Faculty Senate Minutes

April 4, 2007


Officers attending: Nick Reeder, President; Jackie Myers, Vice President; James Brooks, Secretary


Senators attending: Jennifer Barr, Moez Ben-Azzouz, Mark Echtner, Luis Gonzalez, James Houdeshell, Eric Kraus, Amanda Romero, Cindy Schoonover, Thomas Singer, Charles Williams


Senators not attending: Derek Allen, Mohammad Ali


Others attending: Dona Fletcher, Laurel Mayer, Shari Rethman, Ned Young


Nick called the meeting to order at 2:30 pm in Rm. 7342.



1. Approval of Minutes


Minutes for the Faculty Senate meeting of March 7 were approved with one correction. 



2. President’s Report


    2.1 Academic Policies Committee Statement on Distance Learning


Senate voted unanimously to endorse the Academic Policies Committee Statement on Distance Learning, which follows:


The Academic Policies Committee commends Nancy Thibeault and the Distance Learning department for its diligent work in developing a plan for the expansion of Distance Learning offerings at Sinclair Community College.  However, the committee cautions that further promotion of distance learning expansion be preceded by the following:


1. Further data analysis to assure that not only is student success in our distance  learning offerings comparable to that in our face-to-face offerings, but also that student performance in course work that follows upon and depends upon mastery of material in distance learning course work is comparable to student performance in course work that follows upon and depends upon mastery of material in the corresponding face-to-face course work.


2. Establishment of college policies for appropriate screening criteria and/or student training to assure that students taking distance learning offerings are adequately prepared and have the necessary skills to have a reasonable prospect of being successful in their distance learning courses.


The committee would also like to register its concern at the prospect of the college providing degrees that are entirely online.  Students pursuing a degree wholly online may not receive the enormous educational benefits of personal interaction with instructors and other students; participation in on-campus intellectual, cultural, and social events; and the general effect of the “whole person” development that derives from extended immersion in an intellectual, academic environment with all of the intangible experiences and influences that it entails and that have long been the traditional consequence of a college education.  Also to be considered is the risk to Sinclair’s long-standing reputation as an institution of high quality academics at being included among the ranks of the growing number of online institutions with less than revered reputations.


Additionally, should the college go ahead with its plans to offer entirely online degrees, the committee cautions the college about the apparent intent to depend heavily upon part-time faculty to deliver such a significant amount of the distance learning instruction.  It is more difficult for the college to assure the quality of instruction among part-time faculty as compared to full-time faculty and a disproportionate percentage of part-time faculty teaching distance learning courses could compromise the quality of instruction received by those students obtaining degrees entirely online.


In the discussion that preceded the vote, a number of points were raised, including criticism of the “holding tank” concept of having up to 300 students enroll for a distance learning course and then dividing up the course into sections and assigning instructors through the distance learning office.  Although the rationale for such a process is apparently to make registration easier and achieve an economy of scale, there was serious concern that many students would not like being unable to choose their instructor, just as department chairs would have a problem not having control over who’s teaching their distance courses. Concerns were also raised about the scheduling problems this might create for faculty.


Several senators expressed concern about the possibly overly ambitious goal of doubling distance learning offerings.  The senators felt that expansion of offerings should not be solely driven by FTE but by need and Sinclair’s capability to deliver a quality product.  Further doubts were raised about the wisdom of phasing out other modalities, such as print, video, CD-Rom in favor of internet-based courses exclusively.  Rather, the idea of being able to offer a “continuum of delivery of methods” and a “variety of formats” seemed more in keeping with providing students with a number of learning options, one of the key tenets of a learning college, which Sinclair proudly claims to be.  Finally, the challenges of staffing distance courses and accreditation issues were also mentioned as reasons for endorsing the resolution and encouraging a deliberate approach with respect to the expansion of distance learning offerings.


   2.2 Department Chairpersons’ Council


Dona Fletcher reported that the Department Chairs had major concerns with the alignment process and, more specifically, with an array of challenges facing the college. On behalf of the DCC Executive Group, Dona indicated that they would support a Senate survey of faculty to measure feedback about areas of importance to faculty, such as morale, decision-making processes, micromanagement, future direction of the college, academic integrity, communications, management style and effectiveness, etc.  Dona admitted that the chairs applauded the forums being held and the Provost’s Friday discussion sessions, but they also felt that other ways to communicate needed to be explored.  She also added that Billie Sanders, chair of PED, had recently attended a Chairs Academy, and that she reported that one of the major topics of discussion was restructuring/realignment, so Sinclair is not unique in the challenges it is facing.


Luis Gonzales, LAS senator, mentioned that he had seven pages of faculty feedback expressing concerns about many of the issues Dona had mentioned.  (Note: The Survey of Faculty Sentiment remains an “Unfinished Business” item on the Senate Agenda.)


   2.3 Senate Officers Meeting with Dr. Grove on March 14


In the interest of time, Nick briefly mentioned that the Math Chairperson Search questions had been resolved, and Moez Ben-Azzouz indicated he would have follow-up comments about this issue at the next Senate meeting.  Nick also mentioned that Saunie Schuster, the college attorney, had shared some information about policies and procedures that could have an impact on the Faculty Handbook, if faculty were to choose to revise the Handbook.  At present, Senate felt other issues were more pressing, so no decisions were made to pursue any major revisions to the Handbook at this time.


   2.4 Program Alignment Discussion with College Leadership


Nick reminded senators that a joint session with the Chairpersons’ Council, President Johnson and Provost Grove, was scheduled for Tuesday, April 10, to discuss the realignment recommendations made by the Operations Council.  In addition to the open forums and direct feedback from faculty, this session will provide another opportunity for the administration to hear what faculty members think about the recommendations.  After a short discussion, it was decided that Nick would set up an online discussion on the Faculty Assembly Community Group on ANGEL.  He would also remind faculty that they could send comments directly to their senators.  Comments gathered from the online discussion and from senators will provide the basis for feedback at the Tuesday session.  A few questions were raised about the status of reorganization.  Shari Rethman indicated that this was progressing on a parallel path with realignment and that details would probably be released fairly soon after the realignment feedback sessions had concluded.


   2.5 Faculty Issues Team


Ned Young presented a draft of a compensation proposal that the Faculty Issues Team planned to present at its meeting with the administration on April 13.  Currently, Sinclair’s average faculty salary is fifth in the state among two-year community and technical colleges.  The draft proposal presents a three-year approach to improve Sinclair’s standing within the state.  More details will be forthcoming after the meeting of April 13.



 3. Unfinished Business


   3.1 Faculty Retrenchment Draft


Senators agreed to a special meeting, Wednesday, April 11, 3:00 pm in 7342, to continue the discussion from the point in Section 4. Termination Process and Entitlements where   they had stopped on March 7. 


   3.2 Survey of Faculty Sentiment


            This item will be discussed at the next Faculty Senate meeting, April 18.



4. New Business


    There was no new business.


5. Announcements


    Next meeting: April 18, 2007, Rm. 7342, 2:30 pm.



The meeting adjourned at 4:05 pm.


Submitted by James Brooks


Approved by Senate: April 18, 2007