Friday, April 28, 2000
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of the April 7, 2000 meeting were approved as submitted.
President Studley thanked Claire Demarest for her work in taking notes and translating the meeting into minutes.
President Studley commented on the many activities at this time of year such as theater and music performances, the Honors Convocation, Academic Festival, and the student leadership and volunteer awards concentrating on service activities. They all constitute a wonderful culmination of the year.
The President reminded the faculty that six vice presidential candidates will be interviewed over the next two weeks. She asked them to make time to talk to the candidates and to think about what each candidate would bring to the position for which she or he is a candidate. She also thanked those who served on the two search committees.
Karl Broekhuizen, Vice President of Business Affairs and Treasurer, introduced Mark Struss, the new Director of Facilities Services to the faculty and encouraged them to assist and communicate with Mr. Struss as he works to improve the quality of Facilities Services.
Professor Bob DeSieno gave the annual report of the IRC (Information Resources Council). IRC has been working on several items during the year. The Council assisted in the search for the director of database management services within CITS (Jeff Clark has been hired), and continues to assist in the search for the next director of CITS. Professor DeSieno reported that there have been difficulties with the modem pool. The problem is technological and there is no answer yet to the problem. IRC has been working on the complex issue of distance learning and is in the midst of developing a white paper. IRC is asking for CEPP’s consideration on the many complicated issues about distance learning. Although there is much development to be done yet, and a great deal of support will be needed, the Oracle database system will be coming to the faculty soon. Professor DeSieno reported that there is an increasing problem with Napster, a system on the web that provides a vehicle for illegally copying songs off the Internet. He stated that we have to caution our students about the violation of copyright laws. Capital budgets for CITS and for the Library have been reviewed at IRC. The Information Resource Task Force Report developed background on which IRC is now taking up as the College looks at its strategic planning processes. The policy on departmental computing clusters is an issue that came to the council earlier as it became clear that there is continuous demand to have new computing clusters on the campus. There are now close to 900 desktop computers on the campus, and the cost and support for these computers is difficult to manage.
The report of the IRTFII is completed and has been sent to President Studley. A meeting will be held on May 12 with President Studley to discuss the conclusions of the report. We now have a regular calendar for looking at major issues having to do with information resources. The AT&T Foundation has funded the College for another major initiative. This will support faculty members who wish to use IT for enriching courses.
Dean Phyllis Roth spoke to the faculty for the subcommittee of Academic Staff that has been looking at the faculty evaluation system, specifically the numerical and departmental long evaluation forms for student evaluation of courses. The subcommittee was formed last fall and consists of Mehmet Odekon, Ralph Ciancio, Giuseppe Faustini, Denise Smith, and Rory McVeigh as well as Phyllis Roth. The Committee’s purpose has been to address concerns regarding both the student evaluation system and peer review. The subcommittee has not yet had any substantial discussion about the peer review (classroom visitation) process but intends to do so.
The subcommittee focused first on the numerical forms but found that the numerical and the long forms needed to be considered together. There seems to be a widening disjunction between what the numerical forms and the long departmental forms reveal for the same course. After consulting with CAPT, the subcommittee has devised a proposed new form, combining numerical and narrative responses. If essential, departments can add their own questions to the one form, but it would be enormously useful to have a standard form across the College.
Dean Roth said that the subcommittee is not asking the faculty to adopt any new form at the present time. Rather, the subcommittee wishes to try a pilot of the new forms next fall and will solicit volunteers from among the tenured members of the faculty to try them.
Tim Koechlin, Chair of CAPT, indicated that CAPT has been following the process with interest. An effort to make the forms better is welcome, and he thinks the proposed form is a real improvement; he is pleased with CAPT’s inclusion in the process.
In regards to the motion that was passed at the last faculty meeting to extend health benefits for same sex and opposite sex domestic partners, Professor Dan Hurwitz, Chair of FPPC, stated that FPPC and the Benefits Committee agreed that the tuition benefit be presented to the Board at the May meeting along with the health benefit. If the Board approves, the health tuition and other benefits for same sex and opposite sex domestic partners will be presented to the faculty for inclusion in the Faculty Handbook next fall.
Associate Dean of the Faculty Susan Bender updated the faculty about maximum caps. During the course of reviewing departmental reconfiguration proposals by the subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee, an issue arose as to whether there should be some kind of college policy to observe maximum caps on courses. Members of Academic Staff, CEPP and Curriculum Committee met three times to discuss a series of issues surrounding the establishment of maximum caps for courses at all levels of the curriculum. The following questions were central to their discussions:
- Should there be a college standard for maximum caps?
- Where should the responsibility to set maximum caps for courses reside?
- How should we determine caps appropriate to 100, 200 and 300-level courses?
- Equity concerns dictate that there should be a college standard for maximum caps, but the standards need to accommodate differences in pedagogy and support facilities. Therefore, the ranges for caps recommended below may not apply to courses whose caps are currently constrained by such considerations (e.g., science labs, expository writing courses, LS1 sections, studio arts, etc.)
The responsibility for establishing and maintaining maximum caps rests jointly with the faculty and the Office of the DOF. The establishment of caps combines issues of faculty workload (administered by the DOF) with curricular policy (the purview of the faculty).
The three factors most central to decisions about enrollment caps for courses include the demands of various pedagogical strategies, efficient use of teaching resources to meet student demand, and workload equity across departments and programs. In light of current practice across departments, and in an attempt to accommodate pedagogy sessions most common to 100-, 200- and 300-level courses, the following caps are recommended:
100 Level: 32-38
200 level: 27-33
300 level: 18-23
Given the specialized curricular role of colloquia designed as capstone experiences in the majors, these courses may be offered at a lower cap of 15. In the interests of efficient use of teaching resources, the joint committees recommend that departments designate specific caps within these ranges and are encouraged to err toward the upper end of the ranges where possible.
The joint committee recommends that the Dean of Faculty’s office review maximum caps on courses as each semester’s course schedule is planned. Faculty will also propose a maximum cap for each new course reviewed by Curriculum Committee. Should a faculty member wish to propose a cap that deviates from college standards, the Dean of Faculty and the Curriculum Committee will jointly review the proposal.
Professor Greg Pfitzer thanked Dean Bender for the helpful memo as it establishes ranges which is what many faculty members have asked for. He asked if exceptions could be made to these caps figures because some introductory courses enroll a large number of students. If not, certain departments would have to create several sections of their introductory courses. He also noted that there seem to be more exceptions than rules and questioned whether or not we should be implementing a policy for which there are more exceptions than rules.
Professor Michael Arnush spoke about the Honors Forum. There will be 200 students enrolled by the end of next year, which is what was anticipated when the Honors Forum first started. The opportunity to apply to join the Honors Forum has been extended to all students interested in joining if they have the GPA of 3.4. The form is available on the web and they will need a recommendation from a member of the faculty.
Academic Festival was a big success this year. He will have a proposal to bring to CEPP at the beginning of next year which will ask CEPP to free a day in the calendar for Academic Festival so that the festival does not conflict with classes or other events on campus.
President Studley stated that she is pleased that CFG has initiated positive changes to make the forum of the faculty meeting more productive. She is confident that as the faculty weigh the options for change reflected in the motion before then, they will also think about how this change can be implemented along with how it will affect relationships within the college.
Professor Tad Kuroda then spoke to the faculty about the motion CFG presented at the last faculty meeting. It has been revised slightly from the motion that was placed on the floor.
CFG REVISED MOTION 1. CFG recommends the following new language in PART TWO, ARTICLE I, TOPIC A:
Section 1. Those holding appointments as teaching associates, departmental assistants, and part-time faculty may attend and participate in faculty meetings but without a vote.
Section 2. Administrators without faculty status may attend all Faculty Meetings in a given year upon recommendation of the Dean of the Faculty and the approval of the Committee on Faculty Governance at the start of the academic year. The Dean shall provide an academic rationale for each recommendation.
Other administrator without faculty status may attend a particular Faculty Meeting
that relates directly to their official responsibilities upon the Dean notifying the
These changes were made to give greater clarity. The CFG has for a number of years been listening to concerns expressed by a number of faculty members on a range of issues involving governance. The faculty opinions on the topic of who may attend faculty meetings cover a considerable range, and a variety of options were discussed at the open meeting CFG held on October 29, 1999. A vote on this motion will bring closure to this issue.
A discussion followed. There were those who felt that this motion is potentially divisive and questioned how this change would make this meeting more productive. Some felt that this motion is to define how the non-faculty members are invited to this body, and it brings to the faculty the privilege to extend invitations. One issue of concern was the control of the agenda of various important forums and whether the faculty has a meeting to express themselves freely. The growing sentiment, some feel, is that the faculty’s identity has been weakened. They need to "own" the meeting. One member of the faculty thought that special faculty forums could be ways to debate important issues among the faculty without other members of the college present. Professor Kress applauded the CFG for their efforts and would like to see measures to make this meeting more productive. She thought that this forum serves the College well, and to lose the public meeting would be a great shame. In this setting the faculty has the ability to affect the future of the College and shape it in accordance to their values. Restricting discussions would hurt the faculty who would lose the power it has to shape the future of the College. If we go to a tripartite system, the faculty’s voice will be minimized.
Dean Roth spoke to some of these issues. Staff who are in key positions at the college provide vital information to prospective and current families and alumni about the College; if these colleagues are not allowed to attend, they could not gain the information about what the faculty may be considering, what the complexities are, or what is the texture of faculty culture. Moreover, staff often invites faculty to participate in events and the faculty meeting provides the only forum in which they come to know who we are. She would hate to lose that collaboration.
The question was called and a paper ballot was taken. Ninety voted against the motion, twenty voted for the motion, and there were two abstentions. The motion failed.
President Studley said that we have heard a number of ways to make this forum as useful as possible and thanked CFG for its thoughtful presentation. Based on this conversation, there are a number of ways that we can think about the agenda and about making this forum as useful as possible. She thanked the faculty for a constructive discussion.
- Mary Ann Foley, Chair of the Search Committee for VP for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, asked the faculty to share their feedback about each candidate with the Search Committee. The Committee will need these responses before making their recommendation to the President on Monday, May 8. An open session would be held on Friday, May 5 for those who wish to share their views. Ralph Ciancio has agreed to be the moderator.
- Dean Roth recognized Professor Ralph Ciancio who will be retiring after 35 years of splendid service to the College as Professor in the English Department. She said that this is a bittersweet moment for her as he was her first boss when she joined Skidmore in 1976 and this is the last citation that she will give to a faculty member as Dean of the Faculty. He has been a mentor and friend and has made marvelous contributions to our community. She extended her gratitude and warmest best wishes to Ralph and his family. The Chair of CAPT read the following resolution:
BE IT RESOLVED: The faculty of Skidmore College expresses its profound appreciation and admiration for the following member of the Skidmore faculty who has this year expressed his determination to retire. The faculty further resolves that the following biographical highlights be included in the minutes of the faculty meeting of April 28, 2000—as recognition and celebration of distinguished service and achievement. (See Attachment A.)
- Professor Ciancio received a standing ovation.
- President Studley said that Ralph’s transition is important, and thanked Dean Roth for her eloquent tribute. She noted that there would be one more faculty meeting at which we will reflect on the service of Phyllis Roth and Kent Jones.
- Phil Boshoff announced that the faculty/staff reception would be held in the Surrey Williamson Inn in honor of Ralph’s retirement. He invited all to attend.
The meeting adjourned at 5:20 p.m.
Office of the Dean of Faculty
Retirement from the Skidmore College Faculty - Spring 2000
Be it resolved: The faculty of Skidmore College expresses its profound appreciation and admiration for the following member of the Skidmore faculty who has this year expressed his determination to retire. The faculty further resolves that the following biographical highlights be included in the minutes of the faculty meeting of April 28, 2000 — as recognition and celebration of distinguished service and achievement.
RALPH A. CIANCIO joined the Skidmore faculty in 1965 (when the price of his round-trip airfare, Pittsburgh-Albany, was $59.12), and he has energized, challenged, and inspired many, many of us every day since.
Having received his B.A. from Duquesne University in 1957, his M.A. in 1958 from Pennsylvania State, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1965 (while teaching both there and at Carnegie Mellon), Ralph Ciancio was recommended to Skidmore by one of the leading literary scholars of that day, who observed that "he is extremely popular with his students, and for all the right reasons. Our very best students elect his courses when they can and are loud in his praise." Indeed, year after year, Ralph has received dazzling student evaluations and expressions of appreciation and respect. A student from 1968 wrote, "I can still see him. We were reading Moby Dick. He was Captain Ahab on the ship, pulling on the rigging in the storm. Lightning struck the rigging, and in that moment, lightning struck the class." One alumnus wrote, while still at Skidmore: "What can I say to make you understand the intensity of my intellectual involvement with the material presented…. Professor Ciancio combines an intense interest in the course material with a sincere interest in the students of the class. He is unrivaled as a lecturer, and his ability to spark enthusiasm in the entire class creates an intellectually charged atmosphere each meeting." And another observed, wonderfully, "This is the first English course I’ve ever had where I left the classroom before my brain did!"
Equally gifted and inspiring as a teacher of writing as of the written, Ralph is spoken
of by scores of students in those classes like this: "He pounced on my class and I
was spellbound by his energy and interest in his students. To be a student of Professor
Ciancio means to dare to write with clarity, economy, grace, and dignity; these, I
learned, are the pillars of good writing…. When you succeed, he expects you to keep
up the balancing act time and time again." And, finally, an alumna tells of "Ralph
teaching Kafka’s Metamorphosis with such animation that he began to simulate a cockroach
climbing up the wall, striking the palms of his hands against the sheetrock with such
force that the clock jumped off its hook only to be caught by him before hitting the
floor, earning for him the spontaneous cheers of the class" — fitting for a former
acrobat, juggler, magician, and vaudevillian.
In the words of a colleague, "His classroom persona combines — perhaps uniquely — energy, theater, vibrant discussion, provocative illustration, informative lecture, rigor, and pleasure."
In fact, Ralph’s first major career, between high school and college, was as a professional acrobat. He was a member of a group that toured nationally with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and even appeared on Milton Berle’s TV show. Long-time members of the English Department recall with sustained amazement and gratitude Ralph’s warm and enthusiastic hospitality at the Ciancio home, where his pleasure in his new colleagues expressed itself in his walking on his hands. As a close friend of many years has said, "Ralph has charisma, stature, and vitality that he puts to use on behalf of Skidmore, and that means welcoming new faculty, new curricula, new pedagogy, and new students while retaining the highest traditions and standards of scholarship and performance."
Consummate teacher/scholar, Ralph has taught and retaught all the works on which he has published, as he has taught both new courses and revisions of others up through this very year. As he himself puts his ambition, "as a teacher of literature and language I have two basic commitments — to the integrity of my discipline and the text, on the one hand, and to furthering the capacity of undergraduates to grow in literacy, mind, and imagination, on the other. The challenge of doing justice to both commitments is my inspiration."
A scholar of American literature, Ralph has published on Richard Wright, Eugene O’Neill, William Styron, Saul Bellow (an early piece on Bellow was just recently reprinted in a new collection), William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Nathaniel West, Albert Camus, and — of course — Vladimir Nabokov, the subject of Ralph’s dazzlingly pyrotechnic (what else? given the subject and the lecturer!) Moseley Lecture in 1997.
Deeply engaged by the Liberal Studies curriculum from its first years, Ralph has thrived
on his work with our youngest students, freed from purely disciplinary responsibilities
to elaborate an interdisciplinary course on "Fact, Fiction, and Reality," which he
has now taught many times, drawing extensively from philosophy, aesthetics, psychology,
and historiography, as well as from literature. More, Ralph has taught LS III workshops
and served as mentor to those developing and first teaching in the program. In fact,
it is as mentor that many of us know Ralph best; he has been a faculty mentor since
day one of our mentoring program begun
in the early ’90s.
An extraordinary colleague, in the words of a former dean, "He has always been an outspoken advocate of faculty rights, but also an outspoken reminder of their duties and responsibilities, and an exemplar who practices what he preaches." Twice Chair of CAPT, including times of major change in the standards of faculty evaluation, Ralph has served also and often on Curriculum Committee, CAFR, and CEPP, as well as on countless department committees, particularly those having to do with curriculum and personnel matters. Chair of the English Department itself for a number of years, Ralph also chaired a Task Force on Faculty Governance during the ’80s. And he has gone on the road for the College on many occasions, most recently, and perhaps most notably, as a writer-narrator of the multi-media Journey Campaign celebration.
Nevertheless, these are but "signs and symbols" of a career of collegiality which has enhanced our work at Skidmore more profoundly than we can capture in any words, since Ralph’s attention has ever been on the most significant and abiding of principles embodied in policy and practice, and his actions have unfailingly revealed the highest integrity and the deepest commitment to, as he would say, "our collective endeavors."
To his brief words announcing his retirement, "I will have taught at Skidmore for thirty-five years, to my good fortune," we must all say, "The good fortune has been ours, our students’, and the institution’s." We wish you, Ralph, and Mimi, years and years more of magic, mental gymnastics, and pleasure — with your children and grandchildren and, we trust, with us still!
"If I manage to breathe life into books, if I make novels and poems live in a single student’s memory and thereby inspire a lifelong romance with the written word — if, in short, I manage to touch a student’s life, that of course is my and every other teacher’s dream." — Ralph A. Ciancio