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.
-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