April 17, 2006 | 3:30 PM
Great Hall, Levering
Steering committee officers present:
Prof. Kevin Hemker (Vice President)
Prof. Todd Hufnagel (Secretary)
Absent: Prof. Hilary Bok (President)
Attendance: Approximately 75 faculty and guests were in attendance.
2. Election of Steering Committee Members
3. Changes to campus dining
Dr. Burger said that significant changes to the dining program are under way to make sure that it "adds value" to the undergraduate experience. The changes include a new vendor and renovations to the dining facilities. She introduced Mr. David Furhman, Director of Dining Programs, to speak about the changes.
Mr. Furhman said that a "renaissance" in campus dining is taking place, in line with the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) recommendation. The vision is to provide a campus dining experience that is among the best in the nation. Mr. Furhman said that he had visited many campuses around the country to gain an understanding of the best practices, and had made many recommendations to the university, all of which had been accepted.
Mr. Furhman outlined several projects that are currently or will shortly be renovated:
Mr. Furhman also noted that a new vendor, Aramark, will begin serving Homewood on July 1, 2006, replacing the previous vendor (Sodhexo Marriott). He asked for patience as the transition takes place. All four vendors in Levering are being changed. The new emphasis will be on faster, more courteous service.
Q (unidentified professor): Will Levering be closed in the evenings?
A: Chances are that it will not be open, based on prior experience that the faculty and student population shifts away from the center of campus in the evenings.
Q (Prof. Wendland, Biology): Will improved service be achieved by improved training, or by replacing employees?
A: This will be up to Aramark, because they are responsible for their own employees. However, they will be putting a full-time training person on campus.
Q (Prof. Larson, History): Can you provide more details on the changes to Levering?
A: It will remain a retail facility, not that different from what we have now. However, not many details are available as the first planning meeting with Aramark has not yet taken place. There will be an emphasis on a wider variety of healthy options. An example is a true gourmet, food made-to-order deli.
Q (Prof. Eisner, Computer Science): How do the dining changes interact with the other aspects of the Residential Life program?
A: The goal is to integrate dining into the social fabric of campus, along the lines of what happens at Bowdoin College (which is the top-ranked dining program in the country).
Q (Prof. Eisner): At Cornell and Harvard there are incentives for faculty to dine with students.
A (Dr. Burger): The new Charles Common facility will have a dining room with a capacity of about forty people, which faculty will be able to reserve for meals with classes.
Q (Prof. Hemker, Mechanical Engineering): When can we expect changes to occur?
A (Mr. Furhman): Some changes will happen quickly, once Sodhexo leaves at the end of June. Full transition by the fall.
4. Discussion of Proposed Schedule Changes
Prof. Hemker introduced Dean Adam Falk (KSAS) to describe and discuss the proposal to change the teaching schedule.
Dean Falk: This issue was last visited in the mid-1990s. The CUE report recommended that the issue be studied again, from the sense that there are some good reasons to change the schedule (although there was no formal recommendation that a change be made). Following this, there was a joint KSAS/WSE faculty committee, chaired by Dean Lattman, to study the issue. That effort stalled somewhat, probably due to changes in the deans at both KSAS and WSE. Subsequently, Dean Falk and Dean Jones (WSE) jointly submitted a proposal to the JCAPP (Joint Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures), of which the registrar is a member. The proposal was intended to put what the Lattman committee had learned into a concrete form.
Dean Falk then briefly outlined the proposal. The key elements are:
The proposal is intended to be a compromise between the current system and a strict MWF/TTh scheduling system. The proposal is similar to that used at the University of Chicago.
Dean Falk then briefly outlines reasons NOT to change the schedule. These fall into basically two reasons. First, the current system allows compression of the academic schedule into a small part of the week to allow for travel and research. This may also make it easier for students who have internships or are performing independent research. Second, it is easier to teach with lectures compressed early in the week, although this is a minority view.
Dean Falk said that there are several reasons to consider a change. These include:
Dean Falk said that he has asked for opinions from the 23 departments and two teaching centers in KSAS. Of these, seven were in favor of changing, three were neutral, and eight were opposed. (There was no response from eight.) So there is a genuine split in opinion.
Dean Falk's made two closing remarks. The first is that we have to do a better job of adhering to whatever schedule we have. The second is that there is a "red herring" that the changes are part of an attempt to monitor classroom contact hours. He said that this is not what the proposed changes are about. He also said that there are many constituencies that need to be considered, not just the faculty, and that this is a practical issue, not a moral one.
Dean Jones (WSE) commented that WSE had representatives on the Lattman committee. Dean Jones circulated the proposal to WSE department chairs and said that there is general support for the proposed changes, with some changes about logistics. However, some departments are for and some are against. We need to balance what's good for the faculty with what's good for the students. He also mentioned the need to balance the demands on the physical plant (with reference to the difficulties in scheduling).
Prof. Rose, Biophysics: There was a serious discussion of the proposal at the last KSAS chair's meeting. However, no one spoke from the student's viewpoint; all of the discussion was from the viewpoint of the faculty. Prof. Rose thinks this is wrong. He also said that people have told him that it's time for Hopkins to stop vying with the University of Chicago for the worst student experience. We need to be more productive, and he will be convinced that were are serious about this when we replace the current MTW schedule.
Prof. Eisner: Why do we believe that the new system will be less stressful for the students?
Dean Falk: Need to consider the view of students who have engaged this issue in more than a superficial way. The CUE report drew on a large group of faculty and students. The recommendation to consider the changes came from the student life subcommittee, not the academic subcommittee. Also, Dean Boswell, who has regular interaction with students, thinks that this would be a positive change.
Dr. Burger: There is a lack of balance in student life. Taking full advantage of the week will allow for more balance. Many students now organize there schedules with the goal of freeing up two days at the end of the week. We are more of a commuter campus than we realize.
Prof. Eisner: I assume that students can't pack all of their classes into three days. Is this true?
Dr. Burger: Students can and do, although it is harder in engineering.
Prof. Katz, Political Science: I have asked the Registrar what percentage of students have a class on Friday. The estimate what that 80-90% of undergraduates have a class on Friday. This suggests that the "schedule compression" is a myth.
Dean Conley, Enrollment Services: The data are very clear that the first three days of the week dominate the student credit hours. Schedules at other universities (e.g. Tufts) are more even.
Prof. Katz: This is not the same question. Presumably, a student will be on campus on Friday if they have a class. A student who is on campus for one class on Friday is here just like a student on campus for three classes on Monday.
Prof. Wentworth, Mathematics: I would like to support the comments made by my colleague from Computer Science. How do things change as a student progresses from freshman to senior year? There may be advantages to students later in their degree programs - perhaps what we have is actually more of a 21st century schedule, and we are ahead of the curve. I was on the Lattman committee, and both of the students on the committee were opposed to the current schedule, due to difficulties in scheduling, particularly in later years. I have looked a mock schedule for our department using the proposed schedule, and it seems to be very workable due to its flexibility. However, I have to say that the Mathematics Department as a whole is opposed to the proposed change.
Prof. Flathman, Political Science: I have been teaching Tuesday-Wednesday since 1976. It works well for my students, who can used the Thursday-Monday period to prepare for class. Students do better with this preparation. So there are some advantages for the students of the present system.
Prof. Larson, History: I am opposed to the proposed change, as it attempts to end teaching on consecutive days, which would not be allowed. Teaching on consecutive days has worked well for me and my students. If you ask the students, they would prefer to have classes taught only one day a week, but I don't that is the best. In addition, there are several issues that are not adequately addressed in the proposal. First, regarding inefficient use of space - where are the data that show this? Second, where are the specific data on the incompatibility of our schedule with Peabody and Public Health? Finally, the possibility of scheduling either 1 or 1.5 hour course MWF afternoons creates its own scheduling problems.
Prof. Khudanpur, Electrical and Computer Engineering: My students do have a very hard time with scheduling under the current system. Just changing times won't help, however. We need more coordination among departments.
Prof. Hemker: Has the administration thought about coordinating class and lab schedules?
Dean Falk: We have talked about the need for a "scheduling summit" for a while. Effectively, we now have two very different kinds of classes, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday vs. Thursday Friday. What we mostly find is that departments strongly prefer one or the other. In looking at classroom usage in Gilman Hall, we find there is a lot of usage Monday through Wednesday, but it falls dramatically on the last two days of the week. The proposed schedule would still have two kinds of classes, but it would make the two more equivalent.
If you separate the question of a particular schedule from the kinds of slots that faculty prefer, it is clear that the two most desired kinds of slots are Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and two days per week, nonconsecutive. Chicago likes its schedule because there are a lot of two-day per week slots that are roughly equivalent to each other. The hope is that the new system, by making things more efficient, will make it easier for departments to spread classes out. However, there is no way to know until we actually hold departments to whatever schedule we have. One thing that will come as a shock to many is that we will have to start holding departments to the scheduling rules, even if we stick with the current system.
Prof. Zelditch, Mathematics: I am opposed to the change, primarily for reasons of travel and research. However, I want to talk about the importance of Thursday-Friday sections to Mathematics. It is a real benefit to have the lectures early in the week, and then have the end of the week for the students to work on problems in sections. Also, we teach many large service courses which need to be scheduled in sync with other departments. Our schedule will be locked in with that of 5-10 other departments and we will probably be forced to schedule our major service courses Monday-Wednesday-Friday.
Prof. Stone, Geography and Environmental Engineering: With the present system, there are effectively five popular times for classes, and many faculty gravitate towards those times. This makes it very difficult for students to put their schedules together.
Prof. Bagger, Physics and Astronomy: There is a range of opinion in my department, ranging from strongly in favor to strongly opposed, with the average opinion being mildly opposed. Personally, I could be swung in favor of the proposal if the absolute prohibition against teaching on consecutive days was dropped.
Unidentified professor: I also could be swung to the proposal. I don't see a substantial difference with regard to the students' compressing their schedules into a few days per week. Also, can't we ask the students? There is a student council election coming up.
Prof. Cowan, Mechanical Engineering: Polling the students is not the right thing to do; many unsound ideas would be popular with the students. We need research for serious data.
Unidentified professor: Agree with the need for data; don't just accept claims offered in support of the proposal.
Prof. Wendland, Biology: Perhaps we could poll students who have experienced both kinds of schedules, including transfer students and post-baccalaureate students. My real concern, however, is about courses such as Cell Biology that have four or more credits. I don't see any provision for these kinds of courses in the proposal.
Dean Falk: There are always some large classes that are special cases, such as Cell Biology, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry. The reality is that those courses will be scheduled first, and other courses will be scheduled around them.
With respect to the issue of polling students with experience with both schedules, they are an interesting control group. While I don't have precise data, we have talked with post-baccalaureate students (about 20 students per year), who overwhelmingly think our present schedule is "nuts."
Prof. Achinstein, Philosophy: I would support a poll of the students, if the undergraduates are driving this. What do they, and the graduate students, think? The philosophy department is very negative about the proposal. Speaking as an individual, I would like to see the students and the faculty polled. This is potentially a very important change. Also, I would like to know exactly what scheduling conflicts exist. No specifics have been offered. More information would help the faculty to make a decision.
Unidentified professor: Can two hour, twice weekly courses be offered under the proposal?
Prof. Falk: Yes, just like now.
Prof. Dagdigian, Chemistry: I am mildly opposed to the proposal, for its effect on faculty travel and large service courses. But my primary concern is with Organic Chemistry. The lab section meets on Friday, after the lectures for the week have been given. This order works well; switching to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule would make things more difficult.
Prof. Stone: With regard to my travel, much of it is not in my control. Some trips, such as funding agency meetings, cannot be turned down. Spreading classes out over the week might be better, as I might miss one class but would be unlikely to miss two.
Prof. Su, Mechanical Engineering: I am strongly in favor of the new system. I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and, if anything, the schedule there has even less flexibility than the proposal here. I did an informal survey of several important science and engineering societies. By far the busiest days for meetings are Tuesday and Wednesday, and Monday is busier than Friday. So if I teach Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, I am much more likely to miss more than one class than if I teach Monday-Wednesday-Friday.
Unidentified professor: This is not true in social sciences.
Prof. Eisner: I do want to call attention to a feature of the proposal that has not been noted. There are 1.5 hour slots that faculty would be free to use twice a week for 1.5 hours, or three times for one hour. This gives flexibility within the semester. It also guarantees that there are certain times you know the students will be available.
Prof. Katz, Political Science: I have three comments. First, it seems that if we have this hour and a half of flexibility, we are building in an hour and a half of guaranteed vacancies. Second, for my students, problems in meeting requirements are in enrollment limits and the fact that the student body has grown much more rapidly than we can accommodate. Third, it seems to me that there are two groups of faculty. One group prefers to teach three lectures per week, with a day between lectures. The other teaches classes with sections, with lectures at the beginning of the week and sections at the end. The present schedule is better, as it allows more mixing and matching of lectures with sections, and also you are ensured that all of the students are at the same point in the lectures when they get to the sections.
Prof. Meyer, Computer Science: Professors optimize for the current system. When I started at Hopkins, I thought that the Monday- Tuesday-Wednesday system was crazy. But with modern connectivity (chat, email, instant messaging), there are some advantages to the three-day period of intensive activity.
Prof. Su: One problem I face during the semester is scheduling office hours. With no spacing in lectures early in the week, it is very difficult to find a time that is available to all of the students. Engineering students, taking five courses a semester are overwhelmed and inundated with classes.
Prof. Larson: How would that be improved under the new system?
Prof. Su: The fifteen hours of instruction would be spread out over more days in the week.
Unidentified professor: Under the proposed system, we will have even more competition for preferred slots on Monday-Wednesday-Friday mornings.
Prof. Hemker: I came in favoring the old system, but I could be swung if the plan were part of a larger vision to improve the student experience. But regarding a poll, if we poll the students here, they only know the present system, and we only know the present system, perhaps we are not objective.
Prof. Naiman, Applied Mathematics and Statistics: If we only poll the students here, they only know the culture here.
Prof. Achinstein. Philosophy: What is the standing of this proposal? Who gets to approve it, and when? Does it go before the Academic Council? What is the official procedure?
Dean Falk: This is sufficiently important that it should be approved by the Academic Council. The process is well advanced, but it needs to be resolved by the end of the semester.
Prof. Hemker: What needs to be resolved?
Dean Falk: The entire question needs to be decided by Spring, 2006 if the new proposal is going to be implemented by Fall, 2007.
Unidentified professor: Who decides? The administration?
Dean Falk: If the Academic Council voted against the proposal, I find it hard to imagine that the administration would implement it against the council's wishes.
Prof. Prince, Electrical and Computer Engineering: I am in favor of the proposal. I have informally polled students; they would like to read in between classes. And as a professor, I would like to have my lectures values. Also, students don't like classes on Thursday and Friday, which is why they schedule classes earlier in the week. Also, Wednesday is a peak night for alcohol abuse, perhaps due to the current schedule.
Unidentified professor: Wednesday is also a busy night for drinking at other schools.
Prof. Hemker: [to Provost Knapp] Do you have anything to add?
Provost Knapp: Nothing in particular, expect that comments regarding four credit classes and classes with sections need to be taken seriously.
Dean Falk: There is language about four credit classes in the proposal. I would like to thank everyone for their comments.
Prof. Hemker adjourned the meeting at 5:02 PM.
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