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University hopes to increase time for faculty research

Faculty vote to establish standing committee for gender-based discrimination cases

At yesterday’s faculty meeting, President Christina Paxson P’19 proposed that the University increase support for graduate students and free faculty of some administrative duties to allow them to focus on their research and scholarship. Those ideas grew out of data from the Faculty Resources and Scholarly Infrastructure Survey conducted in 2012 and 2017, which faculty discussed at the meeting.

In the survey, respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction with a list of over 30 aspects of University life. The lowest ranked aspects on the list included resources to support research, support for professional travel, availability of nearby parking and time available for scholarly work. Faculty members were most satisfied with the quality of undergraduate students, office space, clerical and administrative staff and teaching responsibilities.

Faculty satisfaction with the quality of graduate students ranked 10th on the list. In the next five years, Paxson “would like for it to be in the top five,” she said, adding that although graduate education is important to faculty members, the fraction of faculty who regularly engage in research discussions with graduate students is “not as high as we might expect.”

Depending on the department, between 20 to 75 percent of faculty occasionally, rarely or never attend seminars or workshops where faculty and graduate students present their research, according to the survey data. While variation across fields is to be expected, Paxson said that those numbers are too low.

Faculty members concluded that the most important change the University could make to allow them to fulfill their “research and teaching duties more effectively” would be to provide professors with more time to conduct research, according to a powerpoint at the meeting. To increase the amount of time faculty members have for scholarly work and engaging with other faculty members and graduate students, Paxson seeks to reduce professors’ administrative burdens and allocate time-consuming jobs, such as accounting work for grant writing, to other people.

At the meeting, faculty passed a motion to establish a new Standing Committee called the Faculty Hearing Committee for Allegations of Gender-Based Discrimination. “This is a committee you hope one day you won’t need,” said Professor of English Melinda Rabb, adding that “right now, we do need it … to deal in the best possible way with cases of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment”  and ensure the University has a well-trained faculty hearing panel.

Rene Davis, the Title IX program officer, stated that having a large pool of trained faculty members can “expedite the process” of a Title IX case. “If we don’t have a sufficient number of individuals, it can delay a hearing of a case for one to two months, which is incredible when you think about … the impact that will have for a person who is accused and the person who is bringing forward the complaint.”

Faculty members who serve on the new committee will undergo two training sessions that examine case studies to cover policy, procedures and standards. The new committee’s size will also reduce the individual burden on faculty members who choose to serve, Rabb said.

Provost Richard Locke P’18 provided general updates on the University’s budget, graduate student unionization and the University’s support of students who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Locke announced that current budget projections predict a $1.3 million University surplus this year, which The Herald previously reported. The University’s yield from last year’s undergraduate admission cycle rose 10 percent, which increased overall revenue from new students. Next year, the University expects a $5.4 million deficit, which is relatively small given the overall size of the budget, Locke said. 

The DACA program was originally supposed to come to an end March 5, Locke said. But the Trump administration will continue to accept DACA renewal applications, the Associated Press reported. “Fortunately, we have checks and balances in power,” Locke said, adding that the University continues to support undocumented students through financial assistance, legal advice and counseling.

The atmosphere of the meeting lightened as Rabb and Paxson took the podium together to present five faculty members with service awards. “This is as close as we’ll get to the Oscars,” Rabb said.

“No acceptance speech?” a member of the faculty quipped as faculty members arrived at the podium to receive their awards.

At the start of the meeting, faculty rose in silence to honor the passing of Sandra Russo-Rodriguez, senior lecturer in the department of chemistry, and José Amor y Vázquez, professor emeritus of Hispanic studies.


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