Regular Meeting of the Faculty Senate
November 18, 2014
The meeting was called to order at 12:25 p.m.
Senate President Andrew Lees opened the meeting by continuing the discussion about Block Scheduling. He said that we all agreed that the procedures used, or not used, in coming up with this proposal were flawed, but now it was time to concentrate on where to go from here. There were some, he said, who felt that the plan was so deeply flawed that we should delay the rollout for another year, while others felt we should move forward expeditiously only after we had corrected a number of flaws and deficiencies through consultation with the Provost and others. Comments of both sorts, he said, were welcome, and Provost Solomon and Dean Lindenmeyer were both here to listen.
Provost Solomon began the discussion outlining three ways to go: accept the plan as is; listen to what changes are being asked and see if those changes can be made and move forward; or completely halt the process. In his opinion, the middle way was the way to go. However, if it was found that the flaws were so fundamental that they undercut the whole program, then we could consider delaying. He said to keep in mind that time was of the essence.
Provost Solomon then opened the floor for comments and asked the group for the things that absolutely have to change for this plan to move forward.
- Aaron Hostetter, English – We already have “block period” scheduling. Why can’t we adapt the current system we have, as we know it works?
Ray Solomon – that is more of a process comment, and while it is well taken, I would like to hear what it is that the new plan requires (or doesn’t require) to move forward.
- Ken Hohing, Fine Arts, said he believed that if we decided to “go all in”, then there would be no way to turn back.
Ray Solomon again asked for the things are that are not working in the new plan.
- Robin Stephens, Childhood Studies – The graduate program needs at least 6 blocks, and the new schedule it only allows for 4 blocks, one per night, Monday through Thursday. The block before that starts too early and the students can’t get to campus. Additionally, eliminating the 4:30 block that meets 2 times per week means that all classes are now forced to meet once per week, which is not advisable for pedagogical reasons. Finally, the last run of the River Line is before the end of classes.
Ray Solomon – So you’re saying that some graduate students can come at 4:30 p.m., but not 3:30 p.m. And it’s true that most grad programs would have to teach beyond the last River Line run, and that is a serious problem.
Discussion followed about asking NJ transit to extend the service a little longer, but that was quickly countered with information about the line sharing tracks with freight trains. It was pointed out that later runs had not been adopted for the Susquehanna Bank Center or Trenton Thunder, so they were unlikely to be adopted for Rutgers.
- Prosper Garcia, Spanish – Our campus has a large enrollment of non-traditional students, and a lot of our students are working during the day or have family obligations. The new block scheduling would be perceived as not fitting in with their lives. The current schedule ends at 8:40 p.m. and allows students to take 2 classes (4:30 – 5:50 p.m. and 6:00 – 8:40 p.m.).
- Eric Klein, Biology – There is a problem with lab scheduling. Our labs have a limited number of spaces, and we now accommodate our students by offering a lab in the morning and a lab in the afternoon. Many instructors use the free period as prep-time. Moving the free period to later in the afternoon dismantles that system, and does not allow the department to schedule all the labs that are needed.
Ray Solomon – Will this problem be eliminated when the Nursing Building is built? Eric Klein replied that they are not competing for physical space. It is a scheduling problem.
- Andy? Is there a possibility of reconfiguring the new schedule to keep the free period at the same hour it is now, or 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.?
- A discussion followed, with several Senators advocating that the free period be close to the lunch hour. It was noted that this would help clubs entice students to attend their meetings, perhaps with free food. Concerts, attended by faculty, staff, students, and people from the community, would also be affected. Someone pointed out that with free period close to the lunch hour, it is likely that students will have classes either right up to or immediately after the free period, and this would make it more likely for those students to attend free period events.
- One Senator had heard that the varying start times of the proposed free period were due to dining facility issues.
Ray Solomon confirmed that it was a consideration, but not the sole reason for the floating start times of free period.
- A Senator from Fine Arts asked if it might be possible to use a three hour block and a shorter block consecutively for the same class. Scheduling long blocks in the evening or weekends might not be an option for the daytime student population, because they often work evenings and weekends.
- A Senator from Foreign Languages added that too many classes in one day (i.e. five or six) had proven to hurt students’ performance – they are too tired by the end of the day. The Senator also noted that there is a feeling of a lack of cohesiveness on campus, and varying the time of free period will make it harder for faculty to network with one another and with students, or for clubs to meet, or for special lectures or events to attract an audience.
- A Senator from Psychology asked why the schedule allowed courses to meet 3 times per week only in the early morning. Could some be offered in the afternoon? Discussion continued, with some senators pointing out that certain courses really do better meeting more often for shorter periods of time.
- Andrew Lees posed a question to Dean Lindenmeyer. Has there been a problem with classes not meeting M, W, F and therefore an under-utilization of classrooms on those days?
The Dean said she only has anecdotal evidence and has walked around to survey the classrooms, and it does appear that some 3-day a week classes are not meeting 3 days a week. If the people are using that time for hybrid model courses, that is ok from a pedagogical stand point, but the room is still blocked and cannot be used by another course. Perhaps a special category is needed for hybrid courses? The Dean also proposed the creation of a permanent, on-going, campus-wide committee that has representation from faculty and staff of all schools to share information about scheduling and use of facilities on campus. The committee could look at how courses are actually meeting and discuss particular needs that effect scheduling. She acknowledged that the creation of this committee would have been beneficial to developing the proposed schedule and once formed, should continue to exist as a long term solution.
- A Senator asked why there is a lack of data on the under-utilization of space. Why is getting this data so problematic and why can’t we have access to it?
Ray Solomon confirmed that there was data. He said that he just received it and had not been able to study it fully, but it did exist.
- Andrew Lees reported that he did a walkthrough in Armitage, Fine Arts, and Business and Science buildings around 5:30 p.m. one evening and from a list obtained from the Registrar’s office noted that of 46 classrooms, there were 41 courses booked in those rooms. However, he did not know if the classes were physically meeting that evening. He did learn from the Registrar’s office that if a course is scheduled and then cancelled for lack of enrollment, the room is still assigned and too late for another course to that classroom.
Dean Lindenmeyer clarified that the Associate Deans work with the departments to change classrooms if needed, as they know which classes have been cancelled and which rooms are open and available.
Dean Lindenmeyer noted that immediate solutions were required as we were recruiting for Fall enrollment. Fall course schedules should be published and available in order to recruit and retain students. She said that we need a commitment from faculty to put together a committee to meet immediately with those who have concerns, and draw up a schedule that both the School of Nursing and the Business School can also agree to, and get this done rapidly. The alternative is that we dig in our heels and say that Arts & Sciences can’t implement this for Fall 2015. We have to work with the School of Nursing and the Business School because those schools have adopted the new block schedule. We must realize that we are teaching more classes then we ever have before, even if enrollments do not seem to reflect this, and that classrooms are being designated for programmatic activities (i.e. studios, labs, conference rooms, etc.) thereby making fewer classrooms available.
Ray Solomon said that the committee should be formed by the Faculty Council as it includes all the schools. Senators agreed that the formation of the committee is a good idea and also requested a full examination of the practices of the Registrar’s office.
- Tim Knievel asked when this decision needs to be made. Dean Lindenmeyer replied that the schedule has to be input no later than January 9, 2015.
Ray Solomon said that this discussion must happen now and a committee will be formed later, as time is of the essence and scheduling is system-wide. We need to push through all we can ASAP and then iron out the wrinkles once the committee when it is formed.
Andrew Lees in the spirit of transparency noted that another meeting was scheduled immediately after this meeting with Ray Solomon, Howard Marchitello, Sam Rabinowitz, Kris Lindenmeyer and Joe Schiavo to talk about particular changes that can be made to the proposal. The Faculty Council is also meeting later this week.
- A member of the Faculty Council in attendance recapped that the issues immediately at hand are: graduate level glasses need to start at 6 p.m.; additional blocks for MWF classes; include the 4:30 block; and keep free period closer to lunch period.
- Dean Lindenmeyer noted that it often took a while for people to take ownership of things until they were directly affected. She reiterated that it was best to have a committee so that discussions happen and ideas are exchanged and brought back. Part of the problem, she said, was that faculty has not had a long enough time frame to process and look at this proposed schedule. This was not the faculty resisting because it was change, but resistance because it would have a direct effect on programs and pedagogy.
- Andrew Lees called for a straw vote with three options available: delay until next fall, work to get out the kinks and implement now, or abstain/undecided. A vote of hands was taken and results are noted below:
- In favor of delaying until next fall = 13
- Work to get out the kinks and implement = 10
- Abstaining = 1
The meeting adjourned at 1:20 p.m.
Present (Senators): Eric Klein, Robin Stevens, Rajiv Gandhi, Osama Hamed, Bill FitzGerald, Aaron Hostetter, Garcia Prospero, Ana Laguna, Susan Mokhberi, Julie Still, Debashis Kushary, Joseph Gerver, James Gennone, Grace Brannigan, Tim Knievel, Wayne Chan, Joseph Cutuli, Bill Whitlow, Patrice Mareschal, Ken Hohing, Jean-Louis Hippolyte
Present (Invited administrators): Kriste Lindenmeyer, Ray Soloman
Absent: Laurie Bernstein, Jongmin Nam, Alexander Samokhvalov, Keith Green, Carol Singley, Margery Amdur, Paul Bernstein, Nick Kapur, Will Y. Lee, Shauna Shames, Brandi Blessett, Stephen Danley, Katrina Hazzard-Donald; Louis Tuthill; Kenneth Elliott, Wayne Glasker, Cyril Reade