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Faculty Affairs Committee Minutes (11-02-06)

Present: Stacey Parker Aronson, Janet Ericksen, Tom Mahoney, Argie Manolis, Alex Murphy, Pam Solvie and Timna Wyckoff
Absent: Bart Finzel

The meeting began at 4:00 p.m.

Minutes of previous meeting were unanimously approved.

Suggestions for Improvement

Manolis spoke in regards to a letter detailing Suggestions for Improvement sent to the Faculty Affairs Committee last spring 2006 by Debra J. Blake, English faculty member. For your convenience, the letter is reproduced as follows:

Suggestions for Improvement

1. New faculty should be protected from all service obligations for first three years (including discipline and division committees, esp. search committees).

2. English discipline and Humanities administration must cultivate a caring, supportive, open-minded and open communication environment.

3. Tenure process needs to include avenues of teaching evaluation other than SOTS scores or student comments. Tenure should not be a popularity contest!

4. Tenure process needs to recognize that faculty members who teach diversity courses will receive lower scores and more negative comments. It is part of the job. See MLA Guidelines for Tenure and Review of Faculty Who Teach Diversity Courses

5. Faculty members who teach diversity courses need to be verbally and psychologically supported by their discipline coordinators and division chairs when students complain. Complaints must be shared with faculty members and their perspectives recorded. Conflict resolution and solution-oriented practices should be sought immediately. Allowing and encouraging passive aggressive behavior creates more problems and does not encourage solutions.

6. Campus environment needs to reflect a "no tolerance attitude" for racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other oppressions.

7. Open campus forums should be held about diversity issues.

8. On-going diversity training and curriculum development for all faculty and administrators need to be held.

9. Organized and well-developed faculty mentor program led by fulltime employee educated in curriculum development including diversity (not a parttime faculty member).

10. Hire conflict resolution person on campus who has education in social justice approach who works closely with UM-TC office. The faculty "ombudsperson" has no education or training in this area or enforcement power, and is too close to the situation.

11. Division chair should not teach more than one course per year (even if he or she wants to teach more). And every division must have an assistant chair and budget officer.

Ericksen noted that item #4 is currently being addressed in the tenure meeting.

Wyckoff noted that in response to #3, she trusts her colleagues to read these well.

Ericksen commented that faculty in her division do not routinely ask other colleagues to witness their teaching.

Wyckoff asked Who will evaluate your performance but students?

Ericksen agrees with Blake that the SOTS should not be the only mechanism used to evaluate teaching quality.

Manolis told the committee that when she was at Arizona State, colleagues always observed each others' classes

Ericksen liked the practice but suggested that it should be Division wide. She personally finds the experience energizing.

Manolis continued by saying that she met with her classroom visitor both before and after s/he observed her class.

Ericksen reminded the committee that in Humanities the Division chair generally recommends that senior faculty work with and mentor junior faculty.

Manolis suggested that this practice of observing classes should not be limited to faculty with poor teaching evaluations.

Ericksen suggested the inclusion of other materials than SOTS in the review process. For example: Why don't the outside evaluators have the opportunity to review teaching materials, instead of just research or other creative activity? Who don't senior faculty observe the classroom teaching of junior faculty? Why don't senior faculty help review tenure files?

Ericksen agreed with #10, that there needed to be an assistant chair and budget officer, particularly since the Humanities division is so large.

Manolis spoke about diversity issues. Faculty of color, GLBT, etc. do more informal advising of students and training of colleagues. Many feel burdened by this implicit responsibility. Strategic Planning Task Force did not make allowances for more training on diversity. She suggested that burn out may be one of the reasons people leave that we don't know about.

Ericksen wondered whether or not we needed a comparable position to that of Rusty Barcello in the Twin Cities.

Manolis noted that, while MSP supports students of color. GLBT or disabled students have little institutional support.

Ericksen suggested that we go to each division and sugggest that a person be designated. Faculty can call the person for advice and/or support. Minority faculty and staff are asked to do an inordinate amount of advising. They should not have to shoulder this burden alone.

Manolis offered to draft a proposal to recommend such a position here at UMM.

Murphy concurred (Way to go, Alex!).

Wyckoff will be drafting a document related to the SOTS.

Bridge Funding for Spousal Hires

Ericksen informed the committee that Bridge Funding is available to hire a faculty/staff spouse/domestic partner for up to a period of three years, after which the university is responsible for determining how the position will continue to be funded. She doubts that many people, including Division chairs and supervisors, know about the existence of this Bridge Funding.