Resources for Discussion Difficult Topics

(Email: January 14, 2021)

As a follow up to recent discussions about addressing difficult topics and current events in your classroom, I’m sharing a short list of additional resources. This is by no means complete, and not all may apply to your classroom, but it shares what some major universities are doing to provide guidance for faculty on dealing with discussions centered on difficult issues such as racism, politics, and tragedy.  I also encourage you to take advantage of workshops offered on these topics in our own Faculty Commons.

“This page provides helpful classroom ideas for dealing with tragedies and crises.” 

Contains a lot of links to subcategories on topics such as hate speech, politics, tragedies, etc. 

Responding to major events. 

“This guide seeks to help teachers feel more confident leading difficult dialogues by encouraging reflection on how such discussions connect with larger learning goals, and by providing specific strategies and resources that teachers can use to create more productive conversations in their classrooms.” 

While not a university and aimed more at K-12 teachers, this site has a lot of discussion about addressing specific events. 

Hope this helps! Please feel free to share others! 

Storm Outages

(Email: January 14, 2021)

Hope you are well! I urge you to be understanding and flexible with students and colleagues over this week, as many have been “disconnected” as a result of the recent storms.  Not only have people lot power and internet services, cell services are overwhelmed, slow, and spotty, computer work is limited by one’s battery power, and the historic solution of using a library/coffee shop/friend’s house are limited by COVID restrictions. This flexibility is true for faculty and staff without power, as well as students.

Student Mental Health Faculty Resources

(Email: 18 November)

Based on recent faculty feedback, I asked our counseling faculty if they could put together some mental health resources for their colleagues to use when working with students during these difficult times.  The attached document – which includes mental health resources, advice for working with students, and sample messages to students – is the result of that work. 

Document: Responding to Student Mental Health

A huge thank you to all of our counselors – not just for creating this resource, but for all the work they are doing to help our students through these difficult times.  And a thank you to all of you on the front lines who are working to help our students everyday. I know that it is a struggle to just to help ourselves some days, let alone help our students navigate through the world today. I hope this resource helps you with that work. 

Revamping Course Evaluations – Your Input Needed

(Email: 18 November 23)

Hope you are doing well! 

During the summer, a team got together to start the process of reexamining our student evaluations – with a focus on redesigning a system that works to eliminate known bias, inappropriate use of course evaluation data and adverse impacts on faculty. The Office of Academic Affairs fully supports this work and the creation of new system for gathering meaningful data.  

I’d like to ask that you help the team gather data for this work by taking a few minutes to read their message below and complete this survey with your feedback about student course evaluations by Wednesday, November 25

Class Evaluations Revision Survey 

My thanks to the team – including Ariane (Ann) Hayes, Caroline Leffall, Ellen Nichols, Jennie Mayer, Lindsay Haney, Tonya Estes, and Aron Segal – for their initiative on this project.  Please do not hesitate to contact them if you would like further information. 

Thanks for your help in this important endeavor! 


Class Evaluation Revision Survey 

The American Sociological Association released a statement last fall that said class evaluation processes, as they are typically employed, are flawed.  They amplify student biases and are harmful to the retention and growth of faculty.  Receiving constructive feedback from students is important nonetheless.   

In concert with the College’s efforts to address anti-Blackness, a mixed group of faculty and an exempt employee began meeting over the summer to brainstorm how the institution might respond to the litany of issues that exist with our current evaluation process.  Concerns were raised regarding not only anti-Black, misogynistic, and other biases, but also other aspects of the evaluation process itself.  Concerns regarding how the evaluations are used, whether alternative mechanisms might be better used to gain certain types of information, and whether it is appropriate for faculty to be responsible for soliciting the feedback all arose.   

Recognizing that evaluations completed by students are but one part of the instructor evaluation structure that also includes peer evaluations and a self-evaluation, the team has been exploring alternative processes advocated by researchers and those that other institutions have begun using.  To guide us in the first phase of a process of reviewing current practices and developing suggestions for alternatives, we would appreciate your responses to the questions in the linked survey regarding student class evaluations. 

We know that the current system is critically flawed.  Please help us to build one that will better serve faculty, administrators, and our students by responding to this survey by Wednesday November 25th, 2020. 

Staffing & Scheduling Best Practices

(Email: Sept 10)
As we prepare for the new academic year, I’d like to share with you some new guidelines about class staffing and scheduling that I shared with the program chairs last month, so that everyone is aware of these new guidelines for the coming year.

Based on a framework of equity for all faculty, the AVP of Academic Affairs, the Provost and President all support the attached best practices for scheduling/staffing classes. These practices recognize that adjunct faculty play an important role in serving our students. In addition, we acknowledge that changing the current SBCTC system, which is heavily dependent on the inequities between full time and adjunct faculty, requires systematic and long-term changes at all levels.  At the college level, we feel that we can contribute to this by issuing guidance on class staffing that provides a more equitable, transparent, uniform and fair system of class assignments for the most vulnerable of our faculty colleagues.  Hence, you will see that a major focus of these guidelines honors the long-term contributions of all our adjunct faculty by more clearly considering how make class assignments, and how and when we communicate that information to all faculty. A major change from current practice is to schedule existing adjunct faculty for a full load (plus an additional class) before making full time moonlighting assignments. In conjunction with this we, as program chairs and as a college, need to nurture and provide feedback to adjunct faculty in their first few years (much like we do with tenured faculty) to support their success as effective instructors.   

This document also provides additional guidelines on communicating class assignments, moonlights, “per head” assignments, release time, cancelations, and bumping. 

With COVID and budget cuts, it was important to release these guidelines before staffing occurs for winter, hence during the summer.  However, input from Faculty Council, the Positive Policies for Adjuncts Committee, and faculty discussions with the President did inform these guidelines. We will have time to discuss them further in the coming year.  I also recognize that some programs and situations will require some flexibility, however, it is important that we have some standard expectations as a college, to assure that all faculty know what to expect when it comes to making course assignments. But I think it is important, especially in this time of so many unknowns, to provide more equity for adjunct faculty.

Please let me or your Deans know if you have questions, Chairs and Deans will be working with these guidelines as they work on any remaining Fall staffing, as well as moving forward with Winter scheduling/staffing and beyond.