On December 6, the faculty had its final meeting of the semester where, among other matters, they discussed how to empathetically hold students to high standards. The meeting was facilitated by Associate Professor of English Emma Maggie Solberg, a member of the Governance and Faculty Affairs Committee.
After approving the minutes from the last meeting, Associate Professor of Music Tracy McMullen gave a heartfelt memorial in honor of Finn Woodruff ’21. She was both his pre-major advisor and advisor after he declared a music major.
“We all learn from our students, and [Finn] was just somebody that from early on I watched closely and felt like I could learn from him. I saw him as a guide in certain ways. Certainly, I was a guide to him, but he was also a guide to me,” McMullen said.
Afterwards, as is custom, President Rose addressed the faculty. He reflected on last Sunday’s memorial service for Theo Danzig ’22 and shared a short message regarding counseling services.
“It was simply remarkable. It was also cathartic, talking to many students afterwards. It was really necessary,” Rose said. “Second, on mental health, I just wanted to acknowledge the note that Roland sent out last night [which] provides an outline of the resources, the demands, the work that [the Counselling Department] does, how they do their work and some guidance in an area that you know is going to continue to be challenging for everyone and for all of you in particular given your close relationship with our students.”
Senior Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs and John S. Osterweis Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Jennifer Scanlon spoke about the support systems available for students and faculty, highlighting their importance in a pandemic. Scanlon reported back about a two-day in-person event that convened with roughly 25 other Deans of Academic Affairs from Bowdoin’s peer institutions.
“Everyone is experiencing what we’re experiencing,” Scanlon said. “But to be honest, it was also really good to be with them and to be reminded and to help remind other people that what we do really matters, that education matters, that our residential liberal arts experience matters. I came away from [the event] really convinced that the only way through this is by doing it together. So, I really do appreciate everything that you’re doing.”
Furthermore, Scanlon emphasized the importance of keeping students accountable with reasonable expectations while also teaching with empathy.
The faculty in attendance had no questions for Scanlon.
Mark Battle, professor of physics and chair of GFA, reintroduced the motion that would excuse faculty members from appointed committees when on parental leave.
“Parental leave is meant to allow a faculty member to provide childcare when appropriate by entering a reduction in teaching mode, but there’s more work at the college than just teaching. Our goal here is to remove the burden of heavy committee service,” Battle said.
After being postponed from the November faculty meeting due to the pressing concerns of mental health on campus, the motion successfully passed.
In a symbolic gesture, 130 faculty members signed a letter thanking the Division of Student Affairs for its work for students.
“As we come to the end of an especially challenging semester, we faculty want to express just how much we respect, appreciate and admire all that [Student Affairs] does for our community,” Solberg read from the letter. “We cannot overstate how much we all rely upon your expertise and your empathy and how much time and emotional energy you have invested in your work with students and faculty alike. Thank you for the grace you have shown under tremendous pressure and tragic circumstances. And thank you for helping us navigate the unprecedented challenges which we have encountered as a college.”
Following this, the chair of the Academic Affairs for the BSG Philip al Mutawaly ’24 presented data from a BSG survey that concluded that over two-thirds of the respondents reported that academic work negatively affected their health.
“Regardless of major or class year, the average student among those we communicated with is moderately negatively impacted in all facets of health that I mentioned,” al Mutawaly said. “We are traumatized, and we are in need of compassion. For that reason, the narrative that academics is purely and only an ally to student health needs to be complicated a little bit, so I’d like to offer some suggestions from students to be taken into consideration.”
Finally, Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Cinema Studies Allison Cooper shared updates from October’s meeting of the Board of Trustees.
“The trustees on [the] Academic Affairs Committee heard from our colleagues in Economics and Art History, who were invited to respectively discuss their department’s efforts to make sure their majors represent the demographics of students on campus and to diversify courses required for the major,” Cooper said. “So they’ve heard firsthand from different departments on campus about some of the kinds of work that is going on right now,” Cooper said. “Trustees on the Audit, Risk and Reputation Committee … heard from Matt Orlando about Bowdoin’s efforts to diversify the school’s vendors.”