Faculty meeting of April 6, 2012
Posted on April 5, 2012
The faculty meeting was called to order by President Ronald A. Crutcher at 2:00 pm on Friday, April 6, 2012 in Hindle Auditorium in the Science Center.
The minutes of the March 2, 2012 faculty meeting were approved as circulated.
President Crutcher began by announcing that Wheaton has six Fulbright Scholars (four from the Class of 2012 and two from the Class of 2010), two Watson Scholars, one Beinecke, one 100 Projects for Peace, one honorable mention as a Udall Scholar, and one Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. The President thanked Dean Alex Trayford for his work with these students and extended his thanks to the faculty members who wrote letters of recommendation for the students applying for these scholarships.
The President noted that he had received emails from two students expressing their concerns for the environmental impact of the installation of the turf field. He called on Dean Lee Williams to give an overview of the project. She presented a satellite photo to show how the turf field will fit into the overall campus plan, pointing out areas that have been mapped out by the Conservation Commission, and another photo of the artist’s rendering. The first round of flagging has been completed and is done in a way that the architect notes will minimize the impact on the site, including the 100-foot water vegetation buffer and the 200-foot river front buffer. Professor John Kricher pointed out that the area being considered for the turf field has been used by Biology faculty and students for a number of years. He expressed his regret that the Biology faculty had not been consulted about the possible site. Professor Ann Sears spoke about the negative environmental impact the construction of the Elm Street parking lot has had on her neighbors and also expressed her concern that the faculty seems not to be consulted ahead of time when various projects are in the planning stages. Vice President Brian Douglas said that the plan was to reflag the wetlands first and then to approach the Biology and Astronomy faculty (departments that use the site most often or would be affected) to work with them on assessing the project to minimize the impact it would have on the area. The specific site has not yet been chosen and he hopes to work with the faculty and the students to decide on the final siting for the field. Both Mr. Douglas and Dean Williams said that they understood that the project had been under discussion for some time. Professor Kricher noted that this was the first time he had heard about the discussions. Professor Sears agreed. She said that in the thirty years that she has been at the college, this is the first time she and many of the faculty had been included in such conversations.
Vice President Gail Berson presented an update on admissions. She thanked the faculty for their help in recruiting students and reminded the faculty that many of them were asked to reply to admitted students who sent in information in response to new survey questions about an ideal course they would like to take at Wheaton, or a skill they would like to leave with. Ms. Berson urged the faculty who hadn’t yet responded to take a minute to do so and get back to her. She emphasized how helpful such comments from faculty are in encouraging students to choose Wheaton. She went on to say that the Admissions staff are involved in a number of different initiatives (open houses, new publications, special emails that go out to students and their parents) to be sure that the accepted students and their families are aware of how much the college is looking forward to welcoming them to Wheaton. Ms. Berson announced that the video “Wheaton Anthem,” which was presented to the faculty at the March faculty meeting by Thomas Sternal of the firm Generation, will be repurposed into two different specialty videos, one of which will soon appear on the Admissions website. She noted that additional videos will be added to the collection of videos Admissions will be able to put on the website. Ms. Berson said that she hopes to have good news to share with the faculty at the May meeting.
Provost Linda Eisenmann highlighted several publications by Wheaton faculty. Associate Professor of English Shawn Christian’s chapter entitled “The (New) ‘Rap on Race’: Historicizing Calls for Racial Dialogue in the Early Years of Barack Obama’s Presidency” was published in Reading African American Experiences in the Obama Era; Professor of English Michael Drout has a chapter in Modes of Authorship in the Middle Ages entitled “’I am large, I contain multitudes’: The Medieval Author in Memetic Terms”; Professor of History John Bezís-Selfa is a co-author of American Horizons: United States History in a Global Context; Professor of Mathematics Bill Goldbloom-Bloch’s essay “Lost in a Good Book: Jorge Luis Borges’ Inescapable Labyrinth” appeared in Imagine Math: Between Culture and Mathematics; Associate Professor of Chemistry Thandi Buthelezi, together with two Wheaton students, has published an article entitled “Thermosolvatochromism of Nitrospiropyran and Merocyanine Free and Bound to Cyclodextrin” in The Journal of Physical Chemistry; Professor of Education Mary Lee Griffin co-authored a review article entitled “Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teacher and Students” which appeared in Mindfulness; Professor Tim Barker, Gary Ahrendts, and Wheaton student Shelby Delos, have published a piece entitled “Rotation Period Determination for 180 Garumna: A Triumph of Global Collaboration” in Minor Planet Bulletin. Their collaborators on this work include astronomers from Japan, Australia, and New Mexico.
Provost Eisenmann announced that President Crutcher received the Ellen S. Jackson Award for Excellence in Education from Freedom House in Boston. She went on to announce that Professor of Psychology Gail Sahar has accepted the position of Associate Provost beginning July 1st. Professor Sahar will be replacing Associate Provost Evelyn Staudinger, who will leave the Provost’s office at the end of June. Provost Eisenmann received eight different proposals for “Connections v 2.0”. She will be reviewing the proposals and will notify those whose proposals are chosen by the end of April. She noted that this was the first call for proposals and there will be other opportunities to apply.
Dean Alex Trayford, Chair of the Committee on Academic Standing, presented the following change to Faculty Legislation (postponed from the March meeting):
The Committee on Academic Standing is proposing the following changes to faculty legislation PART II, VIII at the March 2, 2012 faculty meeting.
Tommasina Gabriele Alex Trayford
Shelly Leibowitz Alex Vasquez
Clinton O’Dell Lee Williams
Pat Santilli Thomas Bruenner, Felicia Stewart - students
NOTE: Proposed changes to wording are represented in bold. Deletions are shown by strikethroughs.
VIII. Academic Standing
A. Good Academic Standing
A student remains in good academic standing as long as he or she is matriculated at Wheaton and is considered by the Committee on Academic Standing to be making satisfactory progress toward the degree.
Rationale: To eliminate inconsistencies in, and update, faculty legislation to reflect longstanding college practice that differentiates between Good Academic Standing and Academic Probation. It is the role of the Committee on Academic Standing to give thoughtful consideration to a student’s semester and cumulative grade point averages, as well as to any pertinent extenuating circumstances that can interfere in the student’s academic success (e.g., medical issues, family troubles, loss of close relatives, disruptive campus living conditions, to name a few). The committee thus understands that students are placed on Academic Probation and Suspension for a wide variety of reasons. Therefore, it is the committee’s understanding that the longstanding college practice which differentiates Good Academic Standing from Academic Probation is meant to enable those students whom the committee allows to re-matriculate at Wheaton a full participation in campus life as the best possible course of action for academic improvement and success, for full integration in the Wheaton community, and for retention.
A. B. Class Standing Year
A student's standing class year in the College is stated in terms of the number of credits which have been earned. A student's academic standing class year is as follows when the student has earned the following number of credits:
Freshman First-year 0
[December 19, 1972, p. 3081]
Rationale: Clarification of terms
C. Minimum Grade Average
B. C. To be in good academic standing, a A student must earn at least an average of 2.0 in the freshman year and a yearly and cumulative average of 2.0 thereafter. will normally be placed on academic probation if the semester or cumulative grade point average is below a 2.0. For graduation, a student must have an average of 2.0 in the major and overall. [February 3, 1995, p. 4049]
Reports of unsatisfactory work shall be sent to the Associate Dean's Office in the middle of each semester. [October 14, 1969, p. 2927]
Rationale: Not practiced.
D. Academic Review
1. A student whose semester record, or a First Year student whose tentative record at the middle of either semester, includes an average grade point average is below C 2.0 (for members of the Class of 1999 and beyond) or C- 1.67 (for members of the class of 1998 or earlier) shall be reviewed by the Committee on Admissions and Academic Standing.
Rationale: Not practiced.
a. First Year students at Mid-Semester shall be placed on Mid-Semester Academic Probation.
Rationale: No longer practiced.
b. a. All students who fall below the minimum for Good Standing whose semester or cumulative grade point average is below 2.0 at the end of any semester will face any of a range of institutional responses, from placing that student on Academic Probation through Suspension for one academic year to Academic Dismissal. The determination of that sanction shall be the responsibility of the Committee and shall be made based upon the student‘s academic record and all other information available to the Committee at that time. Students shall have the right to appeal the Committee decision.
c. Students who have fallen more than two credits behind their class as a function of withdrawn or failed courses are defined as making insufficient progress towards the completion of their degree and will be placed on Academic Probation.
Rationale: No longer practiced.
d. Students on Academic Probation shall be considered in conditional good standing during their first semester and will be eligible to participate in all student co-curricular activities. [May 6, 2005, p. 4502]
Rationale: Eliminating d to be consistent with the proposed definition of good academic standing (A).
2. If a student meets the minimum semester's 2.0 semester Grade Point Average criterion for academic good standing during their semester on academic probation, but not raise their cumulative Grade Point Average above the minimum criterion 2.0, they may will be continued on Academic Probation and in conditional good standing for one additional semester. Should a student be continued for a third consecutive semester on academic probation, she or he will no longer be eligible to participate in co-curricular activities.
[March 12, 1962, p. 2678; February 3, 1995, p. 4049; December 5, 1997, p. 4169]
Rationale: Not currently practiced.
E. Academic Suspension and Dismissal
1. All students on Academic Probation will be reviewed at the end of each semester. A student on academic probation who fails to achieve both a semester and a cumulative GPA of 2.0 (for the Class of '99 and beyond) or 1.67 (for the Class of '98 and earlier) shall be placed on academic suspension for one year. Once suspended, a student falls out of academic good standing. A student returning from academic suspension shall be placed on academic probation until the cumulative grade point average is 2.0. for one semester to earn grades sufficient to return him or her to academic good standing. Failure to return to good standing in any semester after a student has been suspended shall do so may result in Academic Dismissal from the college. [December 19, 1972, p. 3080; April 11, 1980, p. 3455; February 3, 1995, p. 4049; December 5, 1997, pp. 4169-4170, May 6, 2005, p. 4503]
Rationale: More clearly expresses current practice. Eliminating contradiction within E1.
Members of the Committee on Academic Standing commented on the change. Professor Rochelle Leibowitz offered additional information to further clarify a number of the changes being proposed. She pointed out that the Committee on Academic Standing, despite the name of the committee, does not deal on a daily basis with Good Academic Standing. They review students who have a semester or cumulative average of less than 2.0 and make decisions on whether or not to place those students on Academic Probation. The other term, “Good Academic Standing”, has or had a definition in Faculty Legislation that connected it with Academic Probation; over the years, however, the definition has become unclear. She noted that the phrase “Good Academic Standing” appears in many documents across campus and determines whether or not a student can participate in non-academic activities (SGA, Wheaton Foundation grants, varsity athletics, etc.). Professor Leibowitz went on to say that whatever decision on defining Good Academic Standing is made it will not affect financial aid. The proposed Legislation basically says that if a student is matriculated, that student is in Good Academic Standing. She pointed out that for each possible definition of Good Academic Standing there are many schools that follow that definition. So, looking at how other schools define Good Academic Standing does not provide us with any answers. Patricia Santilli, Registrar, offered the faculty background on how Good Academic Standing is typically used (application for a credit card, internship, part-time job). She reiterated that the Committee on Academic Standing has never dealt with Academic Standing; some confusion about the term may have originated with the Committee on Academic Standing itself. She went on to say that whatever the Committee defines has to be used by the NCAA. Professor Tommasina Gabriele noted that the Committee on Academic Standing has a very sound and thorough approach to students on academic probation and looks at individual situations. She said that she is in agreement with the Committee that Academic Probation deals with academics while Good Academic Standing is associated with making sure that students do not have participation opportunities closed to them.
Professor Leibowitz said that even though she is a member of the Committee on Academic Standing, she is going to vote against the proposed change. She said that she feels that good academic standing should have some numerical scale.
A lengthy discussion followed. Several faculty members spoke to the proposed change. Professor Michael Kahn spoke against the proposed Legislation. He said “I wish to speak against this legislation. I think the proposed legislation is inconsistent and doesn't live up to Wheaton's standards or even the sentiments from the marketing firm we heard last month. I prefer to see the faculty vote the current proposal down and ask that we define academic good standing to be mutually exclusive from academic probation
The inconsistent notion that a student can simultaneously be on academic probation and in good academic standing causes at least some cognitive dissonance among faculty and staff. Through recent discussions, we’ve been told that members of the Academic Advising office (Jim Mancall has said I can use his name in this regard) have told numerous students that being on probation means they are not in good academic standing. In fact, looking at the last three annual reports from CAS, under the section headed Academic Standing, they report data such as “The committee reviewed 123 students… and 44 students were restored to good standing.” This does not mean 44 students came out of suspension, but 44 students came off of academic probation to regain good academic standing. Here we have written acknowledgement from CAS that good academic standing is a status that is to be reclaimed after being on probation; CAS does define good academic standing as “above” probation based on the data in their annual reports!!! As for possible definitions that would delineate good academic standing from probation, one example is a policy to the effect that good academic standing means at least a 1.6 GPA during a student's first two semesters, at least a 1.8 during their sophomore semesters, and at least a 2.0 starting with their junior year. I am not proposing this specific scale as an amendment to the current proposal since there are other details that need to be worked out and there are variations of this scheme that are also reasonable. This sort of legislation will clarify the distinction between probation and good standing for all of us, and students will know what the definition is upon entering and live by it throughout their time at Wheaton.
As for the community’s ethos, the college has made great strides raising the intellectual climate at the top end, but the notion that a student has to be suspended to lose good academic standing does nothing to raise standards at the low end. The rationale for this proposed legislation is that we are just putting into writing a virtually unknown practice from the last 20 years. That argument flies in the face of the marketing rhetoric we heard last month. There we heard that the Wheaton ethos is that of a Jack Russell terrier climbing an ever-rising mountain as we continually challenge the status quo. Passing this legislation codifies the current academic standing status quo while providing no real chance to explore other models for good academic standing and probation. I urge us to vote this legislation down and recommend CAS bring another set of definitions by the October faculty meeting that separate good standing from probation.”
Professor Dyer agreed with Professor Kahn. Ms. Santilli expressed her concern with applying a graduation requirement to students before they actually graduate. She noted that occasionally students have a bad semester (family issues, medical issues) and to penalize students by keeping them from participating in something they really like to do is unfair. There are sanctions for athletes. Dean Williams agreed and pointed out that the coaches put academics first and that there are warnings in place for student athletes. She went on to say that the coaches at Wheaton have significant influence on student athletes, and if a student athlete is put on academic probation, that connection with the coach is lost. Professor Dyer said that it is totally up to the coaches to impose sanctions on the student athletes. She suggested that the faculty contact her or Professor Kahn if there is a conflict with athletics and the classroom.
Professor John Kricher offered the following friendly amendment to the proposed change:
C. Minimum Grade Point Average
A student will [normally] be placed on academic probation if the semester or cumulative grade point average is below 2.0………overall.
The Committee accepted his friendly amendment.
Professor Bob Morris said that he would take issue with the phrase “singling out” a particular type of student. He said that it seems that we are singling out a certain type of participation; he pointed out that participation in outside activities does play an important role in helping students to recover and get back on track. He noted that he would not be in favor of singling out any particular type of student but he doesn’t oppose singling out a certain type of participation as an incentive to restore them to good academic standing. They could participate in other activities and use the support that they receive from those other activities to bring themselves back to good academic standing. However, he would be in favor of keeping the students’ participation in NCAA sports separate because of the national implication of the definition of that participation. Professor Kahn pointed out that a student participating in athletics would not have to be removed from the team if they are on academic probation with the exception possibly of NCAA participation. They could still go to practice and go to games. After a long and contentious discussion. A motion was made to call the question and the faculty approved that motion. The vote on the proposed Legislation as amended was taken. The result was a tie vote of 25 for and 25 against. Professor Darlene Boroviak pointed out that because the vote resulted in less than a quorum (37 votes) either way, the proposal is automatically tabled to a future faculty meeting.
Brian Douglas, Vice President for Finance and Administration, gave a PowerPoint presentation overview of the College budget. He began with a chart showing family incomes which indicated that more and more students who are choosing to come to Wheaton are in need of Financial Aid. The next chart showed that the largest portion of Wheaton’s operating revenues is from tuition (80% to 85%), 7% to 9% is from the endowment and 4% to 6% comes from gifts to the College. Mr. Douglas displayed a chart that listed enrollments since the fall of 2006. He noted that in the spring of 2008 Wheaton had an enrollment of 1671 and this spring there are 1569 students enrolled—the lowest since the spring of 2004. Moving on to the expense side, he pointed out that financial aid increased by 59% in the last six years, which is more than all other categories of spending combined. He said that, given this information, the question now is how Wheaton can bring in more full-paying students and how we keep them here. Comparing our comprehensive fee and discount rate to the College’s comparison group (the Northeast Nine), the indication is that we have struggled more than our peer institutions. Mr. Douglas said that tough cuts have already been made to the budget but as that approach can’t suffice or continue, we have to find more ways to generate revenue for the College. Next, he spoke briefly about the Focus Plan. The goals of the Focus Plan include:
- Getting control of Financial Aid.
- Becoming more attractive to students who have the ability to pay.
- Continuing to be an innovative institution.
Mr. Douglas went on to speak to the five-year financial projections that were presented to the Board of Trustees. He emphasized that they are just projections and there is still a great deal of work to be done to reverse the deficit. He noted that the standard operating margin (revenues minus expenses) for an institution is 2% to 4% of revenues; Wheaton is currently spending about 110% of revenues, for an operating margin of -10%. Mr. Douglas went over the financial implications of the five-year plan:
- Depletion of reserve funds.
- Downgrade of the College’s credit ratings, making it more difficult for the College to borrow funds for future capital projects.
- Limited ability to increase staffing (including faculty) and to increase compensation for staffing.
- Assuming only a 2% increase in compensation each year.
- Constrained ability to invest in facilities. Just to keep up, the College should be spending $5,000,000 to $7,000,000 annually. The Financial Plan calls for just about a $2,500,000 investment each year.
Looking ahead, Mr. Douglas said that there is an increase in applications this year of 15%; the Capital Campaign is going well; we are starting to see signs of a sustained economic recovery. He ended his remarks by reminding the faculty that the challenge is ongoing; our competitors are in the same situation and are taking the same measures that we are, so we have to do better.
Speaking on behalf of the Educational Policy Committee, Professor Tommy Ratliff led a discussion on the Honors Thesis language in Faculty Legislation. He distributed copies of the section in Faculty Legislation relating to the Honors Thesis and read a portion of that section. The Educational Policy Committee interprets this section as saying that the Honors Thesis meets requirements beyond any other requirements for the major. The issue that has come about is possible conflation of the Honors Thesis with the Capstone; there are a few departments who are challenged by offering both a thesis-oriented Capstone and two semesters of independent work beyond all other requirements. Professor Ratliff noted that the Capstone is an experience requirement not a course requirement. Professor Ratliff asked the faculty what they thought was the “philosophy” of the Honors Thesis—whether it is a work that is completely separate from any of the requirements for the major, and so can’t overlap with anything that is done for the requirements for the major. Discussion followed. Several small departments accept the Honors Thesis as the Capstone. Ms. Santilli cautioned that if there is going to be flexibility and variances among departments, individual department members need to understand the department requirements and be able to inform the Registrar’s office. Professor Darlene Boroviak noted that clarification of the Capstone is needed to have a better understanding of the issue. Professor Ratliff will bring this discussion back to the Educational Policy Committee.
Professor Janina Benoit, speaking on behalf of the Committee on Faculty Workload and Economic Status, announced that the Committee had signed a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with the Administration. She explained that the faculty agreed to suspend the current faculty salary plan, and the Administration committed to a process that will result in a multi-year faculty salary framework to be implemented in FY16. Professor Benoit reminded the faculty of the conversations that led up to the creation and signing of the MOU. She said that the faculty is committed to working with the administration to have the FY16 plan in place and look forward to what they hope will be fruitful discussions. Professor John Partridge, President of AAUP, expressed disappointment at the loss of the faculty salary plan that had been in place for a number of years. He said that the faculty salary plan had provided meaningful shared governance. He thanked Professor Benoit and the members of the Committee on Faculty Workload and Economic Status for the work that they have done and said that AAUP will fight for more in the years to come. Professor John Kricher also expressed his thanks to the Economic Status Committee and reiterated Professor Partridge’s sentiments. Professor Derek Price said that there are two levels to the faculty salary plan—one is the financial discussions that take place and the other is the “compact” that all of the faculty are “in this together,” so there is a loss of another type with the suspension of the faculty salary plan. President Crutcher expressed his thanks to the members of the Committee on Faculty Workload and Economic Status.
Professor Kathryn Tomasek, Chair of the Committee on Library, Technology and Learning, announced that there would be a second round of funding for faculty members who are interested in enhancing teaching and learning or scholarship through the use of technology and information resources. The deadline for applications is May 7th. She referred the faculty to the call for proposals that was sent to them by Scott Hamlin.
The meeting was adjourned at 4:05 pm.
Lynda S. Marcoccia
Senior Executive Assistant to the Provost
Secretary to the Faculty