The Board of Visitors’ Committee on Academic Affairs discussed the College of William and Mary’s instructional faculty, an upcoming visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and other developments from the semester thus far.
The meeting began with an approval of last session’s minutes, followed by a report from Vice Rector Robert Scott J.D. ’68, who chairs the committee.
Scott discussed the issue of labeling fully instructional faculty at the College. Instructional faculty are non-tenure eligible instructors. Instructional faculty members make up a portion of the teaching force; Scott noted they can sometimes comprise 30 percent of instructors. The committee is working to create a process of standardization for how these faculty members are included, because, he said, there is a school-wide discrepancy in how they are treated. He reported that some departments make a strong effort to make their instructional faculty members feel welcome, while others do not allow them to come to staff meetings.
“We are trying to integrate them as fully into the life of this university as can possibly be done in every respect that is feasible and possible,” Scott said. “This group of faculty will be with us as a cohort forever.”
Following Scott’s remarks, Provost Michael R. Halleran delivered a report. He opened by congratulating the women’s cross country team. Last weekend, the team came in first place at their regional meet, which will send them to nationals. Furthermore, he commended the team on their academic success. 10 of the team’s 22 members received the Provost Award, which is bestowed on athletes with a 3.5 grade point average or higher.
“That’s pretty darn good,” Halleran said. “[They are] number one in many senses.”
Halleran also reported that undergraduate students’ participation in study abroad programs has increased. According to statistics published earlier this week, 45.8 percent of undergraduates at the College study abroad. He said the College’s goal is to reach 60 percent.
“That leaves us way ahead of the next ranked public university,” Halleran said. “We are closing in.”
Halleran also discussed the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ impending visit. SACS inspect universities every 10 years. The association is scheduled to visit the College in March 2016. They review everything from campus facilities to the policies and standards to which the school adheres.
For the visit, Halleran and Associate Provost Susan L. Bosworth will work with administrators to prepare a large amount of information for the review. SACS will study records and statistics from the College, and, after the review, will offer recommendations as to what needs adjusting. The association will also incorporate a Quality Enhancement Plan, which will ask administrators how they will modify something on campus.
“We will be reaccredited,” Halleran said. “They are very capable of finding something where they want you to improve. It’s an enforced opportunity.”
Not all administrators shared Halleran’s enthusiasm about SACS’s visit. The visit will require a lot of preparation on the College’s part, and College President Taylor Reveley expressed his disapproval of the system.
“We will, of course, be harassed and molested over nothing, because that’s the nature of this process,” Reveley said. “We spend an enormous amount of time and energy and money to produce reams of documents and then people who are of modest experience come to find fault. You emerge jaded, confused, and, fortunately both [Bosworth] and the Provost have a really good attitudes about it, so they will make it work.”
In addition to discussing SACS, Halleran also mentioned chair of the English department Adam Potkay’s recent Tack Lecture, which he delivered Oct. 28. The lecture, entitled “Pity and Gratitude,” drew 400 people to the Kimball Theater. This crowd nearly reached the theater’s maximum capacity. Halleran explained that the lectures were started several years ago to shed a spotlight on the faculty’s individual projects.
After discussing the success of “Pity and Gratitude,” Halleran updated the committee on the workings of eLearning, a system through which the College is providing online courses. He announced that this summer, eLearning will facilitate as many as seven courses, and mentioned the ongoing search for an Assistant Provost for eLearning Initiatives.
The committee ended its meeting with a report from Professor of Law and Vice President of the Faculty Assembly Eric Chason, who acts as a liaison to the College’s Faculty Assembly. The assembly is working on a number of projects.
Specifically, they are working to increase diversity among the group.
“[We’re thinking] of ways to improve diversity and make our campus a welcoming and productive environment for everyone, regardless of their background,” Chason said.
The assembly is also in the process of creating the faculty survey. The survey is open for the BOV to suggest questions.
Additionally, Chason mentioned that the assembly hopes to improve retirement transitions for senior faculty members.