The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life

From Rob: Idea for moving forward

February 8th, 2018

Rob Whitnell sent the following to me and said I could post it here if I thought it would be helpful. I do, so I am.  The rest of this is Rob’s words.

Somewhere deep into the multi-year process that led to the 1998 curriculum, Jeff Jeske started leading the task force focused on curriculum revision. In that role, one of the first things he did was make appointments with every single faculty member for a one-on-one meeting. As I remember it, he simply wanted to hear what each of us had to say, what we were excited and concerned about, what we would hope happen. And Jeff just listened. It clearly didn’t eliminate the tensions of that process, as anyone who went through it can tell you. But I’d like to think that it put all of us on a more equal footing, that maybe someone really was hearing what we had to say.

In that spirit, and somewhat related to my comments at Wednesday’s forum, maybe it’s time to do something similar. Each and every faculty member should have the chance to say what they want to say, face-to-face to someone whose task is to listen and record and ask for clarification, not to argue or discuss or proselytize. These conversations shouldn’t happen at the departmental level, and not through surveys or making posts. Individuals need to be able to speak freely in a way that they can trust their words won’t be used against them.

I don’t know how to make the logistics of that work. But here are some questions (and I’m sure there are others). Answers to questions like these, from each faculty member, comfortable that they can speak freely, could help us make the case for what can and cannot work as we’re pushed toward a new curriculum in a 12/3 calendar.

  • What information do you need to make these changes happen?
  • What resources would you need? Time, money, course releases (with replacement faculty), staff support, other kinds of tangible or intangible support?
  • What must remain available for your current students so that they can finish under the catalog they came in under?
  • What important elements of your program (any program you participate in) would you no longer be available to do in the new curriculum under 12/3?
  • What new great things will you be able to do if you get the support you need?
  • What elements of Guilford College can we least afford to lose in going forward with a new curriculum under 12/3?

And these questions (or similar ones) should not be asked only of faculty, but of Suzanne, Melissa, Kelly, Todd, Krishauna, Craig, Alfred, Chuck, James, Daniel, and the director of every other program that interacts directly with students.

If we want to understand resources/budget are really needed, or learn what important elements of the Guilford College we would have to lose in order to do 12/3, or find links among faculty that we didn’t know were present, or have the ability to make a strong case against 12/3 if that’s what is indicated, then information from all of us is absolutely necessary.

And the sooner the better.

From Vance: Request for comments from those in support of calendar change

February 3rd, 2018

Vance Ricks sent me an e-mail looking for ways to provide a discussion space for those who support and are excited about the 12-3 change. We agreed that a Moon Room post might be a good place to help facilitate that discussion. He wrote up the following and asked me to post it for him. Please feel free to comment here.

“Dear colleagues,

There ARE some faculty (and staff) who want and like the adoption of a 12-3 calendar. I’m writing to ask and encourage them to speak up — not just to each other, but also in public venues such as this one. To me, the public conversations here and in many faculty gatherings have felt dominated by expressions of skepticism about (or at best lukewarm support for) that adoption. That isn’t a criticism! But it means that I think I’m getting a distorted picture of the landscape of campus opinions and of what it’ll take to discern or build some kind of consensus.

Just to be clear, I should explain that I’m asking specifically about support for the adoption of the calendar itself — not about support for the path that led us to this point, if we can (for the sake of discussion) pull those things apart. Why do you like it? What excites you about it? And by that, I’m asking: is it support specifically for the 12-3 calendar, or for a distinct alternative to our current one (such as the 8-8 that Thom proposed, or the Colorado College model, or…)? Is it support for the 12-3 calendar as a package? Is it support for what could occur during the “3” part of it, separable from liking the “12” part of it? Is it support for it on principle (e.g., even if it did nothing to attract or retain more students than we have now, we should still do it because of its other advantages over the status quo)?

From where I sit, the plan to adopt a 12-3 calendar seems to have the weight of presidential, administrative, and trustee support behind it. So (again from where I sit), I really don’t think that anyone ought to feel that they’re “unsafe” to express their own support for that plan. And I’m asking a genuine question, not trying to set anyone up for a fight.


Challenges with staffing courses under a 12-3 model

February 3rd, 2018

Here’s another logistical issue we’ll need to deal with if we move forward with the 12-3 schedule. It’s a different kind of challenge to staff a three-week course than it is a 15-week course, and with the current low number (at least in recent history) of tenured and tenure-track faculty, it’s likely we’ll need to lean hard on temporary faculty to make a three-week term work. The graph below was part of an analysis I sent to the senior team back in November. I never received a response to that message, although I’ve talked with Frank about parts of it since.

The blue line is just math, 1500 students spread across a variable number of courses. At the right side of the chart, it approaches one class with 1500 students. At the left side, it approaches 1500 classes with one student each. In the area shown, we’re between 150 classes with 10 students each and 37.5 classes with 40 students each. Everywhere on the line, courses times students multiplies out to 1500 total students.

For an intensive semester to work, we are mathematically obligated to be somewhere on the curved blue line, or students won’t be able to graduate in four years/eight semesters (i.e. without summer school or a fifth year). If we find internships or non-Guilford study away opportunities in the 3-week term for 10% of our students (setting aside the cost of administering internships and the potential lost tuition revenue if students took non-Guilford off-campus courses), we might be able to swing the dotted orange line, but that doesn’t change the math much.

The yellow horizontal line reflects the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty we have now, which is around 80. However, in any given year, some of those are on study leave, some are leading study abroad, some are taking family or medical leave, and some have course releases for other work. Also, with our 3-3 teaching load, in a four-course 12/3 setup, we can only count on 75% of faculty to be teaching during the 3-week term, because some faculty will do their three course load as three 12-week courses.

So, we have, at best, tenured and tenure-track faculty able to teach somewhere near the horizontal green line. Everything above the green line will have to be taught through faculty with temporary appointments or with overloads. We may not even have tenured and tenure-track faculty to match the green line, because some faculty meet their load with a combination of lecture and lab courses and won’t have space in their schedule to do a 3-week intensive class, and it’s possible that more tenured and tenure-track faculty may get caught up teaching a full load in the 12-week section to meet departmental or general education needs rather than doing 3-week courses.

The green line crosses the blue line at about an average class size of 28. Most faculty, when they talk about a potential 3-week intensive class, talk about project-based courses, travel courses, special topics, or research opportunities that might engage 5-15 students, like what we saw in January Term, which is shown with the light blue dot. That kind of class is the size that we keep hearing anecdotes about, from Hiram, from Culver-Stockton, and from others who wax poetic about the opportunities of a three-week term. Nobody is talking about the joys and radical benefits of managing a 40-student on-campus intensive course, but for every 10-person class we offer, we’ll have to hire somebody to teach the other 18 students, or add them to another class. The 3-week term just can’t resemble Jan Term. The classes will have to be significantly larger.

So, we either need to have 3-week classes that average 28 students, or we need to add a lot of temporary faculty to the mix. If we go the latter route, I can see a few options to address this math problem, none of which look great. If we want to support a significant number of 3-week courses with 10-15 students, we could:

  1. Have tenured and tenure-track faculty stretch to cover more of these classes after teaching a full semester load during the 12-week, compensated by Guilford’s modest overload pay.
  2. Hire 50-100 full-time adjuncts for a 3-week term to meet student needs. We have about 50 FTE of non-tenure-track faculty now, but more than half of those (and thus well more than half of the people involved) are part time. The 3-week term is supposed to be full-time work.
  3. Change our teaching load to 4-4, mandating the 3-week term for nearly everyone
  4. Create huge (70-120 student) megacourses or other experiences to balance out the small ones.
  5. Hire more tenured and tenure-track faculty

Option 1 is a lot of work. Remember that the 12-week courses, if we do them in a principled and accreditable way, have just as much student contact, just as much graded work, just as much student interaction as a 15-week course. They’re meeting more often per week, for longer classes, with more frequent or longer assignments. That leaves less faculty time for grading, for planning, for preparation, for meeting community partners, and for rounding up resources, and also for service work, research, or professional development and growth. Somebody doing a 3-course load in 12 weeks ought to be way more frantic and burnt out than during a 15-week semester. If three courses over 15 weeks is a 40-hour-per-week job, then doing the same in 12 weeks is 50 hours a week. We’d then be asking faculty to take on an additional full-time 3-week experience after twelve consecutive weeks of overtime.

Options 1 and 2 are expensive. If we pay $4000 per class, either to adjunct faculty or as overload pay for tenured and tenure-track faculty, and we need 50-100 extra classes, then we are spending $200,000-$400,000 for every intensive semester. Some of that we already spend, because we already have temporary faculty and overloads, but given the numbers of courses required, a good chunk of that is new money that we’ll have to find somewhere.

Option 2 also presumes we can find 50-100 qualified instructors in the local job market who are willing or able to take on 3-week full-time jobs which overlap a regular semester period. Some of those folks would presumably be with us for the 12-week and extend to the 3-week, but not all of them would, and even then, there aren’t enough. Frank assures me this kind of recruiting is possible. Even granting that, many of those instructors would not have the benefit of the faculty development work in collaborative learning that we’ll undertake along with this initiative, and those who show up just for a three-week term will likely not have a long-term engagement with our institution and with our majors and programs. Also, if we do this, we would be moving towards, or past, 50% of these showcase courses taught by temporary faculty, which is a far higher percentage than during the regular term and which has associated management, recruiting, and oversight challenges. It also extends Guilford’s reliance on the more exploitative and poorly compensated adjunct faculty market, which I think is a bad thing.

Option 3 is awful, and radically redefines the nature of faculty work at Guilford. If that’s on the table, we should have just done it under the old model and reaped the savings there. It would be better to take on that challenge under a regular model that we know rather than adding that additional burden to a massively disruptive new semester structure, new curriculum, and new pedagogical focus.

Option 4 is a real challenge. It’s hard to imagine what huge courses look like, or how they’d be administered or taught, or how the teachers would be compensated, or how students in such a large course would get the one-on-one contact and guidance we say is our strength and our goal for this program.

Option 5 is the most principled way to do this, with the best likely outcomes, but given that this all is happening in the midst of a budget deficit, I think there’s zero chance it will happen until and unless (and most likely after) the promised enrollment boom occurs.

There may be other options here that I haven’t thought of. I would imagine that each comes with its own challenges. We could also combine these or other approaches. But the fundamental problem here is a mathematical one, and I don’t know the solution.


Here’s an updated version of the graph that fixes the class sizes and numbers for January term, adds earlier January terms, and explicitly includes current numbers of full-time non-tenure-track faculty, assuming that all would teach a three-course load in a 12/3 semester. This is in response to Rob Whitnell’s comment below. Click to make it bigger.




Adapting our Gen Ed to the proposed Q major

February 1st, 2018

Frank put up a slide at yesterday’s faculty meeting comparing the credit hours in the current curriculum to an implementation of the 12/3 plus the Q major as has been described in recent discussions. I had a chance to look over the numbers, and I found a couple of what seem like minor calculation glitches (or maybe just different assumptions) along with a larger quantitative problem. I shared this with Clerk’s Committee today, but I thought the rest of you might be interested. Here’s the diagram with some edited numbers:

The edits are as follows:

  • The critical perspectives are sometimes taken as double-counts, and sometimes as separate courses, so they should be included as 0-12 credits. They weren’t included in the totals before.
  • The center column in each contains 5 breadth, 3 writing, and a language, and a 1-credit FYE, for a total of 37 credits. Technically, English 101 isn’t a required course, although in practice most folks take it. So, we can set a lower bound of 33 credits. Obviously some students pass out of these requirements with test scores or AP, but for a regular student without special credit, it’s at least 33 credits. The current Gen Ed also has FYS and IDS 400 within that list, which adds 8 more, and there is also the possibility that a student would need to take the 2-credit Quantitative Lit class, although not every student does. That puts the range for the current Gen Ed at 41-47, and for the Q-major plan (which borrows the FYS and IDS for the Q-major part) at 33-39, rather than the ranges shown. Some students take a 4-credit class for Quant Lit, which would add an extra two credits to the total, and may be what the original list included.
  • Currently, we have a required minor. In practice, we have created some minors that include some or all of the courses required for the larger majors. The Integrated Science minor is specifically designed for this purpose, and can include the cognate sciences that are required for B.S. degrees in biology and geology. The Accounting minor and ENVS minors overlap in part with other majors, as well, and there are likely other examples. So, some students do a lot of double-counting and don’t need any additional courses to get a minor, and some take a full set of four (or more) that are all unique to the minor and not double-counted. So, rather than a flat 16 credits, the range here should be more like 0-16.

Looked at in this light, we have a pretty big disconnect in credits (and the accompanying number of courses) if we implement a full 8-course Q major. The current curriculum requires 41-75 credits, or roughly 10-19 courses. The eight-course Q major model requires 65-83 credits, or roughly 16-21 courses, or 2-6 more.

Of course, one of the Breadth requirements can often count towards a major (although not all do, and not all students take them this way). So, that might reduce the higher end of the range by one for some students.

This increase is absolutely not workable at the high end, for students with more courses required for majors (e.g. 82 credits for a B.F.A, 60 credits for a B.S. in Geology, 56 credits for a B.S. in Business administration). 83 credits of Gen Ed is more than 2/3 of 120, the new target for graduation, and even for students who take an eight-course major, they’re barely squeaking by.

So, we’ll need to address this. One way is the way we have been doing, by allowing the Q major to double count with regular majors in the way that minors do now. However, to keep the course totals the same, we’d have to expect that students would double count four Q-major courses (which would likely be 4 of the 6 courses outside FYE and IDS) for either Gen Ed or their majors. That is very hard to reconcile with the Q-major being unique or structured, if it’s a hodgepodge of things that count for something else.

Another way would be to chop a bunch out of the non-Q major part of the Gen Ed. The easiest candidate for this is probably the five Breadth requirements, if we could somehow ensure that each Q major would include at least the components that SACS requires in Gen Ed (humanities/fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, and natural science/mathematics), or perhaps all five of our existing Breadth requirements.

If we were to cut the Breadth requirements from Gen Ed and house them in the Q major, we would be back at a more manageable 45-63 courses, which is comparable to the size of the current Gen Ed.

There are probably other ways to address this as well, such as a full Gen Ed revision (which we’d almost have to do anyway if we pursue the Q major). But we can’t not deal with it and just add things.

The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life