Faculty Senate announces Lecturer Committee


Kaitlin Hetterscheidt

Columbia’s Faculty Senate met March 20 to discuss the administration’s decision to eliminate the First-Year Seminar Program to achieve collegewide budget cuts. 

By Campus Reporter

In the wake of the college’s March 11 disclosure of its decision to eliminate  the First-Year Seminar program, the Faculty Senate announced the creation of a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer committee designed to improve representation of lecturers at the college.

The termination of the lecturers in the FYS department raised concerns among students and faculty regarding the job security of other lecturers throughout the college, as reported March 16 by The Chronicle. Lecturers’ employment contracts are renewed on a year-to-year basis, with no option for tenure. 

Faculty Senate President and professor in the Dance Department Peter Carpenter announced at a March 20 Faculty Senate meeting that elections will begin for positions on the committee, composed of two lecturers, two senior lecturers and two members of the Faculty Affairs Committee.

Carpenter said the Faculty Senate made improving representation of lecturers a priority last year when it drafted a lecturer and senior lecturer policy to be included in the faculty manual. Carpenter said  the initial policy was implemented with the idea that it would be revisited during the Spring 2015 Semester for review.

Carpenter said the review has yet to occur, and Stan Wearden, vice president and provost, said he wants to make larger structural changes to lecturer roles and find opportunities for both promotion and job security. 

“I encouraged him in the wake of the FYS announcement that waiting until next semester would not suffice,” Carpenter said. “We need to at least form the committee this semester, start its work and continue into the next academic year.”

Carpenter said elections for the committee are open for self-appointments  and the goal is to have positions on the committee filled in April.

During the meeting, Senate members expressed concerns regarding the process by which the college decided to eliminate the FYS program.

“What’s really present in my mind is the toll in terms of [losing] our colleagues, including two senators, and others who have had a really great working relationship with the Senate over the years,” Carpenter said.  

At the forefront of the discussion was the administration’s choice to move forward with what was perceived to be the large and drastic decision to cut FYS and its lecturers without giving Faculty Senate prior knowledge or an opportunity for discussion on the issue.

“The question in my mind is, ‘Why didn’t this major change go through the Senate [or] through the Academic Affairs Committee?’” said Robin Whatley, an associate professor in the Science & Mathematics Department and member of the Academic Affairs Committee. “We’ve been working really hard to make the process of program change open, clear and accessible. It didn’t even really go through the strategic planning process.” 

Other members, including David Tarleton, an assistant professor in the Cinema Art + Science Department, said the timing of the program’s elimination was unfair to the terminated lecturers because it took place after the academic hiring period, making it difficult for them to find employment in the upcoming year.

“I certainly understand re-prioritizing things and the larger strategic goals,” Tarleton said. “My concerns are about how it went down and how it was communicated and how the people who end up being laid off are dealt with.”

Noting the budgetary nature of the FYS elimination, some Senate members said attempting to make up such a large deficit in one year is unreasonable. Some programs have had to sacrifice valuable student resources, compromising the quality of their education, said Anne Becker, an associate professor in the Education Department. 

“I find it really unusual that in one year, you’re going to make up a six-year deficit,” Becker said. “I don’t see how anyone can possibly do that and yet we’ve been asked to do that.”

Carpenter said the  Faculty Senate will release a statement in the future to address protocol for making curriculum-based decisions.

“It’s understandable the number of personnel changes, but the number of curriculum changes is unsustainable,” Carpenter said.