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Faculty meeting discusses institutional learning goals

April 15, 2022

College faculty gathered once again last Monday, April 4, in Daggett Lounge for its monthly faculty meeting. Since Associate Professor of English Emma Maggie Solberg was absent due to illness and could not moderate as usual, Professor of Physics and Chair of the Committee on Governance and Faculty Affairs (GFA) Mark Battle stepped in to conduct the meeting.

After voting to approve the minutes from their last faculty meeting, Senior Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs Jennifer Scanlon read a report from President Clayton Rose, who was not in attendance.

“First, on Covid, as I said in my note to campus in January, which Mike Ranen has written about more recently, assuming our numbers stay manageable as they were before break, we will continue to reduce our masking requirement,” Scanlon read.

Those in attendance later entered a fierce debate with Barry N. Wish Professor of Government and Social Studies Paul Franco’s motion to change and clarify the college’s definition to completing a degree to comply with federal policy.

“Upon completion of their degree requirements, students must graduate and cannot enroll for additional semesters, even if they have been enrolled for fewer than eight semesters and regardless of if they are recipients of federal, state, or institutional financial aid. In addition, students should not avoid registering for necessary courses to prolong their enrollment,” Franco read.

After a procedural vote, the faculty raised concerns regarding this language and offered creative solutions. Some, like Professor of Physics Dale Syphers, raised concerns about students who may have double-majored or, want to explore other disciplines. Syphers also questioned if this policy stands in line with the fundamental concept of a liberal arts education.

“I do want to say that our major, [and] which I expect many other majors in college, are set up that way in the context of the structure of a liberal arts college, which I’ve been teaching at this entire time. We believe that liberal arts is in the importance of taking other things besides your major, besides the bare minimum. This policy by the government sort of stands things on their head,” Sypher said.

Furthermore, Professor of Music Vineet Shende highlighted how this change would negatively impact students who participate in choirs on campus for credit, which is roughly one-sixth of the student body.

“On a general level, I’m opposed to this and on a specific level the music department I am definitely opposed to this,” Shende said. “It will affect the approximately one-sixth of our student population that participates in ensembles and lessons. Those students on average take five credits per semester, and so what that will mean is that they will be at 32 credit limits just after their junior year. Which again, is kneecapping them from their ability to fully engage in what a Bowdoin education would be,” Shende said.

Additionally, some professors suggested interesting strategies to work around the guidelines.

“Would it be possible to simply add an additional requirement, a senior bootcamp of some sort during the last week of their eighth semester, which every student has to attend as a graduation requirement?,” Associate Professor of Classics Robert Sobak said.

After reiterating that this policy is proposed to adhere to federal guidelines, Franco called for a vote on the matter.

With 57% of the vote, the motion barely passed the faculty. 34 faculty members voted for the motion while 21 voted against and four abstained.

Dean Scanlon also provided her own report regarding institutional learning goals, which are required for the College’s accreditation, a process that takes place every five to ten years depending on the institution. This process judges whether the institution maintains a standard of education.

Academic Affairs created nine standards to broadly represent the principles of learning at Bowdoin. These standards focus on sharing the excitement of intellectual and creative discovery, exploring Maine’s environment and more.

Further, Scanlon addressed concerns regarding faculty relocation and accessibility during the anticipated Sills Hall renovation expected to take two years.

Following this point, Associate Professor of German Jill Smith asked the faculty to vote to approve new courses on behalf of the Curriculum Implementation Committee. The measure passed with a vote of 55 in favor and 1 abstaining.

Senior Lecturer in Physics and Faculty Liaison for Advising Karen Topp and Dean of Students Kristina Odejimi later presented a summary of the pre-major advising working groups results and prepared the faculty to discuss the report at the next faculty meeting.

They proposed an enhanced model for advising and the role advisors play while also shifting first-year course registration to be during the summer rather than during orientation.

The next faculty meeting is on Monday, May 2 in Daggett Lounge at 4:25 p.m.


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