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Richard Bland committee hears progress reports

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February 9, 2016

3:44 PM

The Board of Visitors Richard Bland Committee met Wednesday, Feb. 3 and heard progress reports from members of the administration of the Richard Bland College of William and Mary.

Officials from RBC, a branch of The College dedicated to preparing students for university transfer, gave presentations on enrollment and academic performance, state funding, faculty procedures, compliance and student life. The BOV also heard from faculty and student liaisons and made recommendations regarding revisions to the faculty handbook.

To open the meeting, Committee Chair John Littel discussed BOV members’ recent visit to RBC to tour campus and meet with members of the administration.

“It’s definitely a population which is at the center of our strategic enrollment management plan and a population we’re starting to go after,” Hart said, referring to dual-enrollment students.

The committee approved two sets of minutes: the first from the Nov. 16 committee meeting and the second from the Dec. 10 joint meeting with Audit and Compliance.

After thanking the board members for visiting campus, President of RBC Debbie Sydow outlined recent enrollment and academic successes at RBC.

“So with that, I always give credit where credit is due, and that is to the team of administrators who work so hard at the College every single day,” Sydow said.

Dean of Enrollment Services Tyler Hart began the series of presentations by reporting on enrollment progress. He notified the BOV that RBC met all of its performance measures to be submitted with their current six-year plan.

Between fall 2014 and fall 2015, he noted that RBC saw a 42.5 percent increase in enrollment. Although the freshman class increased by approximately 100 students, dual enrollment saw a much larger rise of around 500 students.

“It’s definitely a population which is at the center of our strategic enrollment management plan and a population we’re starting to go after,” Hart said, referring to dual-enrollment students.

Hart also reported that between the fall 2014 and the fall 2015 semesters, there was a 76 percent increase in the Dean’s and President’s lists, recognizing students who achieved at least a 3.3 GPA. Hart attributed the rise in GPA to the success of RBC’s Learner Mentor model, where each incoming student is paired with a faculty member to create a path of study in preparation to attend a four-year college or university.

Chief Financial Officer Penny Howard then reported on the Governor’s December 2015 proposals for the Fiscal Year 2017 general and non-general fund.

Recommending a $655,000 increase over RBC’s base funding of $6.4 million for FY 2017, Governor Terry McAuliffe appropriated the additional funds into a one-time $200,000 funding for technology and security devices along with funding increases for timely completion, student financial assistance and a 2 percent salary increase for faculty.

In response to a question by Littel about laptop policy at RBC, Dean of Faculty and Academic Effectiveness Dr. Vern L. Lindquist said that a large number of RBC students do not own laptops.

“Easily 35 percent don’t have them,” Lindquist said.

The officials from RBC expressed willingness to look further into ensuring that students have access to computers and laptops.

Although the meeting focused on general parameters rather than on discussing a specific budget, Littel recommended that RBC keep tuition at or below the Pell Grant level.

“We are really encouraging people to take out as little money in loans as possible and to really be in a place where we ensure that the value of Richard Bland is that you can leave there in two years with very little debt, if any,” Littel said.

Lindquist began the next presentation by discussing RBC’s implementation of new educational technologies: Turnitin, a plagiarism-prevention service, and Dropout Detective, which identifies students who are at risk for failing.

“I think, from a substance thing, we’re all pretty good, I think we’ve all read it and our job is more to safeguard the process than the substance — it’s really between the faculty and the administration to work this out,” Littel said. “But I think we can always have a more inclusive process.”

Only 22.5 percent of RBC students graduate from a four-year university in six years, although this number is significantly higher than the national average.

“The big thing is that students who go to community college have a lot of challenges,” Lindquist said. “Most of them have many, many other things competing for their time. I can tell you that most of the local Richard Bland students that I know have jobs and almost all of them have full-time jobs.”

Transitioning to the topic of the ongoing revision process of RBC’s faculty handbook, Lindquist discussed the addition of information on learning outcomes and shared governance. He noted that there was disagreement between administration and faculty members in regard to the grievance procedures and faculty duties outlined in the handbook.

In a Dec. 2015 RBC Faculty Assembly meeting on Faculty Affairs Committee recommendations, all but one of the committee members voted against their own proposed changes to members of the administrations’ job descriptions. Although there were enough other positive votes to pass the motion, Lindquist and faculty representative Jill Mitten said they were both surprised at the closeness of the vote.

“I can’t provide any more of an explanation as to why the entire committee except for one person voted against their own recommendations,” Mitten said. “It’s one of the strangest things I think I’ve ever seen happen.”

After several questions from board members, Sydow suggested that faculty uncertainty about changes in other parts of the faculty handbook may have been the cause for the committee defection.

“They had concerns about the grievance procedures in the draft that they had looked at,” Sydow said.

Littel recommended that the final faculty handbook with all of the changes be available to the public for 30 days for comment before a faculty vote. Afterward, he said, the BOV would vote on the final procedures during their April meeting.

“I think, from a substance thing, we’re all pretty good, I think we’ve all read it and our job is more to safeguard the process than the substance — it’s really between the faculty and the administration to work this out,” Littel said. “But I think we can always have a more inclusive process.”

Director of Human Resources and Compliance and Title IX Coordinator Deanne Bell updated the board about Richard Bland College’s zero-tolerance policy for sexual violence. Bell also discussed new weekly faculty and staff training sessions on Title IX, FERPA, compliance and emergency management.

Representing faculty, Mitten discussed the success of RBC’s new shared governance model, which gives students and faculty input into decision-making processes at RBC. On the student side, Amanda Archer ’16 notified the board of RBC’s new director of residence life and of recent recreational activities on campus.

The committee approved Resolution 2, modifications to policies in regard to administrative and professional employees, before going into closed session.

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Emily Martell
  • Emily Martell

Chief Staff Writer Emily Martell '19 is a prospective economics major from Norfolk, VA. She formerly served as Associate News Editor.