Eight New Tenure-Track Positions Approved, EPC Plans Forum On Changing Process to Increase Size of the Faculty

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Kip Lynch ’22

News Editor

Published on Aug. 10 and recently obtained by the Tripod, the Dean’s Education Policy Committee (EPC) Report for 2019-20 describes the various accepted and rejected proposals for tenure-track faculty positions at the College. The EPC is an elected faculty committee that recommends which positions to allocate to Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Sonia Cardenas. 

The EPC will separately hold a discussion with the faculty on Oct. 30 to discuss amending the process for increasing the size of the faculty in the Faculty Manual, which is presently governed by the Stewart Amendment. The Stewart Amendment, in part, prohibits increasing the number of faculty positions without it being put to a full vote by the faculty. The decision by the EPC to review the process for increasing the size of the faculty follows the College administration’s outlined goal earlier this summer of apportioning new faculty seats for “Special Opportunity Hires.” 

Seventeen tenure-track positions were proposed to the Education Policy Committee and which eight were recommended for allocation. Cardenas, also Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation and Professor of Political Science, approved the EPC’s recommendations to allocate eight positions. Three of those positions were in the humanities, three in the social sciences, and two in STEM. These positions are Physical Chemistry (Chemistry), Behavioral/Evolutionary Economics (Economics), Dramatic Literature (English), Postcolonial Francophone Studies (Language and Culture Studies), Statistics (Mathematics), Non-Western Philosophy (Philosophy), U.S. Politics and Government-Congressional/Legislative Studies (Political Science), and Social Health Psychology (Psychology). Two additional positions in Biology and Physics will be allocated once its other open tenure-track positions are filled.

One rejected position was Environmental Policy/Sustainability, which is a proposed joint appointment in the Public Policy & Law Program and the Environmental Science Department. Cardenas acknowledged the popularity of sustainability and stated that “an innovative position like this is feasible and a potential differentiator for the College.” However, she stated that “the large number of concentrations (environmental policy is one of nine) detracts too much from the program’s focus and distinctiveness. It is difficult to justify growth absent a more focused curricular strategy.” Another position that was rejected was Asian Religions. Cardenas noted that “At a liberal arts college, we should not exclude the study of non-Western religions rooted in Asia. That said, given enrollment data on majors, Religious Studies should engage in conversations with other departments/programs about how this position might support broader offerings.”

According to a Tripod report in early September, President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney acknowledged the demands of the Umoja Coalition and outlined a goal of allotting eighteen new faculty seats for special opportunity hires over three years in order to “increase our faculty diversity” in an email sent to the Trinity Community in early July. Cardenas additionally stated to the Tripod in July that special opportunity hires “will be for diverse faculty members, including members of underrepresented groups.”

The number of new hires may require a vote as stipulated by the Stewart Amendment according to Faculty Secretary and Associate Professor of Economics Mark Stater, “depending on if the number of hires available in a given year exceeds the number of Special Opportunity Hires.” The Stewart Amendment requires a two-step approval process with the first vote of the faculty authorizing the EPC to begin a “formal inquiry” into the matter while the second vote would formally change the size of the faculty. However, Stater noted that the EPC could be “granted an exception” and have the “formal inquiry requirement waived.”

A result of the College’s controversial decision to get rid of the Education Department during the 1970s, the Stewart Amendment was passed with the intention of ensuring that any future decision made by the College administration would be taken with faculty involvement and approval.

The Education Policy Committee will seek feedback from the faculty on a proposal on Oct. 30 to alter the process laid out by the Stewart Amendment for increasing the size of the faculty. According to Stater, “The proposal is being developed independently by EPC. There aren’t specific plans I’m aware of to discuss it with [the Faculty] Conference, aside from the open forum, though I wouldn’t necessarily rule that out.”

According to Chair of the EPC and Professor Mathematics Paula Russo, “The proposed revision to the faculty’s policies was motivated by the desire to have a cogent process to follow when the opportunity to add a faculty position presents itself. This can be in the context of a Special Opportunity hire, but would be applicable to other circumstances as well.”

She explained that the EPC was considering bringing the motion, which would be brought to the faculty before the start of spring classes, although it is not a final decision. On whether the faculty would have any specific recourse should the disagree with the EPC and Financial Affairs Committee, Russo stated that “If the faculty were to approve the change in process, then it would be granting the EPC and FAC the ability to make decisions on its behalf. As long as both committees acted in keeping with their charge, their decisions, I believe, would stand.”

The process for decreasing the size of the faculty will remain unchanged according to Russo, who indicated in an email to faculty that “The EPC is not considering any change to the process for potential decreases, and it will continue to bring decisions about potential decreases in the overall size of the faculty to the full faculty for a vote.

Additionally, the Faculty Manual already calls for a vote of the entire faculty for the addition or elimination of academic departments and programs. This proposal would not change these processes.”

bclark

Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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