January term: administration addresses faculty questions

On Oct. 9, the Strategic Long Range Plan II (SLRP II) was approved “in principle” by the full Board of Trustees, making way for the plan’s final approval pending faculty endorsement.

Assistant to the President for Planning and Management Jeff Favolise said, “The Board of Trustee’s approval means if the faculty and president approve SLRP II without material changes, the board’s final approval can be assumed by conference call later this fall or at the next regular meeting.”

SLRP II follows the original SLRP, except the new plan places greater focus on outcomes of the Guilford educational experience.

One of the most essential components of the plan calls for implementation of a January term (J-term), which would begin its pilot as early as 2013.

The J-term would offer students and faculty a chance to engage in a range of intensive and often self-designed activities for academic credit including internships, seminars, community and service learning, short study away, and independent studies.

Vice President for Enrollment Services Randy Doss stated that the J-term would give students an added reason for choosing to come to Guilford.

“I believe it would help enrollment,” Doss said. “More to the point, I believe it would help retention, as students would have the chance to study abroad, participate in internships, and service that some find difficult now because of scheduling.”

Though the administration has said the J-term is optional, there is concern about its potential to increase the amount of work that is placed on faculty.

Nancy Daukas, associate professor of philosophy, said, “The January term needs to be done in a way that adds opportunity without stressing the budget, drawing funding or increasing faculty workload.”

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Eric Mortensen worries about the long-term effects of the J-term.

“We are told, as faculty, that we are not required to teach during the J-term, but I wonder about how this will play out several years down the road,” said Mortensen. “For example, we now are currently required to offer summer semester courses in our department, which illustrates the loss of curricular control that manifests with such programs.”

Bob Williams, professor of economics and chair of the budget committee, told The Guilfordian that he was excited about the J-term’s possibilities of giving a fresh option for students, but he’s worried about the financial implications of the plan.

“I am concerned about the J-term’s impact on the operating budget, as well as the operating budget’s impact on the J-term,” said Williams. “There is no way the plan won’t draw from the budget.”

Williams said the stress the J-term would put on the budget and the limits the budget would place on the J-term would make the plan fail, unless it was endowed.

Daukas, Mortensen, and Williams all agree that emphasis should be placed on fiscal responsibility to the current faculty and institution before taking a gamble with a pilot program that would draw from the operating budget.

Favolise said he is aware of these concerns and that the SLRP II Committee knows that the plan’s details have to be ironed out.

“The SLRP II Committee seeks approval of concepts with further refinements, and details will be worked out later on with wide participation and approved consistent with College handbooks and by-laws,” said Favolise.

Favolise said that the plan can only help Guilford students reach their highest academic potential and that he is excited for the potential faculty endorsement.

“The plan supports students’ holistic development, encourages them to find and pursue their passion, empowers them for positive action, and strengthens Guilford as it commits to furthering students’ broadest intellectual and deepest ethical potential,” said Favolise. “I hope we do not lose sight of this”

Discussions regarding the details of the J-term will continue at the Nov. 10 faculty meeting.

“The SLRP II Committee has asked the community to review the plan this fall, with the aim of having the plan formally approved before February 2011,” said Favolise.