Changing the Culture-Centered Inquiry requirement and the Faculty Handbook: Faculty members discuss proposals for addressing these concerns

Posted by Julia Leef

Faculty members convened on Feb. 24 to address several motions concerning changes to the student curriculum and the faculty handbook, including a Culture-Centered Inquiry that proposes to change the nature of the "Non-Western" and "Cultural Diversity" course requirements.

Lisa Aronson, associate professor of art history, spoke on behalf of the Curriculum Committee to propose the elimination of the Dance-Theater Interdepartmental Major, saying students would be better served by choosing either dance or theater as a major, rather than splitting their time between both. The motion passed.

Aronson also announced the establishment of the new education studies minor, which would replace the early childhood education minor, and voiced the idea of creating a discussion board for faculty that would relay updated information about new minors. The board, she said, would perhaps be a more appropriate venue for such announcements, rather than taking up time during faculty meetings.

Finally, Aronson said the committee was working to revise the wording of the policy for the creation and elimination of minors in the Faculty Handbook.

Following Aronson's presentation, Josh Ness, associate professor of biology and a representative of the Committee on Educational Policies and Planning, proposed to expand the types of courses offered in the Culture-Centered Inquiry requirement by replacing the existing "Non-Western" and "Cultural Diversity" requirements with a singular category, "Interrogating Difference."

The new category (DF) would include all the courses in the two existing categories up through the 2013-2014 academic year. After this point, the courses will need to meet the criteria of the new requirement.

"Since 2008, the Curriculum Committee has sought clarification regarding cultural diversity courses; specifically, these courses currently require incorporation of a non-Western element, hence disallowing certain courses that appear to be otherwise appropriate," the proposal states. "The revision of the requirement will enable an increased emphasis on these dynamics and will help students reflect on their own social and cultural positions."

According to the proposal, a DF course should address one or more of three criteria:

  • Students will examine one or more of the basic categories of social difference and scrutinize how identities within those categories may lie along a continuum of cultural power and status
  • Students will investigate the relationships among social identity, cultural capital, and economic mobility among individuals, social groups and institutions
  • Students will explore frameworks and social structures/systems that allow for oppression as well as those that attempt to bridge differences in pursuit of inclusivity

Several faculty members asked for clarifications of language and specification of the details in the proposal, citing it as vague and unclear in terms of guidelines establishing cultural differences. In the interest of time, President Phillip Glotzbach proposed to shift the conversation to a later time. The motion will lie over until the next meeting.

Barbara Black, associate professor of English, announced an open forum for March 2 that would address this inquiry.

Following this discussion, Vice President Susan Kress and Black brought up four motions to revise various sections of the Faculty Handbook. The first motion would revise Article X, "Discipline of Tenured Faculty," to the terms outlined in the proposed "Discipline and Dismissal of Faculty."

This new Article X will address the limitations of the previous version, which does not provide for the termination or reduction of status of non-tenured or tenured faculty members, and also does not provide specific procedures for resolving complaints against faculty members.

"In short, the proposed new procedures allow the College to weigh both the interests of faculty members accused of misconduct and the interests of community members who may be adversely affected by the alleged misconduct," the proposal states.

The second motion, which will only go into effect if motion one carries, as will all subsequent motions, will amend the description of the function and membership of the Faculty Advisory Board, which convenes to investigate a charge made against a faculty member. The proposed change in language will introduce a Grievance Panel, which will provide a panel of peers to which charged faculty may appeal.

Motion three will change the description of the function of the Committee on Appointments, Promotion and Tenure to eliminate its role in the termination of faculty service.

Motion four states that the Committee on Academic Freedom and Rights will amend its operating code in accordance with these changes.

All motions regarding the faculty handbook were deferred until the next faculty meeting. 

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