Faculty Vote on J-Term Structure, Remote Learning, and Climate Education 

7 min read

Jack P. Carroll ‘24


Faculty Governance met virtually on Tuesday, May 3 to vote on the structure of future J-Term sessions. Those in attendance also voted on remote learning in the J-Term and climate education. 

President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney began the meeting with updates on this year’s budget and admissions cycle. She reported the College will not be ending the year in a deficit despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic and a smaller student body for the Class of 2025. “I think many of you know that the class that is here now as first-years is smaller which means less revenue for us for that class as they stay with us for the next three years,” said Berger-Sweeney. She indicated that the Class of 2026 appears to be at pre-pandemic levels in terms of size. Berger-Sweeney did not report the current number of incoming students, and she did not discuss the details of this year’s budget. 

The faculty voted on an amendment to the Curriculum Committee’s (CC) motion concerning the structure of future J-Term sessions which was introduced during the April meeting. The amendment, which was proposed by George M. Ferris Associate Professor of Corporation Finance and Investments Christopher S. Hoags, reads as follows: “All January term courses whether academic or co-curricular must be sponsored by a relevant academic department.” Hoag believed 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.

The amendment was passed with 51 voting yes, 18 voting no, and 15 abstentions.

As the Tripod previously reported, the CC’s 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 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 departamental prefix (with approval from the home department). J-Term courses can be offered either in-person or remotely. The motion indicates that students may enroll in a maximum of one course during the J-Term.

The faculty approved the motion at the May 3 meeting with 75 voting yes, one voting no, and 13 abstentions. 

Professor of English Sarah Bilston presented a motion on behalf of the CC regarding remote learning during the J-Term. The motion would allow faculty to offer J-Term courses in a remote format starting in 2023. The implementation of the motion would maintain the primacy of the instructor in controlling the content of the course and the means of assessment of the students. In addition, the motion would uphold the authority of departments and programs in determining requirements for majors and minors, and ensure that students do not lack the resources needed to complete the course. Furthermore, the motion stipulates that if hybrid remote courses are offered faculty must teach the courses in a synchronous manner and adhere to the engaged learning hour requirements associated with the credit amount offered. If the courses are taught in an in-person or remote format, a student must fulfill 158 hours of engaged learning per one credit course; engaged learning can be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction in peer learning and individual learning through homework, studying, papers, etc. A one course credit cannot consist of fewer than 39 hours of direct synchronous instruction.

The motion was passed with 78 voting yes, one voting no, and 10 abstentions. 

The faculty then voted on a motion drafted by the Ad Hoc Climate Emergency Committee. The motion, which was presented by Professor of Language and Cultural Studies Johannes Evelein, would allow students to receive a notification on their transcripts that they achieved an academic focus on climate change if they take three credits in climate-related courses. The motion would also create a faculty committee (either by election or appointment) on an exploratory basis for five years. The committee would be charged with fostering and performing administrative work related to the College’s climate-related curriculum. The motion would instruct the CC to present the faculty with a proposal to enhance the College’s climate-related education which addresses each of these initiatives. 

Evelin indicated that the climate change notification would be separate from certificates. He noted that certificates are created by individual departments and programs; the climate notification would be implemented across the curriculum and not linked to any specific department or program. Professor of Religion in Public Life Mark Silk, who serves on the Climate Emergency Committee, added that the climate notification would be purely curricular and that it does not require experiential learning as do certificate programs. 

The motion received mixed reactions from those in attendance. Bilston indicated that the CC would not bring the motion forward or support it. “We are very uncomfortable with the thought of another new system…we’ve got a new curriculum, we’ve got experiential certificates, we’ve got the wellness requirement, and we feel a little uncomfortable about rolling out a new approach for one which is climate.” Bilston advocated for taking a more holistic approach to the curriculum and seeing if other changes need to be made before introducing a new system. Bilston, speaking on behalf of the CC, did not think it was appropriate for the motion to require the CC to implement these initiatives. 

Responding to the CC’s concerns, Silk emphasized that the motion is not a mandate and that the Climate Emergency Committee would like the CC to consider the committee’s proposals. Eveline noted that the motion would not create a new system: “In fact, we are using a structure that is already in place, that is general education…Within that structure, we give students the option to then take three courses within the context of climate change and get a notification on their transcript.” 

Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Sonia Cardenas spoke out against the motion. Cardenas had reservations about creating a new program while the College is in the process of implementing a new curriculum. Cardenas also noted that there are other issues (including diversity, social justice, and racial justice) that students and faculty have brought forward for the College to address. “I think this actually doesn’t require a motion. I think a report and dialogue that asks the curriculum committee to continue studying this is also possible and perhaps desirable.” 

Associate Professor of Philosophy Shane M. Ewegen proposed an amendment to the Climate Emergency Committee’s motion. The amendment would change the first line of the final paragraph of the motion so that it reads as follows: “Moved that it be recommended to the Curriculum Committee to present the faculty with a proposal within academic year 2022-2023 to enhance the College’s climate-related education.” The original draft stated that the CC would be “instructed” to implement the climate education initiatives. Ewegen indicated that the motion would allay concerns about the motion requiring the CC to perform its commands.

The amendment was approved with 63 voting yes, seven voting no, and nine abstentions. The Climate Emergency Committee’s motion was passed with 42 voting yes, 27 voting no, and nine abstentions.

You May Also Like

+ There are no comments

Add yours