Performing arts center plans move ahead, faculty passes CEP proposal

After President Carl Vogt’s introductory remarks on the performing arts center at last Wednesday’s faculty meeting, the faculty approved a motion by the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) to add information to course descriptions.

In his opening statement, Vogt announced that the performing arts center project was proceeding on schedule. According to Vogt, the architect initially estimated the cost of the project to be about $40 million, but the College was able to scale back the plans to bring the figure to its current $32 million budget.

Vogt also explained that due to extremely favorable market conditions, the $20 million that Herb Allen ’62 initially gave for the project has grown to $28 million, which means that the College should not need to seek any substantial additional funding for the project. Allen’s gift was invested in the general endowment fund for the last two years, in which it grew substantially and was subsequently placed into fixed-income sources three weeks ago in order to facilitate the beginning of the project.

In response to the unexpected good news, Dennis Meenan ’54 Third Century Professor of Mathematics Frank Morgan asked what would have happened if the market had gone down. Vogt responded that fortunately this was a question that he was not in a position to answer.

The only other question on this subject was asked by William Brough Professor of Economics Roget Bolton, who asked if the College was still considering changing the site of the project from the initial plan to place the building at the foot of Spring Street. Vogt responded that the decision to locate the building on Spring Street stood.

The only major item on the agenda was the motion by the CEP to add three new pieces of information to all course descriptions published in the course catalog. The proposal called for adding the general class format, the expected enrollment (based primarily on the course’s prior enrollment) and the maximum enrollment including criteria for admitting students to all descriptions.

The proposal stated that the goal is to “encourage more effective management of enrollments at the departmental level while reducing the element of surprise for students as they plan their semester schedule.”

In presenting the proposal chair of the CEP and James N. Lambert ’39 Professor of Anthropology and Latin American Studies Michael Brown acknowledged that the course catalog already contributes to its share of deforestation, but called the measure “sensible.” He also mentioned that with Internet technologies increasing every year, there is a strong possibility that the course book could move fully online in the future, which could make it even easier to present students with an even greater amount of information.

Debate on the proposal lasted for about 45 minutes, with members of the political science department voicing some of the strongest opposition to the measure. Fairleigh S. Dickinson, Jr. Professor of Political Science Tim Cook raised the issue of unintended consequences concerning students gravitating towards courses with low expected enrollments, questioning the legitimacy of the expected enrollment figure. Cook said that individual faculty members should take the initiative to reformulate their class if the enrollment pattern is different from what was expected.

Cathy Johnson, associate professor and chair of the political science department, questioned the goal of this proposal and argued that adding such numbers would not provide any real transparency for students in making their decisions.

The faculty discussed allowing students to view the number of students currently enrolled as they choose their classes on the computerized registration system Selfreg as an alternative measure, but Registrar Charles Toomajian explained why faculty members originally resisted such a proposal. Toomajian argued that if a professor limited a class in size, but wanted to add just a few additional students then having the exact number for all students to see could potentially create conflicts.

Dean of the Faculty and Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of English D.L. Smith summarized the issue as a “good faith effort to provide accurate and useful information.” His argument that this was simply an attempt to provide more information won out and the motion passed.

The meeting then went into executive session and the faculty discussed compensation for the 2000-2001 academic year.

Faculty meetings are held about once a month and are presided over by the College President. Issues such as educational policy are debated as well in addition to decisions that faculty make such as approving classes and the academic calendar and voting for members of campus-wide committees.

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