College Council prepares for smaller role

By Shardae Smith

Meeting for the second time during the spring 2011 semester, faculty, staff and student representatives discusses important Columbia issues during the monthly College Council meeting held at the 1104 Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., on March 4.

Topics of discussion included student enrollment updates, a new policy regarding students’ academic standing from Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Kelly, MAP grant errors and the continuing discussion of what will become of the College Council once a faculty senate is put into place.

Provost and Senior Vice President Steven Kapelke informed the group that the School of Media Arts, which is currently reviewing its curriculum, has proposed a minor in motion graphics. He also said the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences has proposed a minor in its Education Department for teaching artists.

According to Kelly, there will be no new Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant funds awarded to low-income students for the 2011–2012 academic year.

“The pressure on our students is so great,” Kelly said. “We just saw the graduating student survey data, and 20 percent of our undergraduate students are graduating with [more than] $50,000 of loan debt.”

The fraction of students’ with such post-graduation debt two years ago was 16 percent, according to Kelly. He said it’s a burden for students because of the difficult economic and employment market.

Kelly announced to the council the change in the Federal Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy. Previously, students were given four semesters to be in good academic standing but now must be in a good academic position by the end of their second semester to continue their education.

A student support software system will be put in place so teachers can inform the student and Academic Affairs if they encounter academically challenged students by the fifth week of the semester, Kelly said.

“This is potentially going to have a huge impact on our students,” he said. “We have no choice but to put this system in place because our students are going to be at risk of their academic career coming to an abrupt halt if we don’t intervene with students at risk early on.”

Kapelke addressed the importance of the service given to students by faculty and staff regarding the new two-semester policy.

“This is not in any way to encourage you to lower your educational standards,” he said. “That’s a danger, and you need to be aware of that.”

Part-time faculty member John Stevenson said P-Fac, the college’s part-time faculty organization, is currently circulating a petition in support of a better educational environment for students, part-time and full-time faculty and staff.

“[The petition] states we believe in quality curriculum taught by experienced faculty and value the skills, knowledge and professionalism of Columbia’s faculty,” Stevenson said. “We support teachers who have devoted many years [to] Columbia, and we expect that college administration will sign a new contract for part-time faculty that provides for job security, good working conditions and respect.”

John Trierweiler, president of the Student Government Association, announced that while lobbying in Springfield, Ill., for the Monetary Award Program grant, they were informed by senators and representatives that an administrative error caused an $8.5 million shortfall in the grant’s money and students to receive a funding decrease.

“The lobbyist told us they’re working to push administration to have that error resolved and have that money restored,” Trierweiler said. “The governor has proposed a $25 million increase in his budget for MAP funding for next year. [I hope] that will go through.”

Next on the agenda was a report from Tom Nawrocki, associate English professor and Columbia College Faculty Organization president, who updated the meeting attendees on the status of the faculty senate in continuation of the ongoing debate.

Eighty-three percent of the college’s faculty voted on the new committee’s bylaws, with 93 percent voting in favor of the guidelines and were accepted by the faculty, according to Nawrocki.

He said the next step for Kapelke and Columbia President Warrick L. Carter is to review the bylaws.

At next month’s meeting, there will be a vote for a new name of College Council as it begins restructuring to make room for the faculty senate.

But council members are unsure as to what the council’s purpose will be once the faculty senate forms.

Kelly hopes College Council will become a body where expert testimony and discussion is shared. He said he values the council but sometimes finds it “frustrating.”

“We skim the surface of a whole bunch of issues,” Kelly said. “We could form a body about rich and deep sharing of information that can be a powerful influence on healthy governance in the college.”