Campus Culture Spotlighted in Faculty Meeting
Issue   |   Wed, 02/19/2014 - 00:18

The tweed blazers and snow boots were out in full force at last night’s faculty meeting, the first of the spring semester and the first since the sudden departure of former Dean of Students Jim Larimore.

President Biddy Martin began her remarks to the faculty with an update on the forthcoming Humanities Center, to be constructed in Frost Library, and noted that she announced to the Board of Trustees that the College will support its construction.

Martin then moved into the subject of student life and culture on campus. She stated that the College must not allow students to feel as though they’ve entered a campus culture that is absolutely unchangeable; rather students should believe they can make changes. To do this, Martin repeatedly stressed the importance of a “revamped social life.”

Continuing her discussion of campus culture, Martin said that she believed the College to be significantly further along than nearly a year and a half ago when Angie Epifano’s piece first came to print, particularly regarding the national investigation and Title IX compliant. While she stressed the fact that these issues were certainly not solved, Martin praised former Athletic Director and now Chief Student Affairs Officer Suzanne Coffey for her job regarding both the Title IX complaint and the more recent Office of Civil Rights complaint.

Regarding the newly created Chief of Student Affairs Officer position, Martin stated that the urgency of the situation led to her decision to include neither student nor faculty input. In particular, Martin expressed her belief that another short-term, interim position and simultaneous long-term search committee would not best serve the College and its “urgent” situation regarding student life.

Martin’s remarks on Coffey’s appointment and the problems facing student life led to questions from several faculty members. Some faculty members asked if there would eventually be a Dean of Students, and Professor Thomas Dumm asked what would come of the position after Coffey’s two-year stint. Martin said she was unsure, but said she could foresee a time in which the Dean of Students served beneath Coffey and outside of administrative duties. After two more questions from Dumm regarding the relationship between the Athletic Department and the College administration, Martin assured both Dumm and the rest of the faculty that her primary concern since arriving at Amherst has always been the well-being of the students, and Coffey’s appointment was made with this as the principle concern.

Next, there was some concern from the library regarding the Humanities Center, particularly the disappearance of faculty carrels and one fifth of Frost Library’s stacks and the fact that this center was not properly discussed among the entire faculty.
Dean Call shared the theme for next year’s Copeland Colloquium: Global Technology. The initiative will include six town hall-styled meetings, each focusing on a particular technology, and also a film series and a published book.

Shortly afterward, both the Physics and Mathematics departments shared news regarding their respective departments. The Committee of Educational Policy (CEP) approved the hiring of an on-campus astronomer with the hopes that the Physics department will join with the Astronomy department, currently comprised of only one professor.

The Department of Mathematics revealed the changing of its name to the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, effective as of Wednesday afternoon. The change in name will reflect the department’s newly created Statistics major that will vary slightly from the Math major, particularly in Comps. and capstone courses. The department does not anticipate an eventual split between Mathematics and Statistics, as had occurred with Mathematics and Computer Science.

The meeting ended with discussion of the function of faculty meetings and whether they should be called more or less frequently. There was also discussion about the Committee of Six and the publicity of its minutes. The largest laugh of the night came when Professor Rosbottom compared the Committee of Six’s minutes to “the secret code of Hammurabi.”