Faculty talk budget, campus social spaces

The Lewis & Clark faculty held their second meeting of the year on Nov. 5 in Smith Hall. After announcements, President Wim Wiewel provided the faculty an update on the events of the October Board of Trustees meeting. He also mentioned the work being done by Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan to cultivate social spaces on campus before turning to the topic of the school’s debt.

“We were talking about the innovation that we need in our programs to continue to attract the students that we want,” Wiewel said. “It is an incredibly competitive world out there, there’s no doubt about that. We did unfortunately also have to increase tuition (4.75%).”

Wiewel explained that the Board approved the refinancing of LC’s $106 million debt due to a substantially lower interest rate compared to the last time the college refinanced in 2011, as well as a proposal to use an additional $35 million for deferred maintenance projects. 

“The projects that we’re talking about will generally have a mixture of fixing deferred maintenance that we need to do at some point anyway, and then doing some functional improvement,” Wiewel said.

Wiewel then introduced Vice President, Chief of Staff and General Counsel and Board Secretary David Reese to discuss LC’s progress concerning the Strategic Plan. Reese presented a list of six overarching goals and 23 sub-goals. 

“This plan is not one that’s just sitting on the shelf, but is really something that we’re looking to hold ourselves accountable to and report to the board about,” Reese said.

Afterwards, the Faculty Council reported on changes to the position request procedure, which allows departments to request new tenure-track positions. Under the new procedure, each department will write a one-page summary of why their department needs a new position, followed by a presentation open to the entire LC community. Following the presentation, the Dean will announce how many positions can be funded, departments will formally apply for extra positions and the Dean will announce which positions have been approved or denied.

Associate Professor of Art History and member of the Faculty Council Dawn Odell was one of the professors who presented on these new changes.

“I think we all feel very strongly the pain of our individual departments, but this allows us to understand the needs of other departments on campus as a whole,” Odell said.

Professor and Director of Ethnic Studies and Faculty Council member Elliott Young also introduced several ongoing conversations. One of these topics surrounds the Faculty with Term position, which was created several years ago as a way to keep “vital members of our community” here despite a lack of available tenure track positions. Yet, these positions have unclear guidelines concerning promotion and voting rights. Currently, there are 12 faculty members filling these positions. The Faculty Council will continue to discuss this issue to determine a proper resolution. 

Another recently raised concern on the Faculty Council pertained to LC’s football program. 

“We’ve received about 10 or so emails from people on the faculty who are expressing concern, primarily about the health impacts to football players, but also recognizing balancing out the positive benefits of having a football program with the college,” Young said. 

The Faculty Council will continue to gather data on the costs and benefits of the football program.. 

Rachel Cole, member of the Committee on Enrollment (COE) and associate professor and department chair of English, presented on the COE report and emphasized the ongoing attempts to develop language explaining the new general education program to incoming students. 

Then, the Curriculum Committee discussed a course code for the Middle East and North African (MENA) Studies program, and a potential minor in Hispanic Studies, both of which were put into motion later in the meeting. 

Following the Curriculum Committee’s presentation, the faculty representatives to the Board of Trustees presented on the October meeting of the Board. Rebecca Copenhaver, faculty representative to the Board of Trustees and professor and department chair of Philosophy, spoke on investments.

“In the Investments Committee, we had lots of good news,” Copenhaver said. “Our investments are outperforming benchmarks set by academic investing in general, and one of the reasons why we did so well in a volatile market is because of our divestments from oil and gas, which makes us really unique.”

Faculty Representative Young explained the Health Studies Initiative, which is aimed at creating a program to attract students interested in health professions. Additionally, he spoke on the Buildings and Grounds Committee. 

“According to the experts who did this outside consulting, we haven’t been investing enough (in our infrastructure),” Young said. 

The meeting concluded with three motions, concerning the MENA course code, the creation of a Hispanic Studies minor and the minimum requirements for the new first-year seminars being implemented as of next academic year, “Words” and “Numbers.”

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