In the upcoming weeks, the faculty will continue conversations about situations when students attend monthly faculty meetings unannounced and ask to address the faculty about student concerns without prior approval. These conversations could lead to formal guidelines for how to manage these situations, according to  Bion R. Cram Professor of Economics Rachel Connelly, chair of the committee on governance and faculty affairs (GFA).

This conversation about procedure was sparked last spring after a group of students unexpectedly attended a faculty meeting and asked to speak about issues of racial inclusion on campus following the “tequila” party. Though GFA was surprised, the students were allowed to speak for about five minutes after a quick caucus, according to Connelly. Little precedent exists for dealing with these situations. 

Currently, guidelines do exist for GFA to formally add students to the meeting’s agenda if the students give advanced notice. Students from BSG and the Orient have also historically attended faculty meetings on a more regular basis, although they listen rather than present.

“I think the faculty really appreciated hearing from those students,” said Connelly. “Our conversation about [this] is not that that was necessarily a bad thing, but rather that we should have a policy about such things.”

Connelly said that the faculty generally supports hearing students speak about issues important to them at the meeting. Despite this support, she suggested that the faculty meetings are not always the first path that students should take in engaging with faculty since the meeting tend to be very procedural. 

“Faculty meetings in general are not good places to have conversations—they tend to be fairly stilted,” Connelly said. “We can do a lot better than that as a go-to path.”

Connelly believes that the faculty meeting would be a viable option if students could not find other venues or exhausted other options, such as reaching out to student representatives on faculty committees. 

“We don’t want to draw big generalizations when the circumstances are all so very different,” she said. 

Professor of Cinema Studies Tricia Welsch spoke in support of the GFA initiative at the faculty meeting on Monday and echoed Connelly’s desire to look at situations on a case-by-case basis. 
“It looked like we were moving in the direction of some guidelines,” Welsch said. “I think that’s far more flexible and useful to us over a long run where circumstance might change quite a lot.”

Like Connelly, Welsch said that the agenda-driven faculty meeting might not be the best forum for discussing big ideas. When students spoke last spring, Welsch felt there was inadequate time for faculty to respond or reflect. She did think, however, that President Rose’s town hall discussion about issues of race was impressive, moving and well-attended by faculty. 

Connelly said that the teach-in last year worked well as an example of faculty-student collaboration on big ideas. 

“It was certainly a place where faculty and students were in constant conversation,” she said. 

Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) President Harriet Fisher ’17 said she is excited that communication between students and faculty as well as the role of the faculty meeting are both being discussed.She added she would like to see students use BSG as a platform where students can share their experiences with faculty.

Going forward, GFA will continue to talk with faculty about the presence of students at faculty meetings.

Connelly is unsure of the specific steps that would need to happen for GFA to finalize a new procedure, as the faculty handbook generally outlines the way meetings are run, but does not go into specific details. 

“We’re in pretty grey area,” she said.