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FY22 budget, Faculty Rules and Regulations amendments discussed at faculty meeting

Meeting also featured report from Paxson, committee nominations updates

Members of the University’s administration and faculty discussed amendments to the Faculty Rules and Regulations, the Fiscal Year 2022 budget and hopes for the 2021-22 academic year at the final faculty meeting of the semester Tuesday.

Johanna Hanink, associate professor of classics and Faculty Executive Committee chair, opened the meeting with a motion to “clarify ambiguities and inconsistencies” in the Faculty Rules and Regulations regarding “what is allowable for undergraduate teaching assistants and to align with current best practices.” 

The motion proposed shifting grading from “the exclusive responsibility of appointed faculty members” to include undergraduate teaching assistants who “will work collaboratively with course instructors on how assignments should be graded to ensure an equitable evaluation of student work,” according to the motion. Despite some pushback, the motion passed with a 76 percent majority.

While undergraduate TAs are currently allowed to grade the work of other undergraduates, the motion would formalize the process and clear up certain contradictions in the rules and regulations by explicitly stating that undergraduate TAs can assume grading responsibilities.

In support of the motion, Thomas Doeppner, associate professor of computer science, said that undergraduate teaching assistants allow professors of large lectures to provide students with “a lot more feedback than possible on their own.”

David Sheinberg PhD’94, professor of neuroscience, added that if grading was the sole responsibility of the faculty, as is currently the case, professors would not be allowed to “take full advantage of an incredibly valuable resource” in undergraduate TAs.

The motion received some negative feedback from those faculty members concerned about undergraduate student bias bleeding into their grading practices for their peers.

“I think there's just that there's just too much of a temptation or too much of an opportunity for something going very wrong there,” said Gregory Elliot, professor of sociology. “I would feel uncomfortable allowing the undergrads to say, ‘This student deserves an A or a B or an NC for that matter.’”

Provost Richard Locke P’18 led the meeting with an overview of the 2021 Fiscal Year and discussed the 2022 Fiscal Year Budget, highlighting the significant decrease from the projected $118 million deficit to the actual $80 million deficit. He attributed this improvement to an increase in revenue through sponsored research, greater sourcing from the endowment and a reduction in operating expenses and wages.

“We came together as a community and engaged in collective sacrifice so that we could do what we're known to do,” said Locke. “To basically offer a world-class education and experience for our students … in ways that kept our community healthy.”

Locke discussed a projected $35 million deficit for FY22, due almost entirely to COVID-19 costs including hosting an extra summer semester, allocating additional financial aid and purchasing resources for student testing, he said.

“I really strongly believe that next year, as we emerge from this pandemic, … we will not only have a balanced budget, but actually a positive surplus,” Locke said. “Our financial fundamentals are excellent.”

President Christina Paxson P’19 reported on the Academic Affairs Committee’s recent discussions about the status of a working group charged with examining doctoral education for modern languages, literatures and culture, undergraduate admission and the status of women faculty in the life sciences.

Paxson also shared updates on the Budget and Finance Committee’s approval of renovations on the Lincoln Field Building, renovations on 22 Benevolent Street for the new location of the LGBTQ Center and discussions about the Brook Street residence halls.

Recent new faculty hires, the move into DIAP Phase II and the promotion of the Brown Arts Initiative to “institute status” are all causes for excitement, Paxson said.

“We got through an extraordinary year, and I think we did it well,” Paxson said. “We did it with integrity, and respecting our academic mission, advancing our education, advancing our research and we owe that to (faculty).”

Paxson expressed hope and optimism for a return to normalcy for the 2021-22 school year with near-universal vaccination rates. The University plans to welcome all employees back to campus, while still allowing for hybrid work arrangements as needed by some staff, she added.

Paxson’s priority areas moving forward include focusing on recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee on Promoting Financial Health and Sustainability and establishing a task force on the status of women faculty in physical sciences and engineering.

Hanink officially stepped down from her FEC chair position, passing on the title to Vice-Chair Govind Menon PhD’01, professor of applied mathematics.

Leigh Tarentino, associate professor of visual art, spoke on behalf of the Committee on Nominations. Tarentino listed recommendations for members to be appointed to the interim committee, which passed with a 95 percent majority, and summarized the Spring 2021 committee elections.

Kate O’Connor-Giles, associate professor of neuroscience, summarized the Academic Priorities Committee Report. Over the course of the last semester, the committee supervised external reviews and offered recommendations to four academic departments, reviewed four proposals for new centers and name changes and approved a master’s program in Data-Enabled Computer Engineering and Science.

The faculty also passed a motion to update certain procedures for the faculty meetings and to update the list of additional master’s degrees in the Faculty Rules and Regulations.



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