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President Bowen Announces Departure

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On October 19, the Goucher student body received an email from the chair of the Board of Trustees, Ruth Shapiro Lenrow, class of 1974. In the email, Lenrow informed the student body of President Bowen’s decision “that he will be leaving his post on June 30, 2019.” Lenrow also included a hyperlink to Bowen’s own announcement as part of her statement, which was posted to the Goucher website the same day. Bowen cites his main reason for leaving as an opportunity to “focus on [research, scholarship, and music] and particularly to spend more time finishing my next book, which is largely about the work we have done together at Goucher.” Also included in Lenrow’s message was the assurance that “[t]he Board of Trustees will be establishing a Presidential search committee in short order and we will share additional information about that process soon.”

In response to the news, Bryan Coker, Vice President and Dean of Students, held an open meeting in Pinkard to explain the general process for hiring a new president at a college or university. During the meeting, which The Quindecim livestreamed and shared to all the class Facebook pages, Dean Coker asserted that “[t]he responsibility, universally, about a Board of Trustees, is that they hire and fire presidents.”

Dean Coker also explained the process of forming a search committee and the role of the members of that committee during the meeting. He also made note that presidential search committees tend to hire a search firm, “which is essentially a recruiter,” according to Coker. The search firm would visit campus to conduct a listening campaign and most likely release a survey to the student body asking for feedback regarding what qualities students look for in the college’s next president. From there, the search committee would typically produce a position profile, shared with individuals potentially interested in filling the position, with all the data gathered from their conversations with faculty, staff, and students.

After that, candidates would submit cover letters, resumes, and a list of confidential references. The search committee, consisting of faculty, staff, and students, as appointed (usually) by the Board of Trustees, would have confidential access to the applications submitted, and would then conduct brief interviews with their top 8-10 candidates, often at or near an airport. At this point, the search firm would check in with references listed and not listed by the candidate  in order to gauge the candidate’s potential for working at Goucher. After another round of interviews, the search committee often brings their top one or two candidates to campus so that they get a feel for the college in-person. Coker emphasized repeatedly throughout the meeting that the hiring process for a president is almost universally not public.

Sam Anderson, acting President of Goucher Student Government, emphasized during the meeting with Coker that “if [the Board of Trustees] decide[s] to do the search now, in what would be a kind of rushed amount of time for a presidential search, they would put together a search committee which would hopefully feature more than one student, so that that one student doesn’t feel siloed within the bigger committee, and so that more students have the opportunity for input, and then it would also include members of the faculty, alumni, staff, and then trustees. It will be mostly trustees.”

The Baltimore Sun reported on January 19, 2017 that President Bowen had signed an extension to his contract through June 2022. In an article published online the same day, the Baltimore Business Journal also noted that representatives of the college “said Bowen has declined to accept any salary increases since he arrived at the Towson college and has continued that request in the new deal.” On March 22, 2017, a Goucher press release announced Bowen’s contract renewal.

December 5th Faculty Meeting

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The faculty meeting on December 5th was conducted during Common Hour in Merrick.

Update on hate crime proceedings:

The Baltimore County State’s Attorney has filed five charges against former student Fynn Arthur in relation to the two hate crimes perpetrated on campus in November. This information was also addressed in an email to the student body from Dean Coker on Thursday, December 6th.

Additionally, a group of faculty has formed to create a protocol for how the Goucher community addresses campus-wide crises. During the meeting, professors Seble Dawit and Ann Duncan emphasized a large need to debrief and strategize next steps in this process. One suggestion mentioned includes a monthly all-campus gathering or assembly. More information on this matter will be provided in January.

Presidential Search Update:

Professors Phong Le, Jamie Mullaney, and Gillian Starkey are the three faculty members serving on the committee. While they made it clear that they would like to share information about the presidential search process, committee members have signed a confidentiality agreement which prevents them from disclosing much information. Professor Le, however, did note that they will be conducting a listening session from 2-3pm on Friday, December 7th in the faculty lounge. The committee will meet next on the morning of Tuesday, December 11th.

Provisional Approval of December Graduates:

Andy Westfall announced that there are 39 candidates to receive their Bachelor’s of Arts at the end of the semester. The motion to approve the candidates for receiving their diploma was approved. Candidates must still pass all required coursework before graduating.

Unfinished business: “Will we continue the work of the 2017-2018 Ad Hoc Governance Committee?”

The committee in question proposed a vision for redesigning the way that the faculty organizes itself. It released its findings at the end of last semester. During this meeting, the issues of representation, communication, and faculty members having a voice in their legislative processes were raised as key reasons for the ad hoc committee to exist in the first place.

The next step of this process is to draft legislation that changes the current processes as they exist right now. The committee’s timeline is to begin writing in Spring 2019, continue into Fall 2019, and conduct listening sessions during Spring 2020, with a final proposal of the legislation prepared by the faculty meeting in April 2020. Of the three members of this committee, at least one of them will be a tenured faculty member.

One of the biggest issues raised in the meeting was whether the vision proposed by the previous ad hoc committee must dictate the legislation written by the future committee in question. To address this, Dr. Friedman-Wheeler proposed an amendment that grants flexibility to the committee’s task. The proposed vision does not have to dictate future drafted legislation. A paper vote was conducted and the motion passed.

Two Majors Proposed:

One program was proposed by members of the Center for Data, Mathematical, and Computational Sciences. Called “Integrative Data Analytics,” this proposed major combines statistics, computer science, and data analysis to create an interdisciplinary major that can work with a number of other programs, including Peace Studies, Economics, and Public Health.

The second proposed program creates majors housed within the Center for Contemporary and Creative Writing. The two majors are Professional Writing and Creative Writing. Both use an interdisciplinary model to build on existing courses offered by current faculty.

Both proposed programs are budget neutral and are based on internally collected data that suggests that retention rates within these areas are high due to lack of competition from other liberal arts schools and interest from current students on campus.

Approval of the programs will be determined during the faculty meeting on Monday, December 10th.

Interview with David Heffer About Recent Hate Crime

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The following is the transcript of an email interview between Neve Levinson and David Heffer, the Director of Public Safety. The responses were received after the publication deadline for the previous article about the most recent hate crime on campus.

NHL: What is the procedure for reporting hate crimes, both to Public Safety and to relevant state enforcement agencies?

We ask that all crimes be reported to the Office of Public Safety at  410-337-6111 or the Baltimore County Police Department at 911. An officer will be sent to the location of the crime and perform various types of follow up including threat mitigation, ifapplicable, and investgatory procedures.  

NHL: When was the graffiti removed?

DH: The graffiti was removed immediately after the Baltimore County Police Department processed the scene for evidence.

NHL: What measures are Public Safety and BCPD taking (as per protocol and otherwise) to investigate the incident as well as supporting affected students and communities?

DH: The Office of Public Safety is working with the dean of Students office as well as Residential life to assist in supporting the students directly impacted by the crime. The Offie of Public Safety is working closely with County Police and other outside partners in order to conduct as thorough an investigation as possible.  

NHL: What is the procedure for notifying the entire campus of incidents related to hate?

DH: We typically notify the campus via email and/or through the e2campus notification system. We also report those crimes to the Department of Education and the crimes are recorded in our Annual Security Report.

NHL: Is there any known connection between this event and previous hate crimes on campus?

DH: We believe at this time that the graffiti hate crimes in previous years are likely related to this crime.

Hate Crime on Campus

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Protest sign posted on doors to Mary Fisher during student demonstration on Friday, November 16th. Photo by Rob Ferrell.

On November 14 at 8:56 a.m., Javaunte Neumann, ‘20, posted a screenshot of a Snapchat he received from a friend to the Class of 2020 Facebook page. The Snapchat was captioned, “Cops knocked on my door. Someone wrote on the first stall of the bathroom, ‘I’m gonna kill all n********’ and listed my room number and two other numbers on my floor, damn this school is great.”

At 10:17 a.m. the same day, the Goucher student body received an email entitled “Report of Hate Crime on Campus.” The message, signed by Bryan F. Coker, Ph.D., Vice President and Dean of Students; Nicole J. Johnson, Interim Associate Dean of Students/CREI; and David Heffer, Director of Public Safety, gave the basic story of what happened: early in the morning, a student found “threatening anti-Black graffiti” that targeted students on the first floor of Jeffrey, where the graffiti was found. The Baltimore County Police were called right away, and began an active investigation into the hate crime.

In an interview with the Quindecim, Neumann and Brandon Julot, ‘20 asserted that Goucher’s administration had not done enough to handle the situation. It was “not just a racial slur, it was a threat on our lives,” said Neumann, adding that the black community is “fed up.” Julot added also that the graffiti was a “clear threat [that] should be taken seriously,” in a way that simply stating as “threatening anti-Black graffitti” did not denote. Neumann also mentioned that during his first year on campus, a noose had been drawn on his door, and that he had several friends who had been similarly targeted, and not received more information on the case after an initial follow-up with the Office of Public Safety.

When asked about how Goucher could hold its community accountable to responding to hate crimes and changing its cultural narrative, Julot and Neumann both identified that the Center for Race, Equity, and Identity (CREI) needs a space that is more accessible and no longer what Neumann argues is a “marginalized area” on the fourth floor of the Athenaeum. Both Julot and Neumann also indicated interest in forming coalitions between the black community on campus and other marginalized communities, particularly trans and Muslim communities, who have been targeted by hate crimes in previous semesters.

Later during the afternoon of November 14, Residents of Jeffrey House received an email from Lindy Bobbitt, Director of Residential Life. Beyond naming the hate crime and offering support, Bobbitt made it clear that is is her job to ensure that students feel safe in their housing.

A few hours later, in a brief email to the student government, Goucher Student Government made the following statement: “Goucher Student Government was very disturbed and concerned by the anti-black hate crime that was discovered this morning in the first floor of [Heubeck] Jeffrey. Goucher’s campus should feel safe for black students. Acts of hate such as this one will not be tolerated here, and should not be tolerated anywhere. Goucher Student Government is prepared to offer resources in any way we can as time moves forward. Please expect future updates from Goucher Student Government in the coming days.”

The Office of Communications sent a message to the college community, signed by President Bowen, on November 15 at 10:50 a.m. Bowen noted that the Baltimore County Police Department (BCPD) was alerted of the graffiti “immediately,” and that the first priority was the safety of the students affected. “An incident such as this has repercussions across our campus. Once we were confident that the targeted students were secure, and that we could share information which would not impede the investigation, we issued a statement to the campus at 10:15 am, and to parents shortly after that. We will continue to provide support services for targeted students and others who desire support. Our other top priority will be supporting the police investigation and ensuring that we do not compromise those efforts.”

In an update sent out on Friday, November 16 at 1:41p.m., Dean Coker modified the language used to refer to the hate crime. In this message, he described the nature of the crime as having an “undeniably pervasive message in the graffiti was anti-Black and clearly targeted at specific Black students, by even sharing room numbers where they reside.”

Coker also noted in the email that “there was also a backwards swastika” included in the graffiti, corroborating a piece published at 7:05 p.m. on November 14 by the Baltimore Sun. Goucher Hillel, along with faculty from the Center for Psychology and the Center for Geographies of Justice sent out specific condemnations of the hate crime via email as well.

For information relating to the demonstration organized by Umoja on Friday, November 16th, read publications written by the Goucher Eye.

The Baltimore Sun, a news organization working to record and track hate crimes as a part of ProPublica’s “Documenting Hate” database, has aggregated its information received through “a public information request” from police reports. Of the 692 incidents aggregated by the Sun, eight of them list the victim as “Goucher College.” Of these eight reports of hate crimes on campus, four were anti-transgender, three were anti-Black, and one was anti-Muslim.

As defined in the college’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, “A Hate Crime is a criminal offense that manifests evidence that the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim. Bias is a preformed negative attitude toward a group of persons based on their race, gender, gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity or national origin.” The Report presents the following information for hate crimes on campus during the years 2015-2017: one in 2015, two in 2016, and ten in 2017. It is unclear why one anti-transgender and one anti-black hate crime were not included on the Baltimore Sun’s website.

*Online edit: David Heffer’s reply for comment is posted in a separate column, as his responses came after the print publication deadline.*

Goucher Transitions Students to Outlook

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Office365 online. Screenshot provided by Bill Leimbach.

Since 2017, Goucher has been transitioning the campus community to Microsoft’s increasingly popular software system: Office365.

New undergraduates and graduates in the spring of 2018 were the first students to take advantage of this software. Since then, new incoming students in the fall of 2018 have also been provided with Office365, which includes the email service Outlook among other traditional programs such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.

As a result of this transition, some students (those using Office365’s Outlook) have a different email address format than that of their peers (those using Gmail): Firstname.Lastname@goucher.edu for Outlook users as opposed to filas00#@mail.goucher.edu (first two letters of first name, first three letters of last name, and a 3-digit number starting with 00) for Gmail users.

Bill Leimbach, Vice President for Technology and Planning at Goucher, explained in an email, “colleges and universities have been implementing Office365 for their entire campus communities because of Office365’s improved functionality, improved security protection, and because of the use of Office365 in corporations and businesses.” Goucher decided to jump on the bandwagon.

In the summer of 2017, Goucher’s Information Technology began that transition with administration, faculty, and staff, whom had always used a different mailing system than students. At the time, they emailed with Microsoft Exchange, a program which ran on a dedicated server – a physical, on-campus computer used to store the program’s data. Office365, on the other hand, ran on a cloud server, meaning that it did not require the same hardware and offered more opportunities for increased, secure data storage.

Office365 also promised more opportunities for collaboration between campus bodies. The more Goucher members are transitioned to the same software, the easier it will be to share information, feedback, and comments. “As long as I’ve been here, Goucher has provided Microsoft Office for free to students,” Leimbach said in an interview. Yet sending Word, Excel, or Powerpoint files with or to Gmail accounts instead of sharing documents directly through the same system complicates that kind of exchange. Adopting the same mailing system across campus could eliminate the tedium of sending separate files and avoid potential problems accessing them.

The gradual transition to Office365 means that now, instead of software use differing between students and administration, faculty, and staff, the student body itself has been split into those who have been introduced to the new system and those who remain on Gmail. Many students do not know that some of their peers’ email addresses are formatted differently, leading to some confusion and uncertainty about unreceived emails. Additionally, documents, spreadsheets, and other files on Google can no longer be shared reliably and indiscriminately between all students – those using Office365 must have a separate Gmail account to be able to access, edit, and comment on Google files.

“The pro [about transitioning Goucher to Office365] is you get everybody using the same thing,” Leimbach said. “The con is change.” Goucher students may need to rough it out a few years before communication is completely patched up. When asked whether administration is considering offering Office365 beyond first year students, he responded, “We’re looking into that. We’re asking ourselves, ‘Should we or shouldn’t we? And how could that be done?’” While ideally all students would have been transitioned simultaneously, Leimbach and his team had to consider how old emails from students using Gmail would be moved to Outlook. “We had programs to do that for us,” he said of transitioning administration, faculty, and staff email history to Outlook. Since they had been using Microsoft software to begin with, the task had been easier to accomplish.

In the meantime, those with Outlook may want to consider using or creating a separate Gmail account to collaborate with Gmail-using students. Another option may be for those without Office365 to collaborate on Microsoft files instead of relying on Google’s services. Most importantly, students should keep these mailing system differences in mind when communicating with their professors and peers in order to avoid missed emails or problems working jointly on documents.

Underlying Issues Identified as Student Organizers Engage With Administration

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Student organizers and administrators discuss student demands during a Sept. 12th meeting. Pictured around the table from left to right: Maya Williams (Radical Student Union representative), Skyler O’Neil, Isabelle Turner, Interim Associate Dean of Students Nicole Johnson, Isabella Favazza, Dean of Students Brian Coker, President José Bowen, Vice President for Advancement Trishana Bowden, Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Stephanie Coldren, Interim Provost Scott Sibley, Zoë Gilmore, Vice President for Finance and Administration Lyn Lochte, Faculty Chair Micah Webster, Oonagh Kligman, Noah Block (GSG representative), Associate Dean of Students for Community Life Stacy Cooper Patterson, and James Williams.

On August 15th, an email was sent out by the Office of Communications to Goucher students in which President José Bowen formally announced the results of a Program Prioritization Process (PPP). The email included important links to a list of future program changes and an FAQ page. While this newspaper had announced that a program prioritization process was taking place on May 18th of this year, for many students it was the first time that they had heard of Goucher’s plans for Academic Revitalization. In our Sep. 14th issue, The Quindecim reported on the town hall meeting that had occurred on Aug. 27th in response to these changes.

The town hall meeting was met with a huge turnout of more than fifty students in the small dining hall space, and within 24 hours The Quindecim‘s live video of the event had garnered more than 400 views from students, alumnae, and professors alike. “I’m impressed and very proud to have seen such a high turnout,” said Isabelle Turner, ’20, a student sitting on the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees. “I’m not surprised, though, because when it comes down to it, I think students care deeply about this place. “It implies a sort of camaraderie that – at Goucher – is rarely expressed overtly.”

Turner and several other students had been meeting and organizing a coordinated, student response to the PPP before the fall 2018 semester had even started. Aidan De Ricco, ’20, and Oonagh Kligman, ’20, both Residential Assistants (RA’s), had been sharing their feelings with one another about the announcement between trainings and talked about organizing a student led protest. “It affected me personally, it affected a lot of other students, and I wanted to be informed,” said De Ricco.

De Ricco and Kligman quickly connected with other concerned students on campus who felt a need to organize: Zoë Gilmore, ’21, India Fleming-Klink, ‘21, James Williams, ’19, Isabella Favazza, ’19, and Turner. After exchanging information through Facebook, they gathered in person and discussed the possibility of protesting Convocation. After feedback from other students they realized that such a move might alienate others affected by the PPP announcement, and that they needed to establish a space for wider student dialogue. Two meeting dates were set up to maximize availability: Sat., Aug. 25th and Sun., Aug. 26th. They were advertised on the Facebook class pages.

Both meetings saw more than 20 attendees, foreshadowing what would be an even more well-attended town hall meeting that Monday called upon by the student organizers. Those who showed over the weekend, including representatives of Goucher Student Government such as Samuel Anderson, ‘21, were asked to introduce themselves, then the opportunity was opened for emotional expression. The goal, organizers explained, was twofold: 1) to offer a space for healing and the practice of mutual care and 2) to offer a space for people to release their reactive energy ahead of the town hall so that they would subsequently ask clear, informed questions.

While the two-hour-long town hall meeting shifted tensely between measured, informative exchange and frustrated, accusatory outbursts, both student organizers and administrators saw its value. “We got to hear each other and what our needs are, and now we need to [address them],” President José Bowen said. “Needs are important, and if those needs are not being met, we need to work on that.”

Turner, impressed with the way in which Faculty Chair Micah Webster and Internal Review Team member Michael Curry addressed the crowd, saw their dialogue as a model for future conversations between administrators and students. “I think it was both moving and effective to speak to students with the respect and empathy and emotional intelligence that they did. They did a wonderful job of achieving the relational transparency we so need between student body and administration.”

Relational transparency was a key theme that came up throughout student organizing and the town hall meeting. Students expressed mistrust of the administration’s motives, feeling that information was being withheld from them for the sake of Goucher’s institutional reputation and survival. They felt left out of the changes happening at Goucher, particularly when it came to decision-making processes. Many wondered if the PPP had been necessary. “I think we needed the story of this process to be told to us completely and honestly,” Turner said.

Unfortunately, the question of how to tell a story becomes complicated when a college is responding to the needs and interests of multiple stakeholders. In an interview, Bowen said that “there is no financial crisis, but there will be if we don’t prepare.“ He added, “the Board [of Trustees] did mandate that we needed to have this year’s budget closer to balanced.” In a 2013 article, The New York Times states that “colleges have been on a borrowing spree […] nearly doubling the amount of debt they’ve taken on in the last decade to fix aging campuses, keep up with competitors and lure students with lavish amenities.” Consequently, as stated in a report published by the American Association of University Professors, “an administration contending with serious financial problems is likely to resist the wide circulation of budget figures. If bad news is lurking in the numbers, the institution’s situation might get worse if information becomes widely known and affects enrollment decisions and alumni giving.” “Nobody wants to air our dirty laundry,” said Bowen.

Reflecting a nationwide trend, Goucher has had to find creative ways of saving money while still aiming for gradual growth, Bowen explained. Facing increasing cost and a smaller pool of college-bound 18 year olds, administration identified four longer-term options: raising tuition, lowering financial aid, adding students, or subtracting services and programs. Since the board had pledged not to raise tuition above inflation, the first option was ruled out. The second option was not possible given Goucher’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and its need to attract more students. The third had already been attempted but had hit a maximum. The fourth option was left. As a result, the PPP was initiated.

Photo credit: Informational sheet shared by President José Bowen.

In making these budgetary calculations within the context of a competitive system of higher education, the Board of Trustees had played its role — ensuring intergenerational equity at Goucher and the institution’s long-term well-being. However, summarized by Bowen, “as a trustee, my focus is ten years from now [but] as a student my focus is now.” As Goucher announces and begins the process of phasing out majors, it must consider a number of different parties — students, prospective students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumnae — all of whom are invested in Goucher and an integral part of the community but whose immediate interests can be at odds.

With the PPP, students felt that their own needs and interests had been overlooked, sowing distrust and bitterness about the administration’s motives and their plans for the future. With the town hall meeting, student organizers attempted to bring student needs back to the forefront of administrative discussions. On their end, recognizing student blowback, administrators sought to repair a broken relationship.

Both parties agreed that the town hall meeting had limitations in achieving these objectives. Turner pointed to the often lengthy responses of panel members. Student organizers were unable to get to all of the questions that they had crafted for the panel. Those questions sought to uncover information that students felt had been withheld or obscured from them. “Relationships are harder to build in a town hall,” Bowen admitted. “It doesn’t allow for more in depth conversations. This has to be ongoing.” Student organizers, recognizing the necessity of more long-term and engaged conversation, concluded the town hall by demanding a follow-up meeting on Sep. 12th.

The Sep. 12th meeting was a pivotal moment in what has become an ongoing dialogue between student organizers and administrators to resolve student grievances. While the town hall had established an important precedent to conversation, the Sep. 12th meeting, held between seven student organizers and nine administrators, faculty, and staff members, unearthed a larger, systemic issue: the lack of an effective feedback structure between campus bodies. As a result, the PPP had come with significant miscommunication.

“More transparency at the beginning of the process would have been better,” Bowen admitted in the meeting, “but if person hears costs have to be cut, will there be more certainty or more fear?” “Goucher students can lean into uncertainty if they feel included,” Turner responded. All attendees, however, were unsure of exactly what that process of inclusion should look like. “In some ways, we thought having a student on the committee would resolve this issue,” Bowen said. Yet in a separate interview, Turner had claimed, “I have never been invited to speak to student morale at Trustees meetings.” Typically, GSG is relied upon to represent students and communicate information back to them, but over the years it has suffered a decline in student involvement and buy-in. “Students don’t get involved in these things because they don’t see anything coming from it,” said Webster.

Current GSG leadership recognizes their past shortcomings and hopes to make significant changes in the future by calling on students to rebuild and rebrand their structure. In the meantime, student organizers continue to seek to represent students as best as they can and push forward changes: better advertising of faculty meetings, better advertising of and more opportunities for student input in the Revitalization Process, and full disclosure of Goucher’s history in relation to slavery. Many more demands — outlined in a petition which garnered 481 student signatories — still need to be addressed. As Dean of Students Brian Coker put it, “higher ed is built on process.” This process may very well determine Goucher’s future.

Public Safety Blotter

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The Quindecim is granted access to information about violations of the Goucher College Code of Conduct and Academic Honor code. The information below was obtained from The Office of Public Safety and is publicly available. This weeks blotter consists of incidents that occurred between September 5th, 2018 and September 19th, 2018.

PUBLIC SAFETY INCIDENT REPORTS

9/05/18 – 9/19/18

Alcohol/Drug

  • Student drug violation in Stimson
  • Student drug violation in Mary Fisher
  • Student drug violation in Froelicher
  • Student drug violation in Mary Fisher
  • Student drug violation in Trustee’s Hall

Fire Safety

  • Accidental fire alarm in Heubeck
  • Fire alarm malfunction in Mary Fisher
  • Fire alarm malfunction in the SRC

Injury /Medical Emergency

  • Ill/injured person in Van Meter (Ex-cleared)
  • Medical emergency on campus grounds
  • Medical emergency in P-Selz
  • Medical emergency in P-Selz
  • Medical emergency in Trustees
  • Medical emergency in Heubeck
  • Medical emergency in Athenaeum
  • Medical emergency in Heubeck

Vehicle Incident

  • Motor vehicle accident, Mary Fisher
  • Motor vehicle accident in the SRC parking lot

Damage/Vandalism

  • Vandalism in Trustees Hall
  • Vandalism in the Athenaeum

Goucher Phases Out Majors, Student Reaction Leads to Town Hall Meeting

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Credit: Flyer emailed out by OSE

This summer, Goucher announced that it would be phasing out programs that were not popular among the students, reducing the amount of academic majors from 33 to 25. The process came from a decision by Goucher College’s Board of Trustees, which warned that without a cut to costs, Goucher would face financial trouble. Goucher stresses, however, that the college has maintained its “A-“ credit rating after a “very thorough review” by the Standard and Poors this past summer.

The review process involved a team of 13 faculty members, called the Internal Review Team (IRT), who reviewed student data to come to a conclusion. Some of the data was sourced from “course evaluations” submitted in the past three years, which was then analyzed by the IRT and approved by external reviewers. The result was the discontinuation of eight courses as majors. Classes within these disciplines will still be offered.

Responses to the initiative, called “academic revitalization,” range from unsurprised to outraged. In response, a town hall meeting was assembled between President Bowen, the Board of Trustees, a few faculty members, and students. During the student input section of the meeting, senior Langston Cotman voiced his frustration.

“I think looking at data is different from student input…I have heard ‘majors you want,’ I have heard ‘voting with your feet,’ and now I’m hearing in this next process you want to actually hear our voices. I would have loved if you’d started with that.”

Acting President of Goucher Senate Samuel Anderson agrees that Goucher’s primary mistake was one of communication.

“I think that the academic revitalization process was certainly flawed in many stages of communication. This represents an underlying problem that exists here at Goucher and that students are organizing and advocating change.”

Goucher’s decision to phase out certain programs is not unique. According to the Baltimore Sun, seven Texas universities eliminated their physics programs, while the University of the District of Columbia cut 17 of their own programs, including physics, in recent years.

At the town hall meeting, theater professor Michael Curry spoke about his role in the Internal Review Team.

“Nobody on the faculty chose to do this work, we all knew what it meant, but we also knew that it was extremely important for this to happen for the college to survive.”

The immediate threat to Goucher’s survival was left unclear. All that was said in the meeting was that the Board of Trustees felt it necessary to prioritize programs to avoid raising the cost of tuition beyond inflation adjustments. The students, however, still demand that the process be more transparent.

“We need more in-the-moment relational transparency from the administration about decisions being made, as well as their vision for Goucher,” said a pamphlet handed out by student activist Zoe Gilmore. “We need a mechanism for continued transparency.”

JOSHUA GREENBERG

Goucher Assesses Academic Programs

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Goucher is currently undergoing a Program Prioritization Process. This process takes stock of programs that are currently in place and determines which programs are “healthy,” and “along the way we should discover what is working and not working within the programs,” according to Dr. Micah Webster, the faculty chair and Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science.

The goal of program prioritization is to develop an understanding of the institution and its programs in order to direct Goucher’s resources towards programs that support the institution’s goals. To clarify, “program” refers to a course of study requiring the completion of a specified number of semester credit hours from among a prescribed group of courses that leads to a formal award, ie. majors and minors (Source: MHEC).

The data collection process for the prioritization process began last semester and should be completed by mid-June, according to Dr. Webster. This process is being conducted by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, the Office of Admissions, the Office of the Provost, and the programs themselves.

A committee of faculty that includes the Curriculum and Budget & Planning Committees, as well as tenured and non-tenured faculty, and representatives from all major faculty committees, work with the Provost to make recommendations to the Board of Trustees. According to Professor Ann Duncan, the Chair of the Academic Policies Committee, though the process is intended to be faculty led, because the Board of Trustees set the process in motion, it will be they who decide if the faculty plan sufficiently addresses the college’s needs.

The “Why”
Program prioritization programs tend to begin for financial reasons. According to Robert C. Dickeson, who wrote an influential book entitled Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance, the most commonly cited reason for program prioritization is financial stress. Other reasons may include prioritization being a recurring process or part of strategic planning overall, the unacceptability of making equivalent cuts in all programs, and the governing board wanting the college to prioritize. According to Professor Duncan, while the process is intended to be conducted independently of dollar amounts, “the Board of Trustees hopes this process will save money by right sizing the faculty to fit our student body.”

When interviewed, President Jose Bowen emphasized that the process is “routine.” Goucher’s last program prioritization ended in 2014, before the start of President Bowen’s tenure at Goucher, during which the process recommended the elimination of Chinese and additions to the Psychology Department.

President Bowen cited a couple reasons for Goucher’s current program prioritization: the college is scheduled for re-accreditation, and hopes to expand in the future. In order to expand and to create new programs, the college must withdraw resources from existing programs. “You can’t keep adding. At some point, you either add, or you move things around,” said President Bowen.

By keeping tuition costs the same for one year and choosing to increase tuition by only 1.9% in 2018-19, President Bowen has committed to making Goucher more affordable. However, this means a decrease in net tuition revenue for the college, while inflation continues to increase. It also means that existing programs cannot be added to if costs are to remain the same. If student class sizes shrink, faculty must be reduced.

One possible solution to rising costs is increasing costs is changing the faculty-to-student ratio. “Costs are getting so prohibitive that there has been more openness to different size classes and different pedagogy,” said education consulting firm leader Kent John Chabotar, as cited in an article entitled “Tuition Conundrum,” published on InsideHigherEd.com. Of course, this also means reducing the numbers of faculty.

According to President Bowen, Goucher’s student-faculty ratio hasn’t changed, and the future size of the faculty will depend in part on the size of incoming classes. “If we grow [the student body] a little bit, we’ll add faculty,” said President Bowen. “If we shrink a little bit, then we’ll reduce faculty.” According to the President, the goal for Goucher in future years is to “grow slowly.”
It seems unlikely, however, that class sizes will grow. Colleges are facing financial trouble across the country, particularly small liberal arts colleges. President Bowen discussed the fact that there are fewer college students across the country than there were ten years ago, so colleges are competing for a smaller pool of students. “Right now, there are a million fewer people in college than there were in 2010,” said Bowen. “So there are fewer people going to college [and in that smaller pool] there are more people going to state institutions.”

Despite this, Goucher plans to remain a liberal arts institution. When asked what his vision was for Goucher five years down the road, Bowen said, “The truth is, that if I am really successful, if Goucher is really successful, we will remain a liberal arts college. That may sound less ambitious, but we may be the last liberal arts college. Because if you read the paper, they’re closing, they’re merging, they’re adding other kinds of things, they’re adding [vocational] programs…We want to be a liberal arts college. So what matters is how we do that. What kind of instruction do we offer? How do we keep classes nice and small?”

The “How”
The “how” is where program prioritization comes in. However, while the process is intended to ultimately benefit the college, this does not come without difficulties. The process may result in recommendations to eliminate positions or cut back current programs. Because of the instability and insecurity that this creates, faculty and staff may be concerned about the future of their programs and positions throughout this process. “Those things are painful, but they are part of the normal process,” said President Bowen.

Because the program prioritization process is faculty-run, it also involves additional work for professors. Faculty must come to an agreement about how to best measure the effectiveness of programs and then collect all the relevant data. According to Professor Ann Duncan, one challenge has been that, when this process was announced, the faculty were already hard at work on implementing the new curriculum. Much of the work on the new curriculum has been stalled until staffing numbers and program status are clear.

According to Duncan, “faculty are incredibly excited about the new curriculum and the creativity and interdisciplinarity it allows.” However, it will be a while before it is put in place across the board. For the next two years, faculty must run two different curriculums at the same time, as some students remain with the Liberal Education Requirements, while others are fullfing the new general education requirements, called Goucher Commons Requirements.
Once the program prioritization process is complete, faculty may also need to determine how to implement the new curriculum with fewer faculty. “We passed this curriculum with a certain sized faculty and with even the promise that we might be able to grow a little,” said Professor Duncan. “The reality now is that there are a lot of positions that have not been filled and we may be losing some positions.”

On a national level, one of the largest issues facing program prioritization programs is a lack of faculty buy-in. Despite this, members of Goucher’s faculty do understand the need for a response to the current challenges in higher education, and express concern for Goucher’s future. “The faculty recognize that times are tight financially, not just for Goucher but for colleges across the country,” said Professor Duncan. “At the same time, we want to ensure that any process we participate in maintains the integrity of the Goucher education.” At this stage, the effects of the process remain to be seen.

The Curriculum and Budget & Planning Committees have formed the criteria for the evaluation of programs, which are: relevance, efficiency, opportunity analysis, evidence of impact. These categories include factors like relevance, alignment with college mission, internal and external demand for program, teaching effectiveness in programs, contributions to and in support of the programs, numbers of students in the program, evidence of engagement with students, operational efficiency of the program, etc.

Goucher faculty have also asked administration to consider a voluntary separation program, which would provide financial benefits for faculty who decide to voluntarily leave the college. This program would benefit the college by generating compensation savings that can be spent in other ways, while the faculty member would benefit from both the financial benefits and the voluntary nature of the program.

Correction: Edits for clarity have been made to the fourth paragraph.

MADELINE ST. JOHN and GREER TURNER

Featured Image Credit: Projects · Ziger/Snead Architects

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