Search Begins for new Assistant Dean of Intercultural Affairs

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

The administration is currently in the early stages of searching for an Assistant Dean for Intercultural Affairs. The position was posted on Goucher’s website on November 4, and describes the position as someone who “will provide leadership for a new office of intercultural affairs…[and] engage in outreach to –and support for- all underrepresented students.” The position is not entirely new. Previously, the college had an Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs, but that person was also responsible for the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP). Search committee co-chair and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies, LaJerne Cornish ’83, explained that the school “wanted to uncouple” that position so someone’s sole purpose would be intercultural affairs. Mary Tandia will remain the EOP Coordinator. The main goal of the new position is to have someone to reach out to students of color, international students, students of low socioeconomic status (SES), first-generation college students, and LGBTQ students. Cornish said the position would address “diversity in every form.” In addition, the college is creating a new Office of Intercultural Affairs. Cornish explained that this office will “create intercultural programming and opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue within and among the various campus constituencies.” Eventually, the office will have a staff of two or three people who will be hired with the help of the new Assistant Dean. Karen Sykes, International Student Adviser, and hopefully a staff member to specifically with LGBT students, will work under the assistant dean. Vice President and Dean of Students Bryan Coker explained that a big question is the location of where the office will be, and with the Stimson Project coming into play, that is something the college will have to consider. This office will also play a role in working with admissions, as “prospective students need to see that we do to meet the needs of a diverse student body,” Coker said. Once the assistant dean is hired, Cornish said, he or she “will be integral to developing the process” and has to assess the needs of the college. Coker, who began working at Goucher in February of 2013, said that one of the first things he noticed when he started at Goucher was the lack of efforts in diversity and inclusion. “Structurally, there was a lot we weren’t doing [as an institution in terms of diversity,]” Coker said. Many of Goucher’s peer institutions have intercultural centers on their campuses. He explained that the college needs to prepare students for the diversity that exists in the real world. Coker elaborated on the Program Prioritization Process, an administrative evaluation last spring, which looked at what Goucher could be doing better, and “one recommendation that was specific to student affairs…was [to] decouple EOP and all of the diversity support and programming.” He added that he hopes that the new office will “really engage the campus community in discussions about diversity and inclusion…[and] privilege.” This includes discussions about all kinds of diversity: race, opinion, lifestyle, religion; the list can go on. The creation of this office is a piece of the Shared Visioning initiative from Student Affairs launched last spring. The search committee, chaired by Cornish and Director of Student Engagement, Stacy Cooper Patterson, consists of two faculty and staff, and in addition to Cornish and Patterson, four students, and one alumne/i. Patterson explained that the committee was chosen as a collaboration, and she worked with members of Goucher Student Government (GSG) to find students who would be a good fit for the committee. She wants the students on the committee to be able to engage other students in the process of finding the right candidate for the job. Committee member, Yabby Faris ’17, explained, “underrepresented students lack institutional support from Goucher College [and the college] currently has no programs and support systems to specifically cater to marginalized and underrepresented students.” This is especially true for students of color. She hopes that the new office will create a safe space “that is easily accessible to all students who are underrepresented.” As the co-president of Umoja, the Black Student Union, she plans to get student input from club members. Lexi Rudolph ’16 is also on the committee. “I am looking for someone who is aware and willing to building a community around not only the different groups of ethnicities on campus, but also support for the LGBT community and for the different religious communities [and] who can create support systems for all these groups and then work to unite the entire Goucher community,” she said. Rudolph wants Goucher to be a place where differences are “acknowledged and celebrated as opposed to not really discussed at all.” She also noted that she wants to talk with other students about the search process and gain feedback from her peers. Angelo Robinson, associate professor of English, is a faculty member on the search committee. Robinson believes that this position “shows direct intent and leadership on issues of diversity.” He acknowledged that the college is evolving to promote and produce a diverse class of students. He also said that students of color have told him that they see a lack of diversity in the students and faculty, and hope to see this change. Robinson added that this position would hopefully help to attract more students, staff, and faculty from diverse backgrounds to the college. An ideal candidate, Robinson explained, will have leadership abilities, experience, sensitivity, interpersonal skills, and a commitment to diversity.

BIG changes to come to Goucher in next few years

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

On Thursday, October 23, President Bowen met with faculty and staff in a two-hour meeting, where he discussed several possible changes for the college. A week prior to the meeting, Bowen e-mailed a memo to faculty titled the Big Ideas Group (BIG) memo. There were six attachments, including the memo itself outlining the potential changes, and several pieces of data about Goucher, liberal arts colleges, and higher education.

The memo stated that Bowen had met with the Board of Trustees, where they recognized the need for change in a variety of areas of the college involving both short-term and long-term plans. In order to make changes, the memo explained that the college has to come up with a clear way to articulate its uniqueness. There has to be something that distinguishes Goucher from other small liberal arts colleges. The data presented in the attachments will be used as a jumping-off point for thinking about what the next steps are for Goucher. Bowen presented a wide range of related topics in the memo. These included the budget, facilities, recruitment, retention, curriculum, diversity, and defining Goucher’s value and identity.

During the meeting, Bowen encouraged faculty and staff to voice their concerns and ideas relating to the changes for the college. The biggest question was “where to start.” Geoffrey Miller, the Director of Athletics, said the college needs “to work on the identity crisis first,” and establish who the college is as an institution in order to attract more students.

Bowen read the college’s mission statement, and explained that while it is good, it is similar to those of other liberal arts colleges. Goucher needs to market what its talents and differences are in order to brand the school.

Ailish Hopper, the chair of the Peace Studies Department, bought up the topic of mentoring as a way the college can distinguish itself. She believes that mentorships don’t necessarily have be between professors and students, but between students & students and faculty & faculty as well. Hopper also brought up the idea of teams faculty and staff mentoring students. “We would be showing…that we, at our best moments, are that community of collaboration. I think that really is a strength at Goucher… I think naming not just mentorship, but a culture of mentorship that also includes the skill of collaboration, would be great,” she said.

Bowen and the faculty and staff discussed various possibilities for academics and curricula. One idea is getting rid of freshman grades. Bowen said, “I think we could get rid of all grades, but I’d settle for freshman grades.” He also suggested cutting the number of majors that are offered or get rid of them all together and have students design their own majors. Students would also partner with an advisor to help them select classes that would suit their interests. Bowen stressed that if the college moved towards this model, students would still be able to do tracks like pre-med, but they would just have to ensure that the requirements fit into their course of study.

The idea of self-designed majors brought up the idea of changing the academic nomenclature. Students would declare a mission rather than a major. Bowen explained this would be a “repackaging” of a major, and “a way to filter through what matters to you.” This would enable students to choose a course of study replete with classes that are of importance to them.

Maureen Winter ‘13, an instructor in the French Department, noted that she sees first-year students who are anxious when the topic of choosing a major is mentioned. She agrees with Bowen’s philosophy that “your major doesn’t necessarily matter all that much.” As a student at Goucher, she chose to study French because she felt supported by the faculty in the department. This demonstrates how choosing a major and finding a mentor or advisor can be seamless for some students.

Bowen noted that in designing one’s own major, there would be an issue of progression that could affect students who wished to study in STEM or education fields. “We could do that [progression] with thinking skills, rather than disciplinary knowledge,” he said. Other countries use a similar method to the one Bowen described.

Nina Kasniunas, assistant professor of Political Science, raised some concerns about the demographic changes the college will face in the coming years and how the new model could impact students if it is put in place. For the second year in a row, the majority of first-grade students in the United States are minorities. This kind of demographic change may have a huge impact in the way colleges need to teach. “Not doing anything isn’t an option…,” Kasniunas said, “we need to be aware of this demographic shift.”

Bowen also wants to reevaluate the Liberal Education Requirements (LERs) at Goucher. This system is still relatively new but has already become a part of Goucher’s identity as a college. This school year is the first in which every class is under the LER system. “The LERs are the classic example of the liberal arts ideal,” Bowen said. The LER is also a major topic in the discussion of changing the curriculum, as it’s unclear whether they will provide structure for first-years and sophomores or if they could become streamlined in the in the process of creating one’s own curriculum. One faculty member brought up the concern that LERs would just become a “laundry list” from which students must check things off.

Eric Singer, professor of International Relations and Interim Associate Provost for International Studies, said, “What we’re thinking about…is how to change the organizational philosophy and culture here.” He explained that all constituencies on campus need to recognize the need for change, and be “open to experimentation” in order to do so. “People have to actually be willing to rethink their characteristic way of learning in a common environment,” he added.

One of the many things about Goucher’s identity that should be taken into consideration is the identity of its students. Chaplain Cynthia Terry pointed out that identities are not singular, and that the reality is that “we’re all intersections of multiple identities.” Terry explained that if students designed their own major it might increase the possibility for them to intersect their academic, religious, and extra-curricular identities. It could “allow for the space to grow and make changes,” she said.

One of the major aspects of Goucher’s identity is its study abroad requirement. Terry pointed out that the college should articulate why it requires everyone to study abroad, and needs to explain why it makes a difference that everyone does so. Daniel Marcus, associate professor of Communications, described the requirement as “a hurdle for the college” as none of the other colleges in the country require such a commitment. “It should remain an important and vibrant program, based on great incentives rather than as a blanket requirement,” he said.

Not all parts of Goucher’s identity lie within the realm of academic requirements. Winter, who is a contingent faculty member, mentioned the union as something that is currently a part of Goucher’s identity. The union “is part of our commitment to treating each other with respect and dignity,” she said, “[and] a testament to our commitment to social justice.”

“It really matters that we’re all talking and listening,” Terry said when the meeting concluding. However, the role of students also needs a place amidst all of the possible changes. Peejo Sehr, Director of the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE), pointed out this concern. She believes it is important for students’ voices to be heard, and their concerns to be addressed and taken into account before making a decison No matter what course of action Goucher decides to take, change is inevitable. President Bowen is beginning to ask questions about how Goucher will choose to define itself as a liberal arts institution, and how it will shape the way it is defined.

President Bowen responds to contingent faculty’s union plans

Rachel  Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

On October 7th, College president José Bowen sent an email to the faculty acknowledging the contingent faculty’s decision to unionize. Bowen referred to this decision as “an important issue for our campus.”  He mentioned that he worked with non-tenure track faculty at his previous institution, Southern Methodist University, “on actions that increased participation in governance and provided greater inclusion,” and wants to accomplish that at Goucher through “direct dialogue” with the faculty.

The email contained anti-union language. For example, Bowen stated in the email, “before you take the step of trusting an outside entity to control your interests at Goucher, I’d ask you to give me a chance to talk with you…and work with you directly to make teaching here a more rewarding and better experience.” In the email, Bowen also asked the faculty to educate themselves about unionization before signing the commitment cards. He explained, “if the SEIU [the union] wins the right to bargain collectively, it will demand that Goucher agree to force all non-tenure track faculty, as a condition of employment, to become a member of the union and pay dues or pay an equivalent amount as a non-member agency fee. If that demand becomes part of the agreement with the union, you will have to pay dues or fees, or you can be discharged from the college.”

A document titled “FAQs about SEIU’s Organizing Efforts on Goucher’s Campus” was attached to the e-mail. This document, distributed by the administration at a faculty meeting before the email was sent out, contained information about unionization, authorization cards, appropriate bargaining units, unionization dues, and collective bargaining.

On October 16th, Bowen sent an email to the entire Goucher community reiterating many of the points he made in the original email sent to the faculty. 

Both the email from Bowen and the supplementary document can be found on Goucher’s website.

Goucher students respond to unionization plans

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

During the last two weeks, students across campus have written and signed a petition to show support for the contingent faculty who are unionizing. Samuel Kessler ’16, a member of the Radical Leftist Club spearheaded the petition. Zachary Hill ’16 finalized it on the week of October 13th along with other members of the Radical Leftist Club, and a professor who is on the organizing committee. Kessler explained, “we felt a need to really clearly declare that unionization is in line with Goucher’s principles.”

Since then, there has been both online and paper versions for students to sign. Radical Leftist Club members have been out on Van Meter with hard copies both this week and last reaching out to students and gaining support. As of Tuesday, October 21 the online petition had between 300-400 signatures.

The petition acknowledges that “a union is a worthy avenue to ensure that Goucher’s non-tenure track professors have an equitable voice within the structure of their employment,” and requests for “the Goucher College Administration to remain neutral during the process towards the unionization of Goucher’s non-tenure track faculty.”

Through the petition, Madeleine Scott ’16, explained, students are “showing that we’re there for [the faculty]…and showing the administration that we care about this.” Hill added, that among the petition’s many purposes, one is “to include information about the unionization of the faculty,” so that the entire student body knows this is happening. Unionizing enables the non-tenure track faculty to have a fair discussion without the pressure from the administration.

An online version of the petition can be found and signed at change.org.

There has been talk of student representatives from the Radical Leftist Club, along with a union organizer, hand-delivering the petition to President Bowen by Thursday, October 23.

Provost Marc Roy announces resignation

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, October 17, Provost Marc Roy sent an email to the faculty announcing his resignation as of June 30, 2015. Roy began working at Goucher in the summer of 2007 and “has seen many positive changes,” as well as challenges, since coming to Goucher, according to the email. The email said that he plans to either go back to teaching,  or look for a position elsewhere.

A few hours after Roy’s email was sent out, college president José Bowen sent an email to the faculty thanking Marc Roy for his eight years of dedication to the college. Bowen also announced that he is in the process of structuring a search committee to find the next provost. The committee will consist of one vice president, four faculty members, two trustees, two staff members, one student, and one alumnae/i. His email said that he hopes to launch the search as soon as possible.

Goucher contingent faculty announces plan to unionize

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

The contingent faculty at the college plans to unionize in order to be treated more fairly by the school. Contingent faculty includes faculty that is part or half time, adjunct and non-tenure track, and comprises over sixty percent of the teaching positions at the college. They receive extremely low pay compared to their tenured peers and cannot participate in major decisions made by the faculty. A lack of these rights is not uncommon for contingent faculty at other institutions of higher education.

These faculty members have partnered with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the second largest union in the country, in order to unionize. Non-tenure track faculty at other institutions including the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), American University, and Georgetown, have successfully unionized with SEIU.

Rollie Hudson, an adjunct lecturer in the Communications Department and the Digital Arts graduate program, explained that he is fortunate enough to work other jobs in addition to his teaching at Goucher. However, some contingent faculty live solely from what they earn here.

Fifteen faculty members have already publicly supported the decision to unionize and have signed their names in an email to the entire faculty on October 2. The email stated: “our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.” It also explained that these faculty members believe collective bargaining to be “the most just and fair way to address these concerns, including but not limited to compensation, faculty governance, voting rights, job security, benefits, advancement, and transparency.” Collective bargaining will also strengthen the faculty’s commitment to each other and to social justice. In this email, the faculty also recognized the fiscal pressures and challenges in higher education and at Goucher.

Jeffrey Dowd, visiting assistant professor of sociology, and one of the fifteen faculty members to publicly support this decision, explained, “there is an enormous power imbalance dealing with an administration when you’re contingent,” which is why it is important to unionize. Dowd also noted that there are many larger social forces that play into this, and from a sociological and social justice perspective, workers can best confront problems by working together. Additionally, he explained that unions are “primarily controlled by people in the working and middle classes,” and that unionization is a response to the “hollowing out of the middle class” in higher education. Maureen Winter ‘13, who teaches French, thinks that this is “good for the Goucher community to change the relationship between the contingent faculty and the administration.” Laura Orem, a non-tenure track faculty in the writing program, said by collective bargaining, Goucher is “living up to its ideals and commitments of social justice and democracy starting right at home.” Charlee Sterling, who also teaches in the writing program, said that though Goucher treats its non-tenure track faculty well, the school could always improve.

The administration has been aware of the contingent faculty’s choice to unionize for about two or three weeks. Provost Marc Roy sent out an official statement to all faculty on Monday, September 29. That Thursday, October 2, some faculty members met with President José Bowen and Roy. “The college cannot tell faculty that they may or may not [unionize], that would be illegal,” Roy explained. The administration is not involved in the formation of the union. While the administration has the power, the goal of unionizing is not to overpower the administration, but rather to level the power.

In order to form the union, the contingent faculty members must first sign union authorization cards. The card says that “the worker who signs it wants to have a democratic secret ballot election held in their workplace to decide whether or not the workers there will form a union,” a union organizer explained in an email. There must be thirty percent interest from the contingent faculty in order for the cards to be filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Currently, this is the step in the process the faculty is at. The next step is to schedule and hold the election, and if fifty percent of the voters say yes to a union, the union will be legally recognized by the NLRB. Then a bargaining team is selected amongst the workers so that they can bargain their first contract. Once this happens, if an agreement is made between the college and the union, it is voted on and ratified to become part of the contract under which all members of the union are covered. If an agreement is not reached, the union continues to bargain.

When Hudson and three organizers from SEIU met with students at the Radical Leftist club meeting on Thursday, October 2, they encouraged students to take action. This issue directly affects students, as students’ education is dependent on whether or not these contingent faculty can stay at Goucher. Currently, students involved in the Radical Leftist club are working on a petition to gain student support for the unionization.

Umoja spreads awareness about microagressions

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

During the week of September 22, Umoja, Goucher’s black student union, held an inaugural campaign to raise awareness about racial microaggressions. Racial microaggressions are “brief and everyday slight insults, indignities, and denigrating messages sent to people of color.”

Umoja members tabled on Van Meter throughout the week. Students of color had the opportunity to write down microaggressions that had been directed to them on a chalkboard, and have their photo taken along with it. The idea for the campaign stemmed from a similar campaign at Harvard, where a Tumblr account was made showing students of color displaying signs with microaggressions written on them.

Though race has been a prominent topic of dialogue on campus, microaggressions have rarely come up within the conversation, if they have at all.

The microaggressions said at Goucher are a “combination of ignorance and people being rude,” Jordan Leonard ’18, an Umoja member said. Leonard added, “One of the hardest parts of discussing these things is opening the dialogue in a way that everyone feels comfortable.” He hopes the anti-microaggression campaign will serve as a starting point for future dialogue. Yabsera Faris ’17, a co-President of Umoja, explained that doing the anti-microaggression campaign during the first half of the semester “causes the conversation to continue.”

These microaggressions are present in many settings on campus, including classrooms. Robert Fletcher ’16, co-President of Umoja, said, “It’s awkward because you’re in the classroom, you can’t really address it at the moment.” The Umoja executive board explained that when students came up to the table, it was sometimes hard for them to pinpoint a specific microaggression. Once people thought of one, it was easy to come up with others that they had heard. Fletcher also added that students of color were excited to have the opportunity to “express the microaggressions that they’ve experienced [and] didn’t realize they [microaggressions] had a title.”

While only people of color experience microaggressions, one of the goals of the campaign was to educate all students on their impact. Goucher’s campus, often viewed as liberal, “is not exempt from racism” remarked Kylie Grove-Peattie ’15, who serves on the Umoja executive board. Nyasha Moony-McCoy ’16, Umoja’s treasurer, explained, “The Goucher bubble is very real [and] as a campus we feel we are above racism, ” though in reality the campus is not. It is “important to recognize that we [white people] won’t ever know what it’s like to be a person of color,” Grove-Peattie added. White activists have been known for doing a lot of talking about this issue, but perhaps what they really need to do is listen.

Umoja will be hosting a follow-up discussion about microaggressions on Tuesday, October 13 at 6pm in Buchner in the Alumni House. Umoja’s meetings are every Tuesday at 9pm in Pinkard.

They have a Facebook page, UmojaBSUGoucher, Instagram at UmojaGoucher, and Twitter @UmojaGoucherBSU.

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