At September’s meeting of the Abington College Faculty Senate, the Senate approved an extended Common Break for the ACURA program for Tuesday, April 14, 2015.
Revisions to the policies, procedures, and timeline for promotion and tenure at Abington College were also approved, with modifications, and these will be forwarded to the faculty list as soon as they receive approval from University Park.
The reforms to the governing documents of the Senate itself were also ventilated. Standing Rules changes were approved by a margin of 16 votes in favor to 1 against, while reforms to the Senate By-Laws, including a reduction of appointed Senate committees from nine to six and elected committees from three to one, were approved by a margin of 15-2.
The By-Laws reforms will be submitted to the University Faculty Senate once our local Senate continues its discussions and proceeds to a vote on reforms to the Constitution itself, scheduled for our next Senate meeting on Thursday, October 23, 2014. If this vote prevails, the Constitutional reforms will be subject to a majority of faculty voting in a special ballot, whereupon they will be referred to the University Faculty Senate.
The changes to the Senate’s Standing Rules become effective immediately, including the following revised Order of Business to speed along the business of regular Senate meetings:
The order of business at a regular Faculty Senate meeting shall be as follows:
a. Adoption of the agenda
b. Consideration of the minutes of the preceding meeting(s)
c. Announcements by the Chair
d. Unfinished business
e. New business
f. Communications from College Administrators
2. Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
g. Communications from University Senators
h. Communications from the Student Government Association
i. Reports from Standing Committees
j. Comments and recommendations for the good of the order
Following an excellent report from the President of the Student Government Association with regard to ongoing transportation issues, Senate moved in camera for an extended discussion of several faculty issues, including those related to promotion and tenure, the ongoing adventure of our academic facilities, and the pay and benefits of our esteemed yet harshly undervalued adjunct faculty colleagues.
As we look forward to a new Senate year, we begin by planning for the next several years of critical representation of Abington College in the University Faculty Senate. With the terms of two University Faculty Senators set to expire in the spring, we will need at least three candidates to stand for election to these two four-year terms that commence in Fall, 2015. Nominations for these four-year terms (2015/16-2018/19) can be made to me by any member of the faculty.
The first full meeting of the Abington College Faculty Senate will take place later this month on September 25th. With much on our plate, we plan to suspend regular order so that extended consideration can be given the Constitutional reform proposals authored by the Ad-Hoc Committee for Senate Restructuring, and expect as well to review reform language related to the Promotion and Tenure process.
We also expect to extend the discussions of academic classroom and faculty office and research space begun at the faculty forensic held on August 15th. This meeting revealed, inter alia, that our academic classroom space has been allowed to degenerate to less than 60% of current requirements (a gap soon to widen as we transition to a residential campus), while the space the faculty requires to do its work properly has been allowed to shrink to an appalling 9% (that’s correct: 9%) of what we require.
Such figures remind us of the shocking 2011 Core Council letter that found that our instructional costs were just 35% of total college expenditures—the lowest percentage of any of the campus colleges (the median was over 42%); that Abington had the lowest percentage of all campus colleges of full-time faculty generating student credit hours (53%); and that our students take longer to graduate than students at other campuses (we have the lowest six-year graduation rate of any campus college).
Taken together, this mosaic represents a systemic failure to provide even remotely adequate academic and faculty facilities, and in fact represent an historic theft from our students, who annually pay to Abington College more than $15 millions beyond the sum required to operate the college. The recent and long-overdue announcement that University Park will finally address our crippling budget model is something, as is the return to our students of one million of their own tuition dollars. But these moves, absent further fundamental reform, are too little and far too late. Decades of settling for scraps off UP’s $4.5 billion dollar table has brought us to our current intertwined space and hiring crises.
Abington College requires an immediate plan to leverage 100% of our student’s tuition until such time as we have 100% of the academic classroom space and 100% of the faculty office and research spaces we require to do our jobs, along with a competent plan to address both our short-term and long-term growth.
The faculty and the student body of Abington College need, deserve, and have paid for, far better.
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The faculty will gather on Friday, 15 August, at 0800, for a forensic meeting on the state of college facilities, as one result of the situation of special Faculty Senate concern declared by the co-chairs of the Senate on 6 May.
After continental breakfast outside Sutherland 8 at 0800, we assemble in Sutherland 8 at 0845. We will begin with a brief tribute to our departed friend and distinguished colleague, Dr. Ayoub Ayoub. Following this, Dr. Ellen Knodt, our recently-elected member of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the President of the University, will offer her thoughts on shared governance in the college and university.
From 0925-0945, we will have an update from our FT-2 representative and Faculty Affairs committee member Mitch Sargen on adjunct faculty issues arising from the Affordable Care Act as well as the Equal Pay Act. We will then introduce the incoming chairs of the Senate’s standing committees, who will in turn speak to their charges in the coming year and seek help with them.
From 0945-1015, Past Chair Bill Cromar will brief us on the status of current planning for academic facilities management–both the planned residence hall (a report on which is attached) but more importantly such progress as has been made this summer towards a new academic facility for Abington. You will recall that in the Senate’s facilities survey earlier this year, over three-fourths (77.5%) of respondents sought for a new academic building to be prioritized within the next 3 years (50% “immediately”; 27.5% “1-3 years”). This forensic is another step on that road.
After a short break, at 1030 the Chancellor will join us to introduce some of the UP individuals responsible for the design of the new residence hall as well as overall Commonwealth College asset management. After introductory comments of 20 or so minutes, the faculty will then have more than an hour to directly question and interact with the capital planners and representatives from the Office of Physical Plant at UP. At noon, we have invited these representatives to join us for a Senate cook-out at the Duck Pond to continue these conversations more informally. This is our best chance to date both to learn, as a faculty body, about these projects and processes, and to influence the direction of the physical plant over the next decade.