May 6, 2011
Today I am approving a recommendation from a Faculty committee, the Curricular Strategy Committee. Here’s the recommendation:
“We recommend that President Doug Bennett allocate one unassigned tenure-track f.t.e. to Art in order to stabilize long-term staffing needs in the Department and provide for a growing and significant number of majors by increasing two half-time positions (Metals and Photography) to full-time. This will require national searches for staffing in both of these cases since they are being converted to tenure-track status.
This is really a re-allocation decision, one four years and more in the making. Four years ago I asked the Faculty to discuss which languages we should be teaching at Earlham. We’ve been offering French, German, Japanese and Spanish, as well as Latin and Greek. At the same time, we’ve been aching to add Arabic and Chinese. I said at that time (May 2007) that I would not authorize a tenurable search to replace a newly vacant position in German until the Faculty had completed the discussion of which languages we teach.
Of course many wondered why we had to choose. Why couldn’t we keep the four languages we were already teaching and add Arabic and/or Chinese. That question had more life in the Faculty than it did in the Board of Trustees, who were clearer that this college (or any college) faces resource constraints. Sometimes we have to make difficult choices.
There followed two difficult years where we edged around but didn’t really engage the “which languages” question, and then an urging by some in the Faculty that we simply re-appoint in German while we continued the discussion. I did not approve that recommendation, but did agree to a Faculty proposal that we write a broad scale curricular plan to guide change in the curriculum and thus guide decisions about the allocation of Faculty positions. We finally approved, joyfully, such a plan in December.
The plan called for the creation of a new committee, the Curricular Strategy Committee (CSC), to oversee broad direction setting in the educational program. In February, I asked for a recommendation about what to do with the vacant position that had been allocated to German. Yesterday, I received a recommendation from the committee, and this morning I approved it.
In originally asking the “which languages” question, I had imagined that we would want to devote the position to languages and literature. In recommending allocating the position to Art, CSC has addressed an important curricular problem (many more students wanting to take Art courses than we have faculty to provide), but we are diminishing, at least briefly, a very strong commitment to languages and literature.
I am pleased that a Faculty committee has made a re-allocation recommendation. It’s been painful. Of course the remaining Faculty member in the German department is unhappy. As four years have passed, the Board of Trustees has become increasingly skeptical that the Faculty could make such a recommendation.
In a separate post, I’ll discuss some governance issues regarding this matter.