Nov 6 Faculty Meeting Encourages Restoring Community Spirit
This past Friday, faculty gathered in Gannett Auditorium for the monthly faculty meeting. President Glotzbach started the meeting by approving the minutes from last meeting. Then he proceeded to discuss the tragedy that occurred almost a week ago involving three boys hit by a car on Clinton road, resulting in the two critical injuries of Toby Freeman and Oban Galbraith (both of whom are on the path of full recovery) and the death of Michael Hedges, who died Sunday morning at Albany Medical. President Glotzbach spoke about how the community has felt the loss and thanked everyone, particularly professors and other staff members who have helped those suffering during this time. He said that in his 13 years at Skidmore, seeing the community come together at the vigil and candle lighting ceremony was one of his proudest moments of the Skidmore community that he had seen.
The President then apologized for his absence at the last faculty meeting and explained he wants to help mend the divisions that may exist within the Skidmore community. He discussed the need for diversity to be present in the community and for people to openly share ideas and have meaningful discussions on how people’s backgrounds have shaped their experiences. Glotzbach stated that he wants people on campus to have the difficult conversations on diversity, particularly race, but many people are at a loss, including himself, on how to address and discuss these issues, since many people do not share the same difficult experiences as others. He suggested creating small groups and one on one dialogues to encourage these conversations. He also encouraged departments that do successfully engage in these conversations to share their insight with other departments. Both the President and Beau Breslin, Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs, are in the process of creating plans to better address the issues of race and how to stimulate conversations about it so people can discuss their differences in a respectable, educational manner.
The floor was then opened up to faculty responses, and Professor Michael Arnush from Classics spoke about what actions should be done to prevent the tragedy from Saturday from occurring again. He said the school should do something about the safety on Clinton and Daniels road, and that there should be a collaborative effort between Skidmore, Saratoga County, the Town of Greenfield, Public Safety, and other organizations to improve safety, such as installing lights and building sidewalks. Another professor also suggested that students be taught how to safety navigate roads in rural areas, particularly students coming from more urban environments, such as knowing to walk against traffic.
Beau Breslin took the podium and again thanked the faculty for helping students who were shaken up by Saturday’s event. He and Sarah Goodwin then discussed the status of the Middle States Self Study and the efforts the school is doing to improve interactive learning. Interactive learning is simple in concept but difficult to achieve; it encourages students to make connections across disciplinary boundaries, ranging from different classes, to the residents halls and extracurricular activities. Breslin and Goodwin explained that students should be taught to make these connections to see the “big picture” issues in the world and learn how to address them beyond college. So far, 5 categories for improvement have been targeted by faculty in the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC) to work on: general education, from the first year experience to beyond college, physical and digital spaces for integrative learning, diversity and inclusion, and responsible communities, encouraging students to learn about and participate in civic engagement, sustainability, and values and ethics. Recommendations that have been made thus far to improve on these categories include curriculum reform, building the integrated science center, creating general spaces for students to learn and come together in an academic setting, create better curriculums and co-curriculums to enhance diversity and inclusion. For now, though more data needs to be collected to further understand what improvements need to be made for the college. This fall the Middle States draft is in the process of being distributed and meetings and document reviews are taking place to see what recommendations faculty have.
After this discussion, Mehmet Odekon from Mathematics delayed a motion to make changes in the faculty handbook from the Committee of Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure. Next, there was a motion by the Committee on Educational Policies and Planning presented by April Bernard from English that will be voted on in the next faulty meeting to change the math and computer science department into two distinct departments: mathematics as one and computer science as the other. Tim Harper, Management and Business and representing IPPC, then led a discussion on the school’s strategic plan. He said many ideas are still being fleshed out and ideas are welcome for what improvements could be made to the school, such as creating more seminar spaces that are large enough to house every student in a class yet still foster an intimate environment.
A speaker from the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) spoke of faculty governance reform, working off of the reform voted on last year to make faculty committees smaller (along with other reforms). The ideas presented included a 7 year rotation where faculty returning from sabbatical (1 of the 7 years) would serve for 3 consecutive years, and then rotate with their colleagues. These changes are being brought forth since FEC does not believe that the current system employed can be continued since there are not enough faculty to populate ballots along with other uncertainties. FEC also wants to ensure that faculty preferences are considered.
Once this discussion on FEC’s new rotational plan was over, announcements were made. These included faculty going over civic engagement courses at Skidmore and how they can be applied to the Skidmore education, the employee benefits fair coming up, and a Raisin in the Sun reading that will take place Friday November 13th in JKB at 3:30.