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Open EC Meeting – Oct 18 2013

November 17th, 2013 | Posted by hsindhi in Miscellany - (Comments Off on Open EC Meeting – Oct 18 2013)

Open Executive Committee Meeting Minutes – 10.18.13

I. New Dissertation Committee Process

-The SSA brought up the point that we needed clarification, formal documentation of the process and the criteria being used to assign fourth members.

-When the SSA posed the request that the process be clarified, a number of faculty in the room shared their varying interpretations of the process, and it became clear that nobody was really clear on the process; some examples of this confusion were:

-Does this person get appointed before or after there is a draft of the proposal done?

-If it is before, what is the decision based on?

-If it is after, this will inevitably slow students down in the process of getting to the FMC

-Torpey clarified the “spirit” of the measure and assured us that this appointment would be done in conversation with the committee chair.

-Torpey also talked a bit about how the process should proceed: the process on how students should go about doing this is to approach Rati and Torpey when they have three members on their dissertation committee (at the proposal stage), and then Torpey would suggest the 4th member; according to Torpey, this process has taken no more than a week with the students who have gone through this so far.

-This process will be reviewed at the end of this year.

-Torpey agreed that he will create a document outlining the procedural requirements on this, as well as the specific responsibilities of the EO, the dissertation committee chair and the student.

-After the meeting Koby (and other students) mentioned that he thought the plan that was approved by the EC last year referred to student’s proposal committees and not the dissertation committee – however, Torpey was referring to the dissertation committee, and the forms; need clarification on this point.

 

II. Orals

-The SSA requested clarification of the review process that we were notified of earlier this year (where orals lists will be reviewed at the end of the year in relation to the guidelines for orals set out in the student handbook)

-Faculty assured us that this was a review of faculty, not students, and that the goal was to hold faculty accountable and not to move toward standardization of lists, and not to standardize orals lists

-There was not a lot of discussion on this point after that (*) clarification

 

III.  Student Participation on Admissions Process

-Torpey reported that the conflict he thought would arise from the merging of awards decisions with admissions decisions was in fact not seen as a conflict from the view of the Provost’s office. So, students would continue to sit on the admissions committee.

-The SSA reiterated that students felt it was important to serve on the admissions committee

Sam (faculty) asked that we write a statement about why we think it is important for students to serve on admissions committees.

-The SSA will take this idea into consideration.

-The SSA asked that faculty also write a statement on the importance of students on the admissions committee; this was not explicitly endorsed by the faculty, who responded that they would rather see the student statement before making any statements of their own.

 

IV. Faculty Evaluations

-The SSA introduced the point that a faculty evaluation process had been requested by the SSA many times before with no action taken. The SSA affirmed that the spirit of this process, from the student’s perspective, was to provide feedback to instructors and ensure students had some anonymous way of responding to courses.

-This discussion became confusing because there were a number of different ideas about what an evaluation process would look like, who would control it, who would see the results, and ultimately what the purpose of it would be.

-The faculty had various positions on this that can be summarized as:

-Students should not dictate the content of a course (because this would be a violation of academic freedom), but that it is reasonable to give professors feedback.

-Students could get their own process together where they share information about ways professors are present/absent in different ways related to supervision so that new students can be warned about bad supervision.

-Concern that doing this through the web/making the results public could lead to issues about privacy and surveillance.

-There is a danger in writing student reviews of courses and making them public because course content changes and it is not fair to treat it like it is static.

-Several faculty volunteered to share the evaluations they have done in the past in their own courses, some created by the faculty themselves, and some created by their present/former departments; the faculty included Barbara Katz-Rothman, Victoria Pitts-Taylor, Ruth Milkman and Bryan Turner

-Some faculty recoiled at the idea of undergraduate-type evaluations at the PhD level and suggested we change the label of the evaluations to something that reflects the spirit of the proposal – for example, calling it ‘course feedback’

-Overall, professors are open to feedback (and it was made to seem obvious that they were) but don’t want the evaluation process to serve as a disciplinary measure.

-The SSA needs to clarify what exactly our goals are, what the content and form of an evaluation would be; the SSA should work on this for the next open EC meeting and have a solid proposal then

 

V. Formalization of Curriculum and Exam Committee

-There was a lot of testament to the need for this from students.

-There was pushback from faculty on the idea that students wanted to have some say in core curriculum – professors felt this was in conflict with ideas of academic freedom.

-Students stated that the by-laws of the SSA (?) required that this committee meet with faculty.

-It was agreed that by the end of the week Torpey would solicit and confirm 5 faculty to serve on this committee.

-It was also agreed that the committee would meet with the 5 faculty members by the next open (?) EC meeting.

 

VI. Diversity on Admissions and C&E Committee

-SSA raised the point that student advisors to the admissions committee want a discussion about what diversity should mean/look like in practice in relation to admissions.

-Phil Kasinitz suggested that adding another admissions committee meeting was not necessarily the best way to address this.

-It was agreed that the admissions committee would have a pre-meeting, like they did last year, and this meeting would include issues brought forth by students (?)

-Barbara Katz-Rothman highlighted an article she had passed around about discrimination against part-time students – this should also make it into the discussion.

 

VII. Senior Proseminar on Job Market Preparation
-SSA was following up on this point from the last EC meeting, and endorsing the proposal that there be some sort of formal course/seminar/program on preparation for the job market for level III students

-There seemed to be consensus that some sort of formal job market prep needed to happen, but it seems like maybe a course is not the best way, for several reasons (according to the faculty):

-Most students are done their course-work by the time they get to this point; also, having level III students in a course does not count toward the official student tally in the course

-Need to find someone to teach the course, and get them renumerated

-Should be something that is open to all

-Faculty should prepare students for the job market in all of their courses

-Many faculty said this should be the supervisor’s job (a point which fell into the recurring abyss of things supervisors SHOULD be doing but aren’t necessarily)

-However, both faculty and students did propose ways of making this more ‘course-like’ and structured, in the following ways:

-Other schools are more proactive about job-placement and have structured practices to make that happen, and we should too

-Some faculty endorsed the idea that something should be offered to students that is ‘like a course’, like regular and consistent mock job-talks, CV and cover letter writing workshops, and have a curriculum

-Point was made to look into how the GC offers 0-credit courses (through the professional development department, for example) and find ways to replicate that

-Department has also done ‘brown bags’ in the past, and resuscitating these may be a solution

-It was also suggested that the EO could give out service credits for faculty who lead this ‘course’

-Action items for this issue:

-Barbara Katz-Rothman will bring this to a GC-wide meeting she’s going to soon for possible funding stream for the course

-SSA can research what other programs are doing

-John Torpey said that he will look into ways of getting this ‘course’ structured given the limitations of policies within the GC, and how faculty can be remunerated for this

-This issue can also be taken up at the C&E meeting with faculty

 

VIII. Additional items students brought up after covering the agenda items:

 

Recommendation letters & other unethical practices

-Cathy brought up the issue of trouble getting faculty to write letters, and being asked to write your own recommendation letters, which students agreed was a widespread activity

-Some faculty seemed shocked that this was happening, and stated their opposition to this practice

-Victoria Pitts-Taylor suggested that students should report these people to the EO – this was effectively countered by students who were concerned about issues of imbalance of power, and Victoria took that suggestion back

-Koby made the point that faculty need to take some responsibility for this, students (who are in the weaker position) can’t be made responsible; the argument was made that without official policies and a transparent governance structure, students would always feel disempowered to come forward with grievances about their advisors and any unethical practices taking place at the department

-There was a resolution that the EO should be responsible for writing some sort of statement about the duties of supervision and committee members that would be revised and re-circulated every year on a regular basis to remind faculty of their responsibilities

-Students emphasized that this needs to be formalized as policy

Oct 24 2013

November 17th, 2013 | Posted by hsindhi in Miscellany - (Comments Off on Oct 24 2013)

SSA Meeting Minutes – 10.24.13

1) Upcoming Meetings

As there was interest in attending the next executive committee expressed on the GCSOC list serv, please be advised that the next EC Meeting is Friday Nov. 15th at 1pm. We generally meet in the thesis room.  Chrissy had recommended bringing the open meeting procedures (which can be found here http://www.cunydsc.org/open-meetings-procedures) in case the faculty raises questions about non-SSA rep students attending the meeting.

Also, mark your calendars, the next SSA meeting will be Friday, November 22nd at 3pm (location to be announced).

 

2) Alumni Relations

It was discussed whether or not we want to publish a newsletter like other departments do (it would target current and past students) and whether or not we want to send out an email to alumni, asking them to donate money to our travel and grants fund.  As the SSA Alumni Relations representative, Colin offered to draft the newsletter by collecting Rati’s emails about faculty and student achievements and also soliciting notifications from the GCSOC list serv.  He will also research possible mail merge or eblast platforms that are cheap or free. In addition to being emailed out to alumni, the newsletters can be posted on the SSA website.

 

3) Purposeful Pedagogy

In the interest of making the popular and student driven Purposeful Pedagogy Workshop, Jonathan Davis and Sara Martucci have solicited interest from the student body of people interested in taking the lead on the organization and execution going forward.  They are meeting Tuesday, November 5th at 3pm in the Sociology Lounge if you would like to join.  If you are unable to join at that time but interested in participating in this project, email Jonathan.  Also, the Professional Development Department has approached Jonathan and Sara, indicating their support for the workshop and it looks like funding may be made available to ensure its sustainability.

 

4) Faculty and Membership Committee Report

This month, the FMC did not meet because there were no dissertation proposals to review.  However, it was brought up that this committee is tasked with addressing faculty issues as well, and there are a number of faculty issues circulating that need to be addressed.  Furthermore, FMC is responsible for reviewing faculty applications from other CUNY campuses to become GC affiliated.  There were such applications submitted and yet the committee did not meet.  Finally, it was pointed out that other departments regularly review their list of affiliated faculty and remove those that don’t have an active relationship with the GC.  Our department does not and it was suggested that this is a type of false promise to prospective students who are told there are 79 affiliated faculty but it’s really a much smaller pool of faculty students have opportunities to interact with at the GC.

5) Curriculum and Exam Committee Report

C&E has not yet met this semester because it hasn’t been constituted.  At the open executive committee meeting, Torpey said that he would appoint faculty to the committee by the next executive committee meeting (November 15). Also at the open ec meeting, this committee was appointed with discussing course evaluations, orals list, a senior proseminar for job market preparation, and assisting Torpey in drafting the new fourth member dissertation committee process.  Obviously, this committee has been tasked with a lot of substantial work and it is concerning that it was not constituted prior to students pressuring Torpey to do so at the open ec meting.

 

6) Orals Lists

It was brought up that a student had digitized the lists but no one was sure what happened to those pdfs.  An SSA representative will be following up on that.

 

7) Senior Proseminar for Job Market Preparation

It was agreed that the students should not be doing the work of the faculty in designing the proseminar, but that we can tell them what we would like to know (i.e. CV writing, job talks).  If there are things you would like to see offered in this senior proseminar, please let the C&E reps know (Matt Block, Jonathan Davis, Albert Novelozo, Dave Monaghan).  We can also remind the faculty that they may tap into the resources offered by the Career Development Center in developing this program for students.  Finally, it looks like the senior proseminar will not be a class (see open ec debrief below for details) but perhaps it could be organized a type of job colloquium.  The difference from regular colloquium, however, would be that it must involve opportunities for feedback to students who attend. In other words, the senior proseminar should not just be a lecture series of a workshop series.

 

8) Student Handbook

Technically, the student handbook is our legal contract with the department on the expectations of what we must do to complete our degree.  However, the handbook is not being consistently distributed to incoming students and is out of date.  It is the responsibility of the executive committee to update the handbook.  And with all the recent or proposed changes in theory exams, oral exams, and dissertation committee constitution, the handbook would almost need to be updated after each executive committee.  It was discussed how the SSA may be able to use the handbook strategically to stop such ad hoc procedural changes by holding the executive committee to actually update the handbook when these changes are passed.

A subcommittee of SSA representatives was formed to review the student handbook with an eye to:

  1. policies and procedures that are out of date

  2. guidelines that need clarification

  3. practices that are not reflective of student experiences (i.e. what’s stated in the handbook isn’t what actually happens)

This subcommittee will also draft a statement of what an advisor-advisee relationship should be.  This statement can be used to hold faculty accountable and also as an information tool for incoming students so that they can advocate for themselves.

This subcommittee will bring their findings to the next open executive committee meeting in the spring.

 

9) Awards and Admissions Committee Report

This committee has also not met because it has not been constituted.  Torpey has said he will propose the A&A committee members for approval at the next executive committee meeting (November 15).  In the meantime, the current representatives are meeting with former representatives in order to pass along institutional memory.

 

10) Colloquium Committee Report

Hamad and Matt (the student representatives) will be sending out an email within the next month or so to solicit feedback from students on what topics, themes, etc. we’d like to see represented in the colloquium.  They will use this feedback to inform the priorities they will advocating for in their meeting with Torpey this spring when they discuss colloquium speaker invites for next year.

 

11) Open Executive Committee Meeting Debrief

Major Themes:

  1. Faculty seemed reluctant in terms of having anything formalized or structured and students wanted more structure

  2. Bronwyn did an excellent job chairing the meeting, claiming the open EC as student lead.  We should keep this going.

  3. A common point of resistance from faculty seems to be academic freedom. But it’s important to keep in mind – whose academic freedom? We need to continually reassure faculty that students aren’t trying to encroach on their academic freedom; rather, we’re trying to create an environment where the academic freedom of both faculty AND students is honored.

The full minutes from this meeting are posted on the ‘Open EC Meeting Minutes – 10/18/13’ post.

 

12) Strategizing a Response to the New Dissertation Committee Constitution Process

SSA discussed how responding to this new procedure via individual conversations with Torpey (or other faculty in the hope that they will then talk with Torpey/the EC), puts too much of a burden of risk on individual students, especially considering the power dynamics.  This doesn’t mean that students who are so motivated aren’t welcome to have these conversations.  Rather, SSA voted on a collective response:

  1. Step one was bringing it up at the open executive committee in order to talk it through with the faculty.  That didn’t seem to get us very far.

  2. Step two will be to draft a letter on behalf of the student body, stating that this policy is in violation of governance process and should be repealed until the proper procedures are followed. The letter will be sent to the Dean of Social Sciences and DSC Governance Task Force.

  3. If this doesn’t work, voted on moving to a third option of going through the graduate council ourselves by drafting a procedure.

 

13) Availability of Meeting Minutes

Minutes from the open executive committee in addition to SSA meetings will be posted on the Open CUNY SSA website.

 

14) Additional Agenda Items

Due to time constraints, SSA tabled the following agenda items:

  1. Faculty evaluations/feedback (clarifying goals and re-strategized) will be addressed by the C&E representatives)

  2. Follow-up with Torpey on constitution of C&E committee will also be handled by those student representatives

  3. Statement from the SSA re: students sitting on the admissions committee will be discussed at the next SSA meeting (November 22)

  4. Selection of the next EO will also be discussed at the next SSA meeting (November 22)

 

Sep 27 2013

October 5th, 2013 | Posted by hsindhi in Miscellany - (Comments Off on Sep 27 2013)

SSA Meeting Minutes – 9.27.13

1)   Introductions

 

2)   Scheduling SSA meetings going forward

a)    Original proposal was to meet on Fridays at 3pm; another suggestion – alternate between Thursdays at 6:30pm and Fridays at 3pm; going ahead with second suggestion

b)   Next meeting Thurs Oct 24th 6:30pm

c)    Food for meetings – Can order pizza; Jonathan will order for next meeting (Sicilian style please); can alternate person responsible for ordering food for SSA meetings

 

3)   First-year orientations

a)    Rachel’s suggestions- Physical formal orientation (meet-and-greet, party), welcome email, virtual orientation through OpenCUNY (need to work on this still)

b)   Peer-mentoring – Restart this?; Jonathan can make a googleform and Kyla can send to gsoc listserve to gather interest and sign-ups; suggestion to have back-ups for people who do not follow-up with their mentees

c)    First-year rep: James and Micheal are on-board (yay!)

d)   Meet-the-mentors – Set-up for Oct 4th; SSA board members should help people sign up by sending emails on gsoc

e)    OpenCUNY: Hamad will create instructions on how to navigate to OpenCUNY SSA to distribute to the students

 

4)   Purposeful Pedagogy workshop (Jonathan)

a)    Description of workshop – To provide people with a framework so they can start teaching; very successful in years past; expanded in the second year; lots of work to organize

b)   Need to look for ways to make this more sustainable: Maybe creating a committee within SSA; email gsoc list serve to ask for interest (Jonathan); think about ways to formalize this initiative (all SSA members)

 

5)   DSC report (Vanessa)

a)    Reimbursement receipts go to Vanessa for all SSA events

b)   Allocation of funds – Funds go toward requests from department, events for SSA

c)    We have $790 until end of June 2014

d)   SSA needs to get DSC authorization (or is it already authorized?)

e)    DSC list-serve – cunydsc.org

 

6)   Reports from committees

a)    EC – (Vanessa and Kyla):

i)     Student participation in admissions process: Torpey has been instructed to review the department’s governance compliance, with a special eye to the provisions regarding student participation; Torpey was especially concerned about student participation in admissions and awards decisions; Bylaws require that students participate in the former but not the latter, however, these two are becoming increasingly commingled; It was agreed that committee members would check in with other departments to see how they are handling this issue and Torpey will consult the lawyers on the legal implications; It was also suggested that this issue be further discussed at the open EC meeting next month.

ii)    Oral exams: Concern was expressed in the wide variety of how oral lists and exams are produced.  Some lists seem overly brief and fail to comprehensively cover the selected fields. The committee reviewed the principles behind oral exams:

−The students are to select three fields in which they are to demonstrate competence

−The purpose of the exam is to prepare students to teach but not for the dissertation

−The lists should give students a broad grounding in Sociology so that they can be flexible in their careers

−The lists should reflect the historical development of the field

−Orals committees may advise students to prepare lists as if they were teaching a high level graduate course

Some committee members highlighted that problems with oral exams and dissertation proposals are a problem of faculty oversight, but the solutions being proposed put the burden on students at a high anxiety time in the student’s career. The need for a peer review system to hold GC faculty accountable was discussed thoroughly. Apparently, other departments review faculty performance at regular intervals and will even clear house by not renewing appointments (see Anthropology and English). This was an extreme that the committee members did not want to follow. Instead, it was discussed whether the FMC should annually review the orals lists and dissertation proposals produced under faculty to discover troubling trends. It was also discussed whether a public shaming by the FMC or a private conversation with the EO would be the way to handle faculty oversight on these matters. It was agreed that:

– annual reminders about the purpose of oral exams (pulling from the language in the student handbook) will be sent out to both students and faculty

– in the proseminar, examples of good orals lists will be distributed

– the curriculum and exam committee will be in charge of sorting through existing lists, currently housed in the soc office, and pruning them down to only exemplary lists that the faculty would like future students to emulate

– the curriculum and exam committee may also start reviewing exams on an annual basis, although it wasn’t clear if this was for the purpose of faculty peer review

– it was also discussed that perhaps a guideline on the minimum number of authors per field be established

iii)  New professor appointment: Charles Post from BMCC has a new faculty line at the GC now

iv)  Senior seminar on preparing applicants for the job market: It was proposed that the department offer a Senior Proseminar to help students put together their job packages and give practice job talks.  Because the department can’t run a class for Level III students, they would need to get an exemption from upstairs. But the committee seemed willing to do this and confident that it was possible.

v)    Open EC meeting: Students can set the agenda for the open-EC meeting; SSA should advertise open-EC meetings to the student body

b)   FMC – (Bronwyn and Erin S and Erin M): Two proposals passed; Pam Stone is a wonderful chair, as per students; next meeting is Oct 18th

c)    C&E – (Jonathan and Albert and Matt and Dave): Not met yet

d)   Colloquium – (Hamad and Matt): Need to find more information on the nuts-and-bolts of how the committee can recommend presenters for colloquia; committee came up with a few guidelines to help in the process of finding and selecting presenters; decided to work on a survey to send out to the student body on topics they would like to see covered in the colloquia

 

7)   Other business that came up throughout the meeting:

a)    Special elections: Need to do special election for vacated seat in colloquium committee, and admissions & awards

b)   Need for accessible online space – Need to either make OpenCUNY more accessible and easier to navigate or explore other ways to provide students with student-led information, initiatives and documents

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