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Faculty Rejects NRO Changes; Argues for Better Pay; Debates Tenure System

Monday’s Faculty meeting had an underlying contentiousness that bodes ill for Phil Hanlon and the College’s leadership team.

Non-Recording Option: A little more than 90 members of the College’s 607-person Arts & Sciences faculty turned out for the faculty meeting on Monday, where they voted down proposed changes to the Non-Recording Option. As we have noted, currently students can designate a grade that they will find acceptable in a course, and if they achieve it or better, that grade is recorded on their transcript (though the course does not count for their major). If they do not make or exceed their target grade, they earn only an NRO designation. Students can elect to take a course NRO at least once per term.

The proposal before the faculty was for a new NRO system whereby students could earn no more than a grade of Satisfactory in a course, unless their grade was a D or an E — the latter grades would appear in their transcripts. They could only use the new NRO election three times in their careers.

The faculty voted against the proposal by a margin of 51-40. The chief arguments voiced in favor of the change were that students should not be allowed to set their own grades, and that students often slacked off unconscionably in a course once they determined that their target grade was out of reach. Other professors argued that the proposal took away all incentives for students to work for a high grade, and would lead to even less effort by undergraduates taking a course NRO.

Economics Professor William Fischel noted that the only course in the College’s most popular department where students could elect the Non-Recording Option was Economics 2 (“Econ for Poets”). Once again, Econ shows that toughness will attract serious students.

Stephen Brooks.jpgFaculty Compensation: Professor of Government Stephen Brooks made a witty, pointed and well argued presentation about how faculty compensation in Hanover has failed to keep pace with that of our peer schools. His directness led me to think that he was on the edge of calling for the creation of a faculty labor union — no shrinking violet this IR specialist. Brooks pointed out with a slide that the College was even now falling behind in the compensation race with the schools with whom we compete for faculty (and often losing therefore in head-to-head efforts to attract top-quality professors to Hanover):

Brooks Presentation May 23, 2015.jpg

In addition, Brooks noted various Trustee resolutions and specific promises made by Jim Kim and Carol Folt (of which Phil Hanlon is aware) to keep salaries competitive — promises that have been broken. The faculty unanimously passed the following resolution:

MOVED: The Arts and Sciences faculty requests that the Provost ask the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees to reaffirm, and to address, the April 1999 Trustee directive regarding compensation strategy which states that it is “important for Dartmouth College to provide competitive compensation to its faculty.” More specifically, this directive specifies that Dartmouth should follow a:

“strategy aimed at improving Dartmouth’s relative standing within its peer group. This new strategy termed “migration toward the mean” would attempt to move each rank (i.e., assistant professor, associate professor, full professor) at Dartmouth closer to the mean of the comparison schools. It is clearly recognized that there will be yearly fluctuations due to hiring and promotion patterns that will cause Dartmouth to gain and lose ground. But, the overall long-term trend….should be toward the mean of the comparison institutions.”

Capital Campaign: Multiple administration speakers announced that the capital campaign was indeed underway — though it was still in the quiet phase. Of course, no ambitious total goal has been announced, so confidence must be lacking on some level. That makes sense. Large donors have to be unnerved right now by the College’s endless troubles, and until Bob Lasher’s Development office can get a good read on donor interest, we won’t hear about the campaign’s final goal. The College’s previous campaign, which barely achieved its goal of $1.3 billion, ended on December 31, 2009 — a long time ago.

Tenure Standards: In a sop to the 106 faculty members who have signed an open letter, Dean Mastanduno has announced that the COP would engage in a review of the tenure-granting process at the College. Two professors (Music Professor Steve Swayne and Professor of German Irene Kacandes) voiced support for Aimee Bahng, but Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences David Bucci and Professor of Anthropology Sergei Kan stated that the system of checks and balanced integral to the tenure process was working as intended.

The open letter letter also notes concern over the role of Academic Analytics in the CAP’s deliberations. At a forum in Collis yesterday, Phil Hanlon stated that information from Academic Analytics was not used in reviewing professors who are up for tenure. He verified that the College did have an ongoing relationship with Academic Analytics, but he was unsure just how the service’s data was used and by whom (you would think that Phil would have better prepared himself for this forum).

Jewish Studies: The College’s Jewish Students Program received permanent status in a unanimous vote, and in presenting the case for the Program, Religion Professor Susannah Heschel placed particular emphasis on Dartmouth’s close ties with faculty at several Israeli universities. Here’s to you, BDS supporters.

Addendum: Although she is ostensibly the College’s chief academic officer, Provost Dever sat in the third row of the faculty section rather than at the head table with Phil Hanlon, Dean Mastanduno and other committee members. She said nothing at the meeting. I have yet to hear a positive comment about Dever from a member of the faculty — and some profs have said, surprisingly enough, that she is the object of particular opprobrium in the Humanities (Dever is a a scholar of gender studies and 19th-century British literature and culture).

Addendum: Discontent with Phil and Carolyn is running deep. There is talk in more than a few places of a no-confidence vote within a year.


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