Jack P. Carroll ‘24
Chair of the Board of Trustees Lisa Bisaccia ‘78 addressed the faculty during their April meeting which was held virtually last Tuesday. Bisaccia’s presentation covered a range of topics including the Trinity+ Curriculum, building renovations, faculty salaries, and the COVID Dashboard. The faculty also discussed revisions to the January Term (J-Term) schedule for the upcoming academic year.
Bisaccia indicated that many alums have been asking her questions about the Trinity+ Curriculum throughout her travels across the country. She described the curriculum as a “core liberal arts curriculum that has been refined and developed over the years both at our college and in academia in general.” Bisaccia indicated that the “+” refers to activities beyond regular coursework which provide “context, depth, and dimension to the liberal arts experience.” These activities include study abroad, internships, teaching assistants, research fellowships, and opportunities to participate in the legislative process in Hartford. Bisaccia reported the alums she spoke with reacted very positively to the curriculum.
During her presentation, Bisaccia noted that various buildings need renovations. “I think we need to do something about our science facilities. I’d like to see us have state-of-the-art facilities commensurate with our faculty,” said Bisaccia. She believes the College needs to continue to build its endowment through philanthropy so that McCook, the Clement Chemistry Building, and the Life Sciences Center can improved. Responding to complaints about temperature control inside various academic buildings, Bisaccia confirmed that this issue is on the Trustees’ agenda. She indicated that renovations to the heating and cooling system will be completed in phases; the south campus plans will be completed in the near future. Bisaccia emphasized that some of these pipes are a hundred years old, and they must be replaced with caution so that there are no major disruptions to the heating and cooling system.
Another faculty member questioned Bisaccia about faculty salary increases citing the strains caused by the pandemic and inflation. Bisaccia did not indicate whether the College will raise faculty salaries and instead stated “I think, generally speaking, the College is committed to equitable pay for faculty and for staff.” She went on to note that it’s important for the College to observe the market and see how other colleges are compensating their employees.
One faculty member criticized the College’s current COVID Dashboard reporting practices. The faculty member emphasized that the Dashboard only reflects the total number of people who are symptomatic and self-report now that Trinity’s surveillance testing program has come to an end. The faculty member also noted that less students are wearing masks outside the classroom. Bisaccia responded that she is confident the College will act appropriately should there be an uptick in cases. “We have people who are reasonable, thoughtful, and listen to science,” said Bisaccia.
Professor of English Sarah Bilston then presented a motion regarding J-Term courses on behalf of the Curriculum Committee (CC). The motion would return J-Term to its pre-pandemic structure: courses during the term would be an optional stand-alone session and not connected to the fall or spring semesters. The motion stipulates that J-Term courses may be offered in either a 2/3-week, 0.5 credit course model or a 3-week credit model. In addition, 0.5 credit J-Term courses may be offered as co-curricular credits (with the prefix JTRM) or as academic courses carrying the departmental prefix (with approval from the home department). J-Term courses can be offered either in-person or remotely. The motion also indicates that students may enroll in a maximum of one course during the J-Term.
Explaining the rationale of the motion, Bilston noted that the longer J-Term sessions were negatively interfering with the broader academic calendar. “We were realizing that the challenge of having a longer J-Term was hitting up against the start of the [spring] semester…that didn’t seem a good thing for anybody’s classes,” said Bilston. Associate Dean for Curriculum and Professor of Theater and Dance Mitchel Polin added that capping enrollment to one course during the J-Term would provide students with the opportunity to engage in the course in a more focused manner that is not possible during the regular semester.
Responding to questions regarding financial aid during the J-Term, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Sonia Cardenas indicated that students who are eligible for financial aid during the academic year will be eligible for aid in the J-Term. “We can’t commit to the amount of aid because aid packages are very difficult across students. It doesn’t mean that everyone is going to get free tuition for J-Term, but it will be commensurate with the aid package that they receive during the regular academic year,” said Cardenas.
George M. Ferris Associate Professor of Corporation Finance and Investments Christopher S. Hoags introduced an amendment to the CC’s motion: “All January term courses whether academic or co-curricular must be sponsored by a relevant academic department.” Hoag believed that the motion should clearly state that courses must be approved by an academic department so as to avoid any confusion regarding the scope of the motion.
Bilston did not believe the amendment was necessary: “The system is always that a faculty member has to propose a course, that the chair is involved, and then it goes through CC…your’s [amendment] might suggest that it’s somehow out of the way we do things already.” Polin echoed these statements, and he emphasized that all courses must be submitted to the CC through the Course Management Console (CMC).
The faculty did not vote on the amendment and the motion. The faculty voted to end the meeting and postpone discussion on the motion until their next meeting on May 3.