Bowdoin faculty convened on Monday to discuss additions to half-credit course options, recommendations for pre-major advising and policy changes in Academic Affairs. Associate Professor of English Emma Maggie Solberg moderated the meeting in Daggett Lounge.
After approving the minutes from the previous meeting, President Clayton Rose addressed the faculty for the first time since announcing his June 2023 departure from the College.
“I will be leaving at the end of the next academic year, which is very bittersweet … We’re in the strongest positions we’ve ever been in,” Rose said. “We’re in this place because of all of you and all of our other colleagues who are not in the room with us today. It’s amazing work that you do and the care that you give to one another, to our students, our college and towards the mission of Bowdoin. As a result of that, even through the pandemic, we’ve been able to accomplish an extraordinary amount.”
Rose also announced that the Board of Trustees will be convening on campus for the first time in over two years.
“October of 2019 was the last time [the Board] met on campus. … They’re looking forward to being here. As a result of that, the meeting has a much larger and [more] celebratory angle than [it] normally do[es],” Rose said.
Rose said the Board will celebrate the faculty who have received tenure or have retired over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. Members of the Board of Trustees attended the dedication of the Schiller Coastal Studies Center on Thursday as well.
Later, Associate Professor of English and member of the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee (CEP) Aaron Kitch made announcements regarding decisions within the committee’s purview.
The CEP has allowed the Department of Mathematics to hold a two-year trial period on offering half-credit courses for select students in introductory calculus courses at the College.
This approach is based on a national program, the Emerging Scholars Program, which focuses on problem solving and building community in these introductory-level courses. The department highlighted how much of this work is already being conducted by students outside of the classroom and how this more official format can cultivate the same effect.
“There are a number of highly renowned programs like this around the country. We did not invent this, but we felt that it is really important to give credit to the students who are asking them to put in extra time,” Isaac Henry Wing Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Mathematics Department Jennifer Taback said.
This initiative was created in consultation with the Office of Institutional Research, Analytics, and Consulting (IRAC), Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching (BCLT) director Katie Byrnes and THRIVE.
“We’ve recommended that Eric Gaze teach these half-credit courses, collect data in consultation with the IRAC, with Katie Byrnes [and] with THRIVE to assess the effectiveness of the courses for four semesters. And this was a kind of a pilot program for these particular courses,” Kitch said.
Additionally, the CEP is beginning to reimagine the Inquiry in the Natural Sciences (INS) requirement due to a request by College community members for two history classes to fulfill that requirement.
“We’ve decided that it would be [in] the best interest of everyone … to examine the INS requirements more fully, to make sure that we understand what exactly needs to be modified and how it could be updated in order to create opportunities for faculty across the divisions of the College,” Kitsch said.
The Working Group on Advising then recommended three changes to academic advising, given the findings of
their report. Dean of Students Kristina Odejimi and Senior Lecturer in Physics and Faculty Liaison for Advising Karen Topp co-chaired this working group on pre-major advising. Members from THRIVE, the deans’ office, the registrar and professors from various disciplines were included in this group as well.
The Group proposed a new full-time staff position in the Registrar’s Office for the facilitation of academic advising as well as the creation of an enhanced model and clearer expectations for advisors. They also proposed class registration for incoming first-years to take place in late July or early August. Topp explained the aim of these changes was to improve the relationships between students and their pre-major advisors.
“[These] recommendations talk about equity in terms of building on students’ strengths— those that qualified them for Bowdoin—especially among students who are first-gen, students of color, of low income background, etc.” Topp said. “In order to bring a ‘strength space’ emphasis, we recommend a relationship-based rather than transactional structure, wherein most of the exchanges are personal. This model makes clear the faculty advisor’s investment in the advisee’s success, rather than concerned about potential failure.”
The timeline for the Group’s proposed changes is between two and three years.
Following this, Senior Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs and John S. Osterweis Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Jennifer Scanlon discussed policy changes within Academic Affairs.
Scanlon highlighted the department’s work revisioning their Shared Appointments Policy, providing funding for newly-tenured faculty and a shift in teaching responsibilities for department chairs.
The College will move away from the ad hoc approach to one that allows tenure-track candidates to share their track with their spouse. This was a 2007 policy that the College felt was an outlier among its peer institutions and was not financially feasible, according to a memorandum released to the faculty on April 21, 2021.
Additionally, the College will provide a $6,000 grant to all newly-tenured faculty members. This is made possible by an anonymous donation and aims to provide support to faculty as they transition in their career.
Furthermore, the College is enhancing compensation for academic department chairs and program directors. Within their four-year terms, department chairs and program directors will have the option to either receive an additional $8,000 each year as chair or director or a 50 percent leave supplement. With either choice, at the end of their fourth year, they would receive a $6,000 grant.
Finally, the College will offer a course release to all chairs and program directors during their term and two course releases to those who lead the 12 largest departments or programs. Prior to this, only one course release had been offered to the chair or program director of the six largest programs and departments.
In the final opportunity to raise suggestions for future discussion, Topp brought forward the gap in knowledge she and other professors are experiencing with incoming students due to the pandemic’s effect on their high school educations.
“I would love to have a discussion about the tension I am experiencing … between maintaining the standard that we’ve used and [taught] in our courses for years and years, versus teaching the students we see in front of us and how the pandemic plays in,” Topp said. “I’ve heard from many of my colleagues that we are not seeing the preparation that we are used to. … I cannot meet with all of them for all that they need. How do we deal with this as an entity?”
The faculty will meet for the final time this year on May 23 to move forward on their election process.