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Faculty Affairs Committee Minutes (2-26-09)

Meeting of the Faculty Affairs Committee

26 February 2009, 4:00pm, Sci 2555


Present: Rebecca Dean, Argie Manolis, Timna Wyckoff, James Wojtaszek

Absent: Fang Du, Eli Mayfield, Pam Solvie

Guest: Cheryl Contant


We invited Dean Contant to join us this afternoon to discuss five items.


I. Division Chair appointments: We asked Contant to work the 10-month nature of Division Chair appointments into a spring memo; perhaps one reminding faculty of the start date for next year's appointments?


II. academic calendar: Responding to the latest Campus Assembly discussion of this topic, Wyckoff said she didn't think a task force was warranted. FAC laid out the concerns from the academic side in a November email and presumably other groups have similarly laid out their constraints. Contant asked Wyckoff to re-send the November email, and shared many of the constraints from other constituencies (parents: moving students to UMM on a weekend is preferable; staff: orientation during the work week is preferable). Wyckoff said she thought everyone would understand and accept the calendar more gracefully if the administration laid out the constraints and explained their prioritization.


III. spousal hiring: Wojtaszek reported that he had just sent our email requesting input of opinions about spousal hiring at UMM to UMMFACPA and UMMUSA. We have given people until 10 March to respond and will discuss the replies at our 12 March meeting.


IV. morale: Manolis and Wyckoff shared that they had both been fielding more complaints and grievances than usual. The mission of our committee does not include addressing individual grievances and both Manolis and Wyckoff have been advising people to talk to their supervisors. However, we thought Contant should be aware of this as a sign of low faculty morale. Contant responded that she was aware of the low morale on campus.


V. policy regarding low-enrolling courses: Wyckoff started the discussion by referring to the email sent to Contant and committee members last week, in which she laid out the major concerns we heard from faculty across campus.


On the point of some disciplines being unclear about the purpose of the email: Contant said she did not have hidden purposes, unstated in the email. Rebecca Dean responded that she wished the email had contained examples of options disciplines might have for replacing low-enrolling courses (i.e. splitting high-enrolling lower-level courses into more sections). Contant returned to this point later, saying that she wished our students would NOT have such large class sizes at the very beginning of their UMM career. Can disciplines even-out their effort to decrease those class sizes? Can small classes be combined? Related to this point, Contant said she believes there is a difference between teaching 10 and 50 students, but perhaps not between teaching a class of 40 to 50 students. Wyckoff pointed out that in writing-intensive courses or lab courses, 10 vs. 20 might make a pretty big difference; Contant agreed.


On the point of some disciplines already extensively planning their course offerings: Contant stated that she has been told that the course schedule was often very similar to “what was offered the previous year”. Some committee members gave examples of that NOT being true, and Wyckoff pointed out that almost every Science/Math discipline reported alternating elective offerings in different years to avoid excessively low enrollment. Contant responded that she would like all disciplines to be very thoughtful and mindful of enrollments and efficiency when planning their course schedules.


On the point of what to do if a course is canceled due to low-enrollment: Wojtaszek said that while it was his understanding that this didn't happen very much last fall (Contant replied that it happened to a small number of courses), he was concerned that faculty would be required to “make up” the course the following year. Contant replied that this already happens and is appropriate. Wojtaszek replied that planned “banking” of credits (e.g. for Honors courses) is a choice made by faculty, not something pressed upon them due to forces somewhat beyond their control.


On the point that some disciplines have many very high-enrolling courses: Contant said that even those disciplines may have places that they could rearrange to use their effort more efficiently. She said that we have a faculty size for a student body of 1800 students, but have only 1500 students currently enrolled. We discussed the constraint of tenured and tenure-track faculty. Dean asked whether the resources of the university would follow the enrollment.  Specifically, if a line opened up in an under-enrolled discipline, could that line be reallocated to a discipline that has high enrollment? Contant responded that that is the only way new majors can be served or disciplines with higher enrollment trends can be served.


Minutes submitted by Timna Wyckoff, 3 March 2009