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

FACULTY MEETING 

November 6, 1998
Gannett Auditorium

MINUTES 

President Porter called the meeting to order at 3:38 p.m.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

The minutes of the October 2 were approved as written.

PRESIDENT’S REPORT 

The President spoke about the Board retreat that was held in Vermont on October 22 and 23. During this meeting the Board spent a great bulk of its time planning for the next five to ten years. The Board assessed where it is, how it operates, its committee structure, how it does business, and how it keeps in touch with the campus communities. A brief official meeting was held. The bond issue, which has been designated for a variety of projects over the next couple of years, came in at $14.6 million. There was also a report on the Campaign and a tribute to Chris Hoek as this was her last Board meeting. 

Our cost of raising $1 has come down quite significantly -- from 30 cents to 19 cents on the dollar. President Porter suggested that one reason we have raised money so effectively has been of Chris Hoek’s leadership and her ability to understand and articulate the links between raising money and the academic mission of the College. He hoped all would attend the reception to pay tribute to her on November 23 at the Surrey. 

President Porter commented on the search and on how a search process typically unfolds. The Board is legally charged with appointing the President, but the Search Committee normally includes faculty, staff, and students as well as Board members. The early stages of a search are open, with the Search Committee meeting with all the constituencies on campus to get an idea of what the community is looking for. The next portion, which constitutes a large part of the search, is a long and necessarily confidential process. Then there is a brief second open stage in which the Search Committee brings to the campus one or more candidates that it has identified as especially promising. This is a period of openness, debate, discussion, and often dissension. After that period, the process becomes confidential again as the Search Committee takes what it has learned from that period of interaction with the community, assesses it, and makes a recommendation to the Board. The Board then meets and comes to a decision, then makes an offer to a candidate, after which there is usually a period of sensitive conversation with the candidate before a final agreement is reached and a public announcement made. At this point the process has run its course, and the community unites behind the candidate, looks forward, and makes the appointment work. 

President Porter indicated that as he looks at our selection process, he finds much with which to be pleased, beginning with the strong faculty representation on the Search Committee and the fact that the choice of these representatives was left entirely to the faculty. He believes also that in this search great attention was given to the opinion of the faculty members on the Committee, and also to the opinions of staff and students. In bringing the candidate to the campus, the Search Committee emphasized its openness to the needs and wants of the community. Further, the Committee in response to community suggestions arranged an unusually extensive second visit to Skidmore for the candidate. It is clear that the Committee received extensive and candid feedback, and President Porter knows that the Board gave that feedback careful and meticulous attention. He knows, too, that the Board recognizes that the faculty delivers the mission of the College, and that accordingly the Board paid particular attention to faculty input. He recognizes that there was concern about only one candidate being brought to campus, but again, the Committee heard this concern, thought about it, and decided that bringing another candidate was not the way to go. The delegates to the Committee, who were carefully chosen by the faculty, are wise, thoughtful people who have had extensive experience on major committees and long-term investments in this College. He cannot imagine that those members would not have spoken up if the search were not going well. 

This Board deeply appreciates and values the faculty’s input and role in the College. When the Board was asked at its recent meetings about what sort of attention it would pay to faculty input, Myles Cane answered that they would take it terribly seriously, and if they did not perceive a consensus about the candidate, would revisit the issue. 

David admires and honors this faculty and how it has conducted this process. On the whole, discussion has been marked by a wonderful combination of candor and civility. There is always more that can be said in such a search, but there comes a point when the Search Committee must move to closure. The President indicated that after receiving the recommendation of the Search Committee, the Board had held a further meeting to discuss the candidate and that conversations with Jamie Studley were now in progress. In short, it appears very likely that within a short time the Board will announce her as our next President. Jamie is a candidate about whom the Board and Committee are very enthusiastic. She clearly has many strengths, and the Board is confident that she will learn and grow while President. Given where we are in the process, the President indicated his feeling that further conversation about the candidate herself during the faculty meeting would not be appropriate and might, indeed, be very damaging to the relationships that will need to be built as the College moves forward. He stressed, however, that further discussion about the process would certainly be justified. 

He asked Betty Balevic for her comments from CFG. 

Betty spoke about CFG’s input into the process. On November 5, CFG released part of its minutes from its October 29 meeting that dealt with its request to faculty members of the Presidential Search Committee to extend the deadline for faculty deliberation and faculty input regarding the Presidential candidate and to have further discussion at the November 6 meeting. CFG’s objective in publicizing this material was to let the faculty know that CFG has been working quietly behind the scenes to represent the faculty in communicating ideas to the faculty members of the Presidential Search Committee. CFG spoke with them several times to make helpful recommendations. As Chair, Betty has found the faculty members very open and cordial. Several very important recommendations were adopted— members of the Search Committee met with the faculty; the candidate returned for a second visit; and the candidate met with various groups of the faculty. With respect to the request that CFG made following their meeting on October 29, which was communicated to the faculty via e-mail from Professor Narasimhan, they subsequently learned that the search process had moved too far forward for CFG’s request to influence procedure at this time. CFG released the minutes to the faculty knowing that the faculty members of the Search Committee could not have responded because the search process was out of their hands. Thus, it was not a matter of the faculty members on the Search Committee not listening to CFG, but a matter of the decision already having been made at that time. If the Search Committee had already sufficient information based on the many e-mails that we communicated to them and through their contacts with other members of the community, then it seems perfectly proper and appropriate that they had a basis for acting upon that information. 

In response to Ms. Balevic’s report, Greg Pfitzer expressed concern that there wasn’t an opportunity for members of the faculty to express their ideas about the presidential candidate and the process of selecting a candidate in the open forum of a faculty meeting. There was concern that the selection of the new president was a "done deal" before the faculty members had a chance to discuss the candidate among themselves. He also felt that there was unhappiness regarding the whole selection process that should have been discussed at this meeting also. 

The President said that searches have a life of their own, but there comes a point at which one needs to move on. 

Tom Denny, a member of the Search Committee, said that this process is not faculty driven and that ultimately it is the decision of the Board of Trustees. Most of the e-mail sent to the committee was positive, and the Committee took into consideration the public as well as private e-mail. 

Tad Kuroda, a member of a former search committee, stated that once a committee is chosen it operates in a very different way from other committees on campus. Everyone on a search committee must keep the perspective of the college in mind. There must be confidence that we have chosen the right people, and he believes we could not have chosen four better people from the faculty than the ones who served on this Search Committee. 

Joel Smith indicated his view that while we must move forward in a process of healing, we must also carefully review the search process we have just completed — that there is much we could learn for future reference. The President concurred with his suggestion. 

DEAN OF THE FACULTY’S REPORT 

Phyllis Roth made a brief report about the Board meeting. She congratulated Margaret Fogarty, Stephen Perkinson, and Matthew Hockenos on completing their doctorates and for being promoted to the rank of Assistant Professor. 

Phyllis also announced that the Board, in honor of David Porter, has named the merit scholarships in science and mathematics, "The Porter Presidential Scholars." The Board will also name a yet-to-be-designed-and-sited location strategically placed between the new Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery and the Library and Case, "Porter Plaza." 

REPORTS 

Gerry Erchak gave the Curriculum Committee report. The Curriculum Committee is working with CEPP on the reconfiguration plan. They are waiting for their orders from CEPP. They are mainly looking at Honors Forum course proposals and are also trying to re-write some of the Curriculum Committee material without changing the function of CC to make clear and more explicit the kinds of things they will be looking at for reconfiguration. He hopes to circulate a document to faculty that will explain more about what CC is going to do. 

Gary McClure spoke for the FPPC (Financial Policy and Planning Committee). There are ten members on the committee (four faculty members, the Dean of the Faculty, two students, one support staff, and one professional staff). FPPC looks at financial policy and planning issues throughout the entire course of the year. The committee is, right now, in the early stages of understanding the previous budgets. The FPPC has advisory and recommendation responsibilities. The FPPC also reports to the Board on policy issues it recommends regarding the budget and any financial plans. It also serves as a resource to IPC. The FPPC expects to get involved in the process of compensation and salary again this year. Over the next several months FPPC will be spending most of their time developing next year’s operating and capital budget and the plans for the following four years. 

Eric Weller spoke for CEPP (Committee on Educational Policies and Planning) about reconfiguration. The process of reconfiguration of student and faculty workload was a process that began over ten years ago. While several departments were able to reconfigure faculty loads a few years ago, the effort to broaden reconfiguration collapsed. However, we must approach this more expansively now. Reconfiguration will raise academic standards and expectations. It will involve a revision and restructuring of the course delivery system, of faculty and student work, and will enhance the educational focus at Skidmore. It will require that we take another look at the all-college curriculum. CEPP is unanimously persuaded that something has to be done and this is a good beginning point. CEPP is trying to provide some ideas for the other departments that have not been able to reconfigure or have not seen the advantages of doing it. He will send a memo asking the college departments to send a feedback to CEPP on the all-college requirements. 

The evolution of the process was outlined in the document that was received by the faculty prior to the meeting. Eric asked for questions and comments on the document and for a discussion about reconfiguration in order to give CEPP some guidance. 

There was a long discussion among members of the faculty, and there were several concerns raised about the reconfiguration process. Faculty members were concerned about reconfiguration exacerbating the current gridlock problem and whether work schedules would have to be modified. Others were concerned about how they were going to submit proposals for four-credit courses. What would the all-college requirements be? Some members of the faculty wondered what the schedule would look like and whether the State Department of Education would accept these non-traditional ways of changing a three-credit into a four-credit course. Faculty members were also concerned that a college-wide framework is needed before moving forward with reconfiguration, and there were concerns about not knowing how to reconfigure. How do we handle students who go abroad? How have other colleges handled reconfiguration? Would there be enough classrooms? Do we have the space and time to do this? A few members of the faculty were concerned that Skidmore would no longer continue to be a unique institution and were concerned that every department would have to fit into the same mold. There were also concerns that the Bachelor of Science programs would be destroyed, and a concern that assessment would be taken out of the faculty’s hands. 

Phyllis spoke in response to the many questions from the faculty. She stated that this is a very complex process and the purpose of this meeting is to discuss the philosophy of reconfiguration and why we are doing it. The bigger context for the faculty is to determine if we are trying to do too much too quickly with too little opportunity for creativity, for adapting means to ends, and for getting our students to adjust to the challenges that we want to set. The faculty needs to stake out philosophical and educational ground on which to base the way courses are structured and the way faculty and students work at Skidmore. In this discussion, we don’t want to shut off any concerns about how to get information that would enable individuals and departments to make the transformation, but she thinks that imagination is stunted at the outset if we don’t take this opportunity to talk about why we want to do this to begin with. If we believe we want to do this and it will enhance the educational experience at the College, then we will find a way. She asked the faculty to tell CEPP and the Dean of Faculty about what their thoughts were. Is reconfiguration worth doing or do you think what we have now is really quite good. 

NEW BUSINESS 

Michael Arnush spoke about the Honors Forum. He said that there is a demand from students to increase the number of honors courses and to increase the course offerings so that all disciplines are represented. Sophomores who will be studying overseas next year will also need honors opportunities. The Honors Council has a set of proposals it will submit to Curriculum Committee shortly that will provide additional Honors curricular opportunities for all students (e.g., independent studies, one-credit "hot topics" courses), but the faculty will need to increase its support of, and commitment to the program with more courses. There are currently 71 Honors Forum students, another 30 students will be inducted into the program early in spring '99 and 30-40 more next summer. We need to have a sufficient number of courses for these first-year, sophomore, and junior students, as well as for all other interested students. He spoke about up-coming Honors Forum events in November and December and noted that he will send an e-mail to all faculty members about these events. 

ANNOUNCEMENTS 

The meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, 

 

 

Claire C. Demarest
Executive Secretary
Office of the Dean of Faculty

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