, we have about 30 more students in the first-year class. We also have, due to better-than expected upper-class retention, 4l more upper-class students than we had anticipated. This overage, obviously, has created some problems in the residence halls. On the other hand, it is clearly good news that new students want to come here in greater numbers than we anticipated, and that students who have attended Skidmore want to come back in larger numbers than we projected. The retention rate had been falling over several years but seems now to have turned around."

President Porter announced that "the Skidmore campaign met the $60M target for the end of the last academic year, an amount which included the $2.5 million pledge for the new Tang Teaching Museum/Art Gallery. In addition, Robert and Joan Dayton have pledged to fund an endowed chair for the directorship of the Tang Teaching Museum/Art Gallery. I remain optimistic about reaching the $78 million goal for the campaign by June of l998. The Skidmore endowment passed $l00 million, and the AT&T Foundation gave Skidmore a $89,000 grant for an AT&T Technology Fellow Summer Program."

Dr. Porter also commented on the impact the campaign has already had on the College. "As a result of the campaign, Skidmore has been able to expand and renovate the library, to build the science wing, to expand our athletic facilities, and to completely rework our computer infrastructure. Without the campaign we would not have four new professorships as well as a Luce Fellow. Before the campaign we were only able to provide aid to 29% of our students, but this year we will have over 36% of our students on aid. As a result of the campaign, we are now moving to endow the Student/Faculty Collaborative Research Program so as to ensure its continuation."

The President said that "he wanted to talk about the intellectual quality of the College with a special focus on conversations that will be going on this year about standards and expectations, a topic that we discussed last year and that we'll be coming back to this fall. It's an initiative directly related to enhancing the intellectual atmosphere at the College, a goal that is at the heart of both the campaign and the goals set in the Commission on the '90s Report a number of years back. One of the things that is so encouraging is that everybody is on board this year for getting this done: the faculty is clearly behind paying attention to standards and expectations, CEPP spent a lot of time discussing the topic last year, and the Dean of the Faculty and I are very much behind it. I am delighted that students as well have clearly indicated that enhancing the intellectual atmosphere is indeed central to their agenda this year. We thus have ideal conditions under which to work.  "Recently, I spoke with both the SGA and the residence hall leaders specifically about standards and expectations, emphasizing that this is in no way an 'anti-student' effort. Students and their families pay money to Skidmore College to make students as good as they can be. Unless we uphold our standards, we aren't doing that. Being sure that our standards and expectations are right is in fact the most pro-student thing we can possibly do; it is a collective effort in which the students have, if anything, even more interest than we. It's a matter of both holding students to high standards and also encouraging them to set high standards and expectations for themselves.

"I said to the students, as I've said to you on other occasions, that I do not see this effort as primarily about grade inflation, although that is a topic we will surely have to address. I also do not see this primarily as dealing with sloppy thinking, organization, or spelling, although that too is clearly part of it. It's obviously a demoralizing derogation of our job to write, 'A, good work' on something that is not good work. More important, it is a terrible disservice to our students, since the worst thing we can do is to send them into the work force thinking they do good work only to find that it is mediocre. "In its broadest sense, this discussion on standards and expectations is about finding the right balance between rigor and encouragement, challenge and support. Yet another way to look at the issue is as a balance between independence and support."

The President read two passages from the Vision Statement that the Institutional Planning Committee circulated last year which point in this last direction. "The foundations of our curriculum promote in our students a range of literacies and skills essential for confronting and solving problems knowledgeably, creatively, and ethically and for gathering, analyzing and using diverse forms of information and knowledge, for thinking independently while working collaboratively but communicating precisely, effectively, and sensitively and for appreciating social and ideologically diversity." The President said that the statement goes on to speak of close student/faculty contact as the mode in which students learn and ends: "We prize pedagogies, class structures and sizes that foster decision making; active, integrative, independent learning as well as collaborative learning; interdisciplinary approaches in problem reconceptualization and solving; reflective and creative thought and action; and above all, excellence."

Commenting on these passages, he said, "These words are a road map for what we are about this year as we think of standards and expectations. One of the great advantages of defining our focus this way is that one is looking not at input and coverage-how much we cover-but at end results-where we want our students to be at the end of a course, or of college. Furthermore, this focus provides a way of measuring ourselves, of judging our own success by the degree to which we help students grow and learn to become independent thinkers and problem solvers.

"This goal is germane to any level--clearly to collaborative research, to seminars, to theses or independent study, but also, I think, to introductory courses. I spoke to the new students when they arrived about Liberal Studies I as a course in which we will bombard them with all manner of materials, and I warned them that they will be frustrated and overwhelmed at times. The point is, they must find their own answers; if we merely give them the 'proper' answers or our answers and let them feed these back to us, we are not teaching them as we should. Focusing on independence of thinking also helps define the right balance between rigor and support. On the one side, we are saying to students as we press them to think for themselves, 'We know you can do it, we know you have the capacity to think this way, we know the talent is there.' So it's profoundly supportive and encouraging. At the same time, if the goal is for them to learn to think for themselves, they must understand that this will happen only if we treat them rigorously, if we challenge them, if we allow them to flounder at times. Mollycoddling is not going to teach anybody to think independently.

"Finally, I like the student/faculty dynamic that is suggested by focusing on this goal. It's a goal students and faculty surely agree upon--certainly all students and all faculty can believe in independence of thinking as a worthy goal toward which to work. And the process of getting there is also collaborative, a process in which the faculty role is not above all to convey information but to model how to think independently.

"The theme of faculty modeling independent thinking is the theme on which I wish to end. I think Robert DeSieno circulated to all of you the terrific final page of the last Chronicle of Higher Education, which contains an article by a Middlebury English professor, Jay Parini, on the impact of teachers he had as models for him and for his teaching. It's a concept very relevant to Skidmore in that students who leave Skidmore almost invariably speak of one or more teachers as having a profound impact on them. In doing so, they are remembering those faculty not only as persons who conveyed information to them but even more as mentors who modeled a whole way of looking at things.
"One could not present to our students a better group of models of how to think independently than the Skidmore faculty. You know that I have always admired you profoundly for what I see as a balanced commitment to both teaching and scholarship, a commitment in which these two sides complement each other. There is a continuity between the originality and independence of thinking that all of you congenitally and persistently, despite all the things you have to do, bring to your work, your research, your creative work, and the kind of independent thinking you bring to the classroom. The role model you are providing our students is tremendously important. If we can shape the curriculum, the classroom, our formal and informal contacts with students, so that students learn this independence of thinking from you, that's about the best thing we could do for them.

"I was really delighted when a new member of the faculty told me that when she had indicated to her colleagues at her very distinguished international university that she was coming to Skidmore, they said, 'Oh, aren't you lucky, that's the most intellectually active liberal arts college in the United States.' That was wonderful to hear, and I would agree that this faculty is indeed as intellectually active as any faculty I have ever met. So as we think of standards and expectations, let's think of being sure we measure the institution by how well it makes students live up to what they can be. And let's be sure we measure it also by how well we encourage them to make the most of that really extraordinary resource they have here, which is all of you in this room.
"It's a natural seque from these comments to the next item on the agenda, which is to speak of a faculty member who for years modeled for students, for colleagues, for all of us, independence of thinking and independence of action, be it in the classroom, in his poetry, in his way of life. It is my privilege to call upon Terence Diggory to present a memorial minute to Professor Larry Josephs.

Professor Diggory read into the minutes a memorial tribute to Larry Josephs (see Attachment A). The faculty observed a moment of silence.

INTRODUCTIONS

Dean Roth said that "I would like to take the introductions that I am about to deliver for our new colleagues as a tribute to Larry Josephs as a past colleague. I think he would have liked that-I know he would have been terrified by it and embarrassed but ultimately I think he would have liked it." She reminded everyone of Opening Convocation on September 8, l997 and asked the faculty to urge their students to attend.

Phyllis Roth welcomed and introduced new faculty (see Attachment B).

Dean Roth said that this is an especially ideal opportunity for discussions on standards and expectation as the President indicated because of the student investment in this matter.

Joe Jolly, SGA President, and Kristen Sciacca, Vice President for Academic Affairs (Kristen is on CEPP) are eager to lead the students in parallel discussions to those taking place among the faculty. She said she felt confident that these conversations will help us discover a great deal that is of use to all of us in the learning experience. The Dean announced that Kristen is eager to get Academic Council reactivated and the Dean reminded the chairs and directors that they needed to appoint Academic Council representatives. "The counseling staff is eager to help us in this conversation by leading a discussion of the sorts of problems that students experience, many of them by the time they arrive on campus, that have an effect on their work here and we need to tease out what our responsibilities are and are not with regard to those issues. We will arrange that as soon as conveniently possible. We will also arrange a meeting for the standards and expectations group with the new faculty and their mentors to have some conversation about what we have been talking about to date and how that might have an effect and how we might be helpful to those of you who are facing new classes and new students. The Honors Council for the Honors Forum will be constituted this fall and that conversation will doubtless become part of our discussions on standards and expectations. The continuing members of the Standards and Expectations Sub-Committee are: David Domozych, Michael Arnush, Penny Jolly, Gordon Thompson, and Susan Bender, Chair (until her '98 spring sabbatical)."

Dean Roth welcomed back all the faculty returning from sabbaticals.

Joseph Tolliver, Dean of Student Affairs, introduced the following new staff member in the Office of Student Affairs: Sonia Kiszka, Director of Health Services

Mr. Tolliver also announced several personnel changes in the HEOP Office: Susan Layden, Director of HEOP

Ann Knickerbocker, Associate Director of HEOP

Victor Gonzalez '93, Assistant Director of HEOP

Mary Lou Bates, Director of Admissions, introduced the following new staff members in the Office of Admissions:

Darren Draybek, Assistant Director of Admissions

John Young, Associate Director of Admissions

Karl Broekhuizen, Vice President for Business Affairs and Treasurer, introduced the following new staff member in the Office of Business Affairs:

Patricia Schults, Manager of Skidmore Travel

Leo Geoffrion, Director of CITS, introduced the following new member of CITS:

Lisa Schermerhorn, User Services Consultant I

REPORTS

Donald McCormack, Dean of Special Programs, reported that Special Programs had the best summer ever, especially programmatically. The programs included The Boys Choir of Harlem, Garth Fagan Dance, Summer School, Summer Six, UWW and MALS seminars, Summer Exploration, PASS AP/Art, The Center for Talented Youth (CTY), Sports Camps, the Flute and Jazz Institutes, the Adirondack Life Institute and SACI in Florence. Special Programs hosted a fund raiser to benefit the Saratoga County Arts Council featuring David Hyde Pierce as well as the Second International Charlotte Perkins Gilman Conference. He thanked his staff and the faculty for making these programs so successful.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

He adjourned the meeting at 4:55 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,


Renate E. Knapp
Executive Secretary
Office of the Dean of the Faculty
Attachments

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