Faculty Discuss Internationalization at Amherst
Issue   |   Wed, 04/16/2014 - 01:03

The faculty braved the elements last night to convene in the Red Room for their monthly faculty meeting, which included — among many other things — discussions of the position of the Provost, a presentation from Professor Amrita Basu regarding the Strategic Planning Committee for the Internationalization of Liberal Arts Education and an update on the process of book removal in order to accommodate the construction of the Humanities Center in Frost.

Dean of the Faculty Gregory Call began the meeting by quickly summarizing the Committee of Six’s minutes from their meeting the previous day. Most notably, the committee voted to add the Provost as a non-voting member of both the Committee of Priorities and Resources and the Committee of Six. A proposal to make Environmental Studies into an official department passed 4-0 with two members abstaining, while the motion to move the proposal to the faculty was passed 6-0.

Martin began her lengthy remarks to the faculty by announcing the 2014 Honorary Degree recipients. Along with David Brooks, the announcements of Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones and statistician Nate Silver received noticeably audible faculty approval.
Next, Martin provided an update on the College’s Title IX efforts. She noted that the faculty will be required to take a training course as mandatory reporters of sexual assault next semester, a choice she described as “useful and necessary to benefit everyone.” There were concerns that this training regiment would be similar to an online course taken two years ago; Martin assured the faculty that while the online course focused with sexual harassment, this new course would focus specifically with the duties of mandatory reports.

Martin then moved to the podium to speak on the role of the Provost — a topic that sparked significant dialogue. The two most central elements of Provost Uvin’s job thus far have been strategic planning and diversity, Martin explained, and she hoped that this would help clarify his recent appointment to certain committees.

Several faculty members, including the ever-vocal Professor Ronald Rosbottom, expressed confusion regarding the original creation of the position of Provost, which he thought was to relieve the Dean of Faculty of certain duties. To this, Martin responded that the position of Provost was created for multiple reasons, easing the Dean of Faculty one of many. She also noted that certain facets of the Dean of Faculty’s office have indeed moved, including re-accreditation and affiliated institutions, including the Folger Library in Washington, D.C.

Next, Professor Amrita Basu presented her strategic planning committee’s work regarding internationalization and how it relates to Amherst. In order to thrive post-college, students must become “globally fluent;” this importance, according to Basu, is the crux of her committee’s mission.

Basu separated her presentation into three distinct sections: curriculum, study abroad and international students. Regarding curriculum, many faculty expressed a desire to integrate an international component to specific courses, including independent interterm travel (and funding) before a spring semester class.

Another area of significant faculty discussion was the possibility of students studying abroad during their sophomore year. While certain faculty members argued it would allow for more junior year research and pre-thesis options, others expressed concerns that studying abroad during sophomore year could potentially leave a student wanting to change their major late in the junior year. In all, the faculty agreed that Basu’s committee continue to discuss this thoroughly, and to make sure that there is more cohesion between the College and students abroad, that going abroad is not simply “going away.”

Lastly, the process of clearing books in Frost left many faculty jaws ajar when they learned that a 1,760-page list containing between 45,000 and 50,000 volumes would need to be manually combed through by the faculty before the semester in order to assure certain volumes wouldn’t be vacated for the Humanities Center. Professor Sinos, who presented the information to the faculty, was met with a great collective chuckle when she said that this is “a more laborious process than it may sound like.”

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