Thursday, October 31, 2013

Open Letter on Athletics at Colgate

After having read the Athletic Steering Committee reports of December 2012, we are writing with some concerns about the place and impact of athletics on academic and university culture.

We appreciate the care and work that went into the Steering Committee’s evaluation and overview of athletics at Colgate, and we appreciate the role of athletic programs at Colgate as part of Colgate’s tradition as a liberal arts college with a strong commitment to interscholastic athletics.

We would like to call attention to a fundamental concern we have about the priorities of Colgate academic life and its relationship to athletics. From our experience as teachers at Colgate over many years, we believe that the time commitment among Colgate student athletes has reached a place of excess that has resulted in an encroachment on academic life in ways that are at odds with the fundamental mission of education at Colgate.

It is clear that interscholastic athletic teams are no longer seasonal activities. Athletes are conscripted into yearlong programs of team-life, training and competition. Teams have become sub-cultures on campus; teams often train two and three times a day, six days a week for the entire academic year.  Practice-time is supposed to be limited to 20 hours a week but students admit that they are often putting in 40 hours or more per week, especially with game days and with travel.

We believe that we have created two cultures on our campus. One in four men and women on our campus is a varsity athlete. Because of the immense demands on them, athletes are often isolated. They are cut off from mainstream campus culture and academic life—which often hits its peak in the late afternoons and evenings.

Some student athletes continue to note that if they attend a lecture or an evening class, it will jeopardize their position on the team and possibly their scholarships. These students often report that some coaches are aggressive in their demands concerning the consequences of missing a practice, a workout, a meeting, etc. It seems clear from these continual situations that coaches often dictate an inordinate portion of the student-athletes' daily, weekly, and yearly schedules.

Over the years, a segment of our athletes continue to inform members of the faculty that they cannot participate in afternoon lectures, events, symposia, and evening classes. They note that some coaches discourage or forbid them to go on off-campus study groups and urge them not to take courses that meet in the late afternoons, limiting the choices for upper level seminars.  In addition early morning training leaves many athletes exhausted by mid-afternoon.  It’s not surprising that a number of seniors note that four years of athletics comes at a cost to personal growth and academic progress.

We do extraordinary things at our universities in the United States., and we are proud and grateful for those exceptional aspects of our system of higher education. We also admire and respect the dedication and energy of our coaches; they do superb work. And we admire and respect our student athletes, who are highly disciplined and multi-talented. Our concerns are not intended to detract from anyone’s achievements, but to address the pressing issue of academic priorities at Colgate.

We believe that there has to be a rebalancing of the relationship between sports culture and academic life at Colgate. It is time for some alteration in the relationship between student commitment to sports and student commitment to academic life.

We can all agree that Colgate, like the rest of the colleges and universities in the United States, was founded for one purpose—the higher education of its students. Colgate’s reason for being is the advancement of intellectual work and academic life. The other layers that Colgate and other U.S. universities have accrued remain add-ons, tertiary dimensions to the core of the institution’s function and nature.

We request that a process be initiated either in the form of an ad hoc committee or by allowing faculty to be part of a process in which these problems and issues are evaluated  and assessed for the purpose of drawing new regulations concerning the relationship between academic life and extra-curricular athletic programs.


signed by 63 tenured faculty to date 10/8/13:

Yoichi Aizawa,                    Professor of East Asian Literature and Language
Anthony Aveni,                   Russell B. Colgate Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology
Rich April,                           Dunham Beldon Jr. Professor of Geology
Peter Balakian,                     Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the 
                                                  Humanities in the Department of English
Jennifer Brice,                      Associate Professor of English
Glenn Cashman,                  Associate Professor of Music
Susan P. Cerasano,              Edgar B. Fairchild Professor of English
Marietta Cheng,                   Professor of Music
Maudemarie Clark,              George Carleton, Jr. Professor of Philosophy
Michael Coyle,                    Professor of English
John Crespi,                        Henry R. Luce Associate Professor of Chinese
Lesleigh Cushing,               Associate Professor of Religion, Chair Jewish Studies
Ray Douglas,                      Professor of History, Chair
Faye Dudden,                     Professor of History
Robert Garland,                  Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics
Adrian Giurgea,                  Professor of English, Director of Theater
DeWitt Godfrey,                 Associate Professor of Art and Art History
Jocseyln Godwin,               Professor of Music, Chair
Michael Haines,                  Banfi Vintners Professor of Economics
Anita Johnson,                    Associate Professor of Spanish
Michael Johnston,               Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science
Noor Khan,                         Associate Professor of History
Marjorie D. Kellog,             Associate Professor of Theater
Steven Kepnes,                   Professor of World Religions and Jewish Studies, Director of
                                                   Chapel House and the Fund for the Study of World 
                                                   Religions, Chair Department of Religion
Jordon Kerber,                    Professor of Anthropology and Native American Studies
Jyoti Khanna,                      Professor of Economics
Laura Klugerz,                    Professor of Music and Africana & Latin American Studies
John Knecht,                       Russell Colgate Distinguished Professor of Art and Art History
Deborah J. Knuth Klenk,    Professor of English
Karen Harpp,                      Associate Professor of Geology
Evelyn Hart,                        Professor of Mathematics
Michael Hayes,                   Professor of Political Science
Graham Hodges,                 George Dorland Langdon  Jr. Professor of History and
                                                   Africana & Latin American Studies
Carolyn Hsu,                       Associate Professor of Sociology
Paul Lopes,                         Associate Professor of Anthropology
Clarice Martin,                    Jean Picker Professor of Philosophy and Religion
David McCabe,                  Professor of Philosophy
Ulrich Meyer,                     Associate Professor of Philosophy
Mary Moran,                      Professor of Anthropology
Brian Moore,                      John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of History and
                                                  Africana & Latin American Studies
Nina Moore,                       Associate Professor of Political Science
John Naughton,                  Harrington and Shirley Drake Professor of the Humanities in
                                                  Romance Languages
Kezia Page,                         Associate Professor of English
John D. Palmer,                  Associate Professor of Educational Studies
Beth Parks,                         Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Chair
Paul Pinet,                          Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies
Fernando Plata,                  Professor of Spanish
Barbara Regenspan,           Associate Professor of Educational Studies
Nancy Reis,                       Professor of Anthropology
Patrick Riley,                     Associate Professor of French
Andrew Rotter,                  Charles A. Dana Professor of History
Bruce Rutherford,              Associate Professor of Political Science
Rebecca Shiner,                 Professor of Psychology
Harvey Sindima,                Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Presidential Professor
Connie Soja,                      Professor of Geology
Lynette Stevenson,             Associate Professor of Art and Art History
April Sweeney,                  Associate Professor of Theater, Department of English
Alan Swensen,                   Professor of German
Linn Underhill,                  Associate Professor of Art and Art History
Chris Vecsey,                    Harry Emerson Fosdick Professor of the Humanities and
                                                 Native American Studies and Religion
Joe Wagner,                       Professor of Political Science
Don Waldman,                   Richard M. Kessler Professor of Economic Studies
Sarah Wider,                      Professor of English

Faculty -- tenured or untenured -- may sign this letter at any time; please contact Peter Balakian by email to do so.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thoughts on Being Asked to Endorse a Strategic Planning Framework

by Jeff Baldani
Professor of Economics

The faculty will soon be asked to vote on a resolution of support for the strategic planning (SP) framework.  That framework includes a long list of new initiatives, most of which are clearly desirable in principle.  How can anyone be opposed to providing equal access through need-blind admissions, fostering increased globalization of the curriculum, or enhancing integration of living and learning?  Well, I’m an economist.  My field focuses on scarcity, opportunity costs, and understanding the marginal impact of choices.  I look at the strategic plan and quickly come to the conclusion that the faculty should be asking for much more information before being asked for an endorsement.
The SP website has a spreadsheet (or more accurately, a PDF of a spreadsheet) with more than 150 initiatives.  Some of these have monetary costs, while some merely place demands on faculty or administrative time.  Many of the costs aren’t yet filled in.  There is no bottom line total for the SP.  The planning framework starts with an admonition that future revenue increases (both tuition and endowment) will be constrained and then lays out a relentlessly expansive vision for spending on new initiatives, programs, and positions.  How does this fit with funding the ongoing business of departments and programs?  There don’t seem to be any strategic deletions here, so how is this picture consistent with future budget projections?  Are there priorities in the SP, i.e., what will or won’t get funded if money is not available for the entire wishlist?  Part of the problem here is that last year’s working groups were charged with coming up with good ideas without regard to budget realities and did that job well.  We have a Budget Committee as part of our governance system and they should be the group evaluating the budget implications.  Before endorsing the SP framework, faculty should ask our elected colleagues on the budget committee report on budgeting for the plan.  Some possible topics:
  • How the SP initiatives fit with future budget projections, including an assessment of whether the overall level of spending is consistent with balanced budgets and adequate support for ongoing programs.
  •  How initiatives in the strategic plan we are already committed to will be financed (for example, the new athletics facility is listed as a $500K hit to the annual budget and the Center for Art and Culture, with property taxes, added staffing and other costs, will not be cheap either), and the same question for other items that are APC identifies as high priority and/or cost.
  • How new initiatives may increase risks in future budgets, including, in particular, an analysis of the risks of added debt costs, operating costs, and uncontrollable costs if tuition revenues and endowment returns grow slowly.  (A prime example of uncontrollable costs would be need-blind where the financial aid budget is no longer under Colgate’s control.)
  • Whether (as seemed to be the case with the last strategic plan) the plan’s financial realities will exhaust all possible new initiatives, i.e., whether the plan leaves any room for other new initiatives that might be proposed by departments and programs.

Beyond the big picture that the Budget Committee might provide, faculty should also be asking pointed questions about the effectiveness and costs of individual initiatives.  We are not going to be asked to vote on individual initiatives, but that makes it all the more imperative that we feel comfortable enough with the particulars to be willing to endorse the plan as a whole.  As a cautionary example in this vein, the faculty should be demanding a careful analysis of need-blind admissions.  As compelling as the principle of equal access might be, need-blind has been examined in strategic planning before and rejected on the basis of cost effectiveness, i.e., despite the enormous price tag, need-blind was projected to have only a minimal impact on the academic quality of an entering class.
Understanding how this conclusion about need-blind was reached is straightforward once one focuses on facts rather than anecdotes.  The admissions landscape I recall is from decade-old data, but I would be very surprised if the general outlines have changed.  There are three key facts:

  • The bottom 25% of an entering class (as defined by admissions office overall academic ratings) consists primarily of students admitted for special reasons, including student athletes, OUS and LPRs (legacies, politicals, and relations).  Need-blind does not alter the composition of this group.
  • The top 25% of the class includes AMS students, aided international students, and both aided and non-aided “regular” admits.  Colgate was (and likely still is) already need-blind for regular aid applicants in the top 25%. 
  • The impact of being need-aware thus falls (or did fall a decade ago) squarely in the middle 50% of the class.  The only real question is a matter of where in the middle 50%.  Answering that requires actual data on the cutting-room floor and statistical analysis.  In particular, there are diminishing returns and anecdotes can be highly misleading because the main impact stems primarily from initial aid dollars: swapped students display increasingly similar academic profiles as aid is expanded toward the need-blind goal.

The takeaway from past analysis was that need-blind would spend many millions of dollars to swap ~60 full-pay students somewhat below the median (B-/B students) of the entering class for ~60 aid applicants somewhat above the median (B/B+ students).  Publicly reported admissions statistics on an entering class either wouldn’t have changed at all (such as the 25%-75% percentile of SATs for admitted students) or would have changed only marginally (an increase in average SATs in the single digits).  Almost no one involved in past strategic planning viewed this as a good - never mind transformative - investment of scarce resources when evaluated on the metric of academic quality.  The one-year experiment with need-blind, the class admitted in 2002, was almost exactly what the data analysis predicted. 
I don’t know for sure whether analyzing current admissions data necessarily yields the same conclusions as a decade ago, nor am I considering other arguments in the need-blind debate and saying the initiative should be rejected.  (I am, however, skeptical of the other arguments for need-blind whenever those arguments seem to be based on vague hopes rather than evidence.)  My point here is simply that the APC should be insisting on careful modeling of data and be sharing the results with the faculty before asking for an endorsement of the initiative.
Need-blind is an example that I know well from involvement with previous strategic planning exercises, but it is certainly not the only place where questions are appropriate.  A strategic plan is a complex document, much too complex to fully consider every opportunity cost or tradeoff.  Nevertheless, asking about cost, projected impact, and the metric for judging success of individual initiatives is a starting point.  Getting answers that indicate that issues have been carefully thought through - answers that indicate APC has done its homework and that there is substance behind rhetoric – would be reassuring when the faculty is asked to cast a blanket yes vote on the SP as a whole.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Summary of the Colgate AAUP Faculty Meeting

September 30, 2013

An AAUP faculty meeting was held on Monday, September 30, 2013 and attended by 70 faculty.  The following document provides a summary of the comments, organized by topic area.  The name of each speaker was not recorded so that all could speak freely.  The ideas summarized below do not necessarily reflect the perspectives of the Colgate chapter of the AAUP and its officers.

The meeting began at 4:23 pm with the introduction of the officers of our AAUP chapter, and opening remarks by the chapter Vice President.  This afternoon’s meeting stems from concerns towards faculty governance raised at the AAUP faculty meeting held April 11, 2013.  Two primary worries were expressed at that time.  (1) University committees serve an advisory rather than a decision making role.  (2) The structure of the monthly faculty meeting is not conducive towards discussion of agenda items.  The purpose of today’s AAUP faculty meeting was to converse with elected faculty representatives from the five Standing Committees of the Faculty—one category of committee.  Future AAUP meetings may include representatives from other committees.  The session began with the introduction of the representatives, followed by brief remarks from each committee’s representative, and concluded with a question and answer period.

The committee representatives were introduced and summaries given as outlined below. 

The Committee on Faculty Affairs (FAC).  Key agenda items for the year are continued efforts towards the revision of SET forms, development of policies towards faculty mentoring as called for in the new promotion and tenure guidelines, governance and communication with the Board of Trustees, and strategic planning.  The FAC also sets the agenda for the monthly faculty meetings.

The Committee on Promotion and Tenure (P&T).  The new role of the P&T committee in the promotion and tenure process was reviewed—a shift from watch-dog role to decision making role.  Meetings held thus far have focused on getting ready for the new role.

The Faculty Nominating Committee.  To have effective governance, an appropriate ballot must be assembled.  This is the Nominating Committee’s primary role.  To carry out its function, the Committee annually circulates a committee preference form.  Last spring, the Committee developed a new protocol for P&T elections prompted by the adoption of a new procedure for the review of tenure and promotion cases.  This year, the Committee plans to iron out kinks encountered during last spring’s P&T elections.  A better method for tracking who is serving and in what capacity (by gender, rank, division, department, etc.) is needed.

The Faculty Committee on Affirmative Action Oversight (FCAAO).  The Committee proceeded last year without a director, but there is now a new director in place.  This may provide guidance to the Committee.  The Committee did not appear to do anything in its stated charge (e.g., it had no role in faculty searches).  There are aspirations, but no clear role for the Committee.  The Committee is open to suggestions from the faculty.  It was noted that there is presently a separate affirmative action oversight committee for faculty and for staff,.  It was questioned whether this structure is ideal.

Advisory and Planning Committee (APC).  The APC is comprised of elected faculty members, appointed faculty members, and administrators.  Presently, the Committee is engaged in the ongoing strategic planning process.  Members of the APC met with departments to hear concerns and aspirations.  Working groups were formed to examine various areas.  The working groups prepared reports summarizing their investigations and recommendations, and open fora were held.  The reports are largely concluded, with the exception of the campus master plan which has required some re-working due to the recent purchase of a tract of land adjoining Colgate’s campus.  A framing document is being produced that will summarize the overall strategic plan for the next 5 years.

Those in attendance were then invited to ask questions and share comments.   A summary of the questions, responses, and comments are organized by topic area.  Five primary topics were addressed.

1.   Committee Power.
  • FAC plays the key role in bringing legislation to faculty meetings for a vote. 
  •  P&T will now have a vote in tenure and promotion cases.  The P&T vote is comprised of five elected faculty.  The Dean of the Faculty has an independent vote.  Both votes are forwarded to the President. 
  • The Nominating Committee potentially has a lot of power as it decides who stands for elections.  However, the Committee may not be fully utilizing its power given challenges in finding individuals to stand for election.
  • The charge of the APC is advisory, not decision making. 
  • The FCAAO has not had a clear role recently, but the Committee could influence affirmative action policies, and could work on faculty retention.

It was pointed out that it is important for committees to set clear agenda for the year at the start of the fall semester.  The agenda will determine what gets discussed.

2.   Appointed Committees.
  • As such committees are appointed by the administration, the composition of these committees are not under the purview of the Nominating Committee.
  • It was noted that time taken by service in appointed positions competes with time for service in elected positions.

3.   The Nominating Committee.
  • The Nominating Committee does not operate with all of the information that could be helpful.  They do not know why individuals wish to be on a particular committee.  Information on service is not all in one place.
  • Hope was expressed for better record keeping and for more accessible records with the further implementation of electronic reporting (e.g., faculty self-reports).
  •  Only a subset of faculty express interest in serving on elected committees.  Many faculty do not complete the committee preference form, even to indicate that they are unwilling to serve.
  • It was observed that the Committee used to be more actively involved in the selection of candidates.  The Committee once exerted more power, and was not dependent on the preference forms.
  • The mandate of each committee is not universally known, especially among junior faculty.  Guidance and encouragement from senior faculty would be helpful.

4.   Strategic Plan.
  • It was asked whether the faculty will vote on the strategic plan.  It was stated that a motion will be brought for a sense of the faculty resolution at a future faculty meeting. 
  • It was asserted that the faculty needs a voice while it still matters—before the plan and the framing document are finalized, and well in advance of the January Board of Trustees meeting.  There was a call to discuss the strategic plan framing document at the October faculty meeting, a month earlier than the initial plan, as there is limited time left to provide input.  Some felt that there had been inadequate opportunity to discuss the new student life resolution of about 16 months ago.  In light of that, it was asserted that it is important to discuss the strategic plan at the October, November, and December faculty meetings.  It was proposed that the October faculty meeting should focus on the strategic plan and the annual faculty compensation report.
  •  It was noted that the APC and working groups have been gathering input throughout the whole process through a number of means.
  • Concern was raised towards the campus master plan and the elimination of parking in the vicinity of the chapel.
  • In response to a question on the relationship between the campus master plan and the strategic plan, it was explained that the Campus Master Planning Working Group is one of the strategic planning working groups.  The relationship between the elected Committee on Campus Planning and Physical Resources and the Campus Master Planning Working Group was queried.  It was stated that the working group includes some members of the elected committee.
  • Concrete results of the last strategic plan were reviewed.  Institutes, introduction of athletic scholarships, the purchase of Greek Letter System houses, and the Ho Science Center were cited as key elements of the prior strategic plan.

5.   Faculty Meetings.
  • The role of faculty meetings was questioned.  Are primary decisions to be made in committee, or will there be a time in faculty meetings to debate decisions?
  • Concern towards the structure of faculty meetings was raised.  Faculty meetings are largely comprised of presentations.  Lengthy presentations decrease opportunities for discussion.  This is not a new phenomenon.
  • It was argued that special meetings and fora are not the same as discussions during the monthly faculty meeting.  There seems to be less opportunity to discuss items at faculty meetings if they are not on the agenda prior to the decision point. 
  • The portion of the monthly faculty meeting devoted to “questions for chairs of standing committees” was discussed.  This agenda item comes late in the meeting when there is no time to discuss.  In response to a question on whether one is required to alert a chair of a question in advance of the meeting, it was stated that while it would be courteous to alert a colleague that a question is coming, it is not required.  We can ask any question from the floor.
  • It was asserted that we have the power to change what happens at faculty meetings.  We need to use our voice and speak up.

6.   Other.
  • The APC was put forward as a good example of shared governance in that many from across campus work together on the committee.
  • It was stated that campus governance is in a rut.  A symptom of this is a sense that there are some things that we can and cannot discuss.  This is not simply due to perceptions towards the administration.  Some items do not get discussed because we forget to bring them up.
  •  It was noted that there are places on campus where we cultivate apathy (e.g., Department Chairs telling junior faculty not to serve).  Some of this apathy also comes from the experience of serving on ineffective committees.

The meeting concluded at 5:46 pm.

Prepared by Rick Geier, Secretary of the Colgate University Chapter of the AAUP