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Dean of the Faculty/Vice President for Academic Affairs
 

FACULTY MEETING

May 14, 2008
Gannett Auditorium

MINUTES

President Philip A. Glotzbach called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m. President Glotzbach asked if there were any amendments to the April 25, 2008 Faculty Meeting minutes. Hearing none, he announced that the minutes were approved.

PRESIDENT’S REPORT

The President’s report included the following:

VICE PRESIDENT FOR ACADEMIC AFFAIRS

NEW BUSINESS

Conferral of Degrees

RESOLVED, that the faculty of Skidmore College recommend to the Trustees the granting of the Bachelor of Arts degree to 384 students of the Class of 2008 to be awarded on May 17, 2008.

RESOLVED, that the Faculty of Skidmore College recommend to the Trustees the granting of the Bachelor of Science degree to 185 students of the Class of 2008 to be awarded on May 17, 2008.

RESOLVED, that the Faculty of Skidmore College recommend to the Trustees the granting of the Bachelor of Arts degree to 20 students of the Class of 2008 upon satisfactory completion of the degree requirements by August 31, 2008.

RESOLVED, that the Faculty of Skidmore College recommend to the Trustees the granting of the Bachelor of Science degree to 10 students of the Class of 2008 upon satisfactory completion of the degree requirements by August 31, 2008.

The motion was voted on and passed with all in favor. (See attachment)

President Glotzbach introduced Mary DiSanto-Rose on behalf of the University Without Walls Committee, to present the following resolution:

RESOLVED, that the Faculty at Skidmore College recommend to the Trustees the granting of the Bachelor of Arts degree to 24 students and the Bachelor of Science degree to 13 students.

The motion was voted on and passed with all in favor. (See attachment)

Michael Ennis-McMillan, Dean of Studies, read the following resolutions regarding All-College and Departmental Honors. He thanked everyone for their assistance, especially Beth McPhee.

RESOLVED, that the Faculty at Skidmore College approve 1 student from the Class of 2007 and 184 students from the Class of 2008 for cum laude distinction; for magna cum laude distinction, 65 students from the Class of 2008; and for summa cum laude distinction, 41 students from the class of 2008 as presented at the May 14, 2008 Faculty meeting.

The motion was voted on and passed with all in favor. (See attachment)

Comments were made that this is the highest number of students receiving honors that we have ever had, and that the “average” student is above average. President Glotzbach said that it is important not to confuse grading with ranking. He further indicated that we may want to consider whether our standards should change in the future; however, it may be that we have stronger students, have been working hard on our pedagogy and, presumably, are doing a better job than we ever have done before. Thus, if our students are learning more and achieving at a higher level, that may be the outcome of all that we have worked on. This could be cause for further conversation, but, clearly, there are a very high percentage of honors being given.

OLD BUSINESS

Dan Hurley, on behalf of the Faculty Executive Committee, made the following motions regarding the Skidmore College Faculty Handbook:

1. Motion on Ad Hoc Committees

2. Motion on FEC-eligible Status of Phased Retirees

The motions were voted on and passed with all in favor.


Deb Hall, on behalf of the Committee on Educational Policies and Planning, made the following motion regarding the University Without Walls:

Motion

Deb Hall acknowledged that it has been a very complex and difficult process for CEPP to make this recommendation: she thanked Jim Kennelly and the other UWW colleagues and staff for providing information. Deb further indicated that she had (for faculty review) a binder full of letters received by the administration on behalf of UWW from UWW students and alums and that there has been an active discussion board for students as well. She indicated that UWW had served non-traditional students with individual attention for over 30 years. However, she also acknowledged that the UWW program has struggled for many years due, in part, to a lack of engagement from tenured and tenure-track faculty. CEPP recommends that, rather than extending the life of a struggling program, the college focus on the possibility of integrating into the residential program the most promising areas of UWW, such as on-line courses. She further indicated that cutting financial losses currently sustained by UWW will free resources that might be applied directly to promoting faculty and student development. Lastly, Deb indicated that CEPP believes that any program leading to a Skidmore College degree should be supported by a significant level of involvement from tenured and tenure-track faculty.

Discussion was held on this motion. One faculty member expressed his serious concern about process and proposed considering alternatives to closing down UWW. A motion was made to postpone the voting on CEPP’s motion until the October faculty meeting. The motion was seconded and a lengthy discussion ensued.

One faculty member indicated that she felt it was not ethical for UWW to accept new students into the program until a decision has been made about closure and, therefore, believed that a decision to postpone the motion would, in effect, paralyze the program.

A CEPP member indicated that CEPP thought the question of postponement might come up and certainly welcomed the opportunity for the faculty to make such a decision. He indicated that CEPP did make the recommendation to vote now for good reasons. He acknowledged that it was a painful decision to be making and suggested that everyone put themselves ahead into October and consider whether it would be any less painful to make a decision in October than it is now. Moreover, CEPP believes that the essential component in making any version of UWW work is faculty commitment and the only way to determine faculty commitment is to vote on the motion to terminate UWW. Thus, CEPP feels that a postponement will only intensify/extend the pain of uncertainty that the UWW program is currently experiencing.

One UWW staff member indicated the present situation constituted a “vicious circle”: that an alternative to closure cannot be proposed until the faculty defeats the motion to terminate UWW; but, on the other hand, the faculty is uncomfortable with defeating the motion unless it looks at alternatives for the UWW program.

Another faculty member indicated that CEPP has had open meetings concerning the UWW issue and that it held an open forum after the last faculty meeting about this issue and that the faculty’s participation in this ongoing matter has been very, very low, which would give a sense that the faculty does not support the UWW program.

Further discussion was held concerning the timing of the motion to terminate the UWW program. One faculty member questioned whether the faculty needed more time to digest the information or needed more information before it could decide whether to terminate the UWW program.

One faculty member indicated she was puzzled at the discrepancy between the CEPP recommendation and the outside reviewers’ recommendation. She believed that many faculty members might not have had an opportunity to fully review the administration’s recommendation, given the end of the academic year. She indicated her sense that the outside reviewers suggested that UWW could be viable in an alternative form but CEPP had recommended closure of the program. She further discussed some graduates of the program who went on to receive Ph.D.s from some prestigious universities; she further suggested that a summer study group be formed to track and follow graduates of the program to determine how the program can work best in the future.

A faculty member indicated that he was having difficulty in making a decision on CEPP’s recommendation to terminate the UWW program. He was concerned that a vote of “yes” ended the UWW program and that a vote of “no” committed him to being involved in the UWW program. Not having any other alternatives in place, this faculty member was inclined to support the motion to postpone the vote until other alternatives were proposed.

One faculty member opposing the motion to postpone indicated that the study report came out in October and that there was a lack of attendance at some of the forums which seemed to indicate a lack of commitment to the UWW program. He further indicated that he believed the faculty had sufficient time to participate in the process and study the data and it appears that the faculty has not done so nor taken the issue seriously. He pointed out that it was the responsibility of the faculty to take this process seriously and didn’t believe delaying the vote until October would fix that issue.

Further discussion was held concerning Jim Kennelly leaving the leadership of UWW as of May 31, 2008. Another concern was raised regarding whether the UWW staff would want this vote delayed. A UWW staff member said that those who wanted to see an alternative model should not vote to delay but vote against the original motion.

Another concern was raised concerning faculty commitment: that of the 190 online courses only 15 have been taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty in 10 years; thus, many of the UWW students who are obtaining Skidmore degrees are having little or no interaction with tenured and tenure-track faculty.

After lengthy discussion, the question was called to close the discussion on the motion to postpone the vote on CEPP’s proposal. The motion was granted by a 2/3 majority of the vote.

Thereafter, the motion to postpone the vote on CEPP’s recommendation to close the UWW program was presented.

A paper ballot was requested and administered by the members of FEC. The votes were as follows: 44 yes, 88 no. Therefore, the motion was defeated.

Discussion followed concerning the motion by CEPP to close the UWW program. One faculty member thought it was difficult for tenured faculty to get involved in UWW given the current workload; another faculty member indicated there will be increasing numbers of retirees in the near future and that, perhaps, those retirees could become involved in the UWW program, which would be an excellent way to stay in touch with the College and contribute to the students.

Discussion was held concerning the current faculty workload and the difficulties in staffing the residential program with tenured and tenure-track faculty. Dean Muriel Poston indicated that if we are going to incorporate and integrate the kind of instructional responsibilities that UWW requires, then we would have to look at expanding the number of faculty; and the resource base is modest at best. There are challenges in delivering courses to the residential program, and figures were given indicating that in the last 3 years, only 2 tenure-track faculty members both advised students and provided independent study instruction to students in the UWW program. There was a greater number who were independent-study instructors (11). In the last 3 years, 43 faculty members were recruited as part of our tenure-track pool and less than 10 percent of those faculty are actually engaged in both advising and instructing in UWW, and that is as a result of greater expectations on faculty in terms of scholarship and pedagogical involvement in interdisciplinary and core programs. Thus, a decision needs to be made where to put resources to the best use.

Further discussion was held concerning faculty engagement numbers and the number of students who were advised by tenure-track faculty. Additional discussion addressed the potential restructuring of the UWW program as a result of the changes in leadership.

One faculty member wanted to address concerns voiced earlier about the construction of CEPP’s motion. CEPP is providing important guidance to faculty in presenting the vote as a vote of willingness to participate in UWW. At this point, however, it is difficult to determine what kind of faculty involvement is needed to make UWW a viable option.

Another point was made concerning the generational divisions reflected in the debate; younger faculty members were encouraged to voice their concerns. Two faculty members responded by saying that they supported the idea of UWW but needed work contributed to UWW to be integrated into the regular faculty workload.

One faculty member indicated that she believed the vote was a tough decision because the demographics are changing (younger faculty are not as committed to UWW) and the vote is really therefore about strategy going forward.

One faculty member indicated that he did not believe UWW to be a sustainable program without significant tenure-track faculty involvement and he would rather put his time and energy into independent studies and senior projects for students in the existing residential program.

Another faculty member indicated that he believed the problems experienced by UWW could be fixed and that we should look at creative ways to fix UWW.

VPAA Susan Kress acknowledged the history and value of the UWW program, the dedication of the staff, and the accomplishments of the students. She said that over the last two years, she and Dean Segrave had become increasingly aware of the challenges: dropping enrollments, the changing landscape of distance learning, the decreasing engagement of faculty, and the financial deficits. All those reviewing the program over the last year indicated that we could not continue the program as it is but could either close it or restructure it—and that restructuring would entail recommitment of the faculty and significant new resources. These recommendations from reviewers were taken to many groups at the College and discussed. There was little support for UWW. She said her role was to put these recommendations about UWW in a larger context: Could we continue to do everything? Where should our precious institutional resources of time, energy, focus and finances be directed? She said that she and Dean Segrave believed these were matters for the faculty to debate but that a vote to defeat the motion could not be a vote to continue the program as it is.

Another faculty member indicated that he would like to see UWW fixed as he believes it is an important program given the challenges being faced by small to large colleges.

The question was called to close debate and vote on the motion. The motion to close debate was passed with 2/3 majority vote.

Thereafter, a paper ballot was requested on the motion by CEPP to close the UWW program was administered by FEC. The votes were as follows: 65 yes, 68 no, 1 abstention. Therefore, the motion was defeated.

REPORTS

Dan Curley, Chair, FEC, read a report on the Committee of Committee’s meetings for academic year 2007-2008. (See attachment)

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Pushi Prasad announced a new program (proposed as part of the responsibilities of the Zankel Chair) commencing in Fall, 2008, to be called the Skidmore Research Colloquium, a program wherein faculty could engage in lively, intellectual discussions and debates. It is anticipated that there will be 3 to 4 events per year that might include formal presentations of papers, celebrations of book publications, grant proposals received by faculty members or discussions concerning faculty research. The first speaker is scheduled to be Jennifer Delton, whose new book, Good Business: American Corporations and Racial Integration, 1940-1990 will be published by Cambridge University Press.

President Gloztbach reminded everyone that they were invited to the reception for families of graduating seniors being held on Friday, May 16, 2008 at Scribner House from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:25 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Debra L. Peterson
Executive Administrative Assistant

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