As a means of launching Five College strategic planning, on September 26, 2009, Five College Executive Director Neal Abraham asked faculty members gathered for the annual Five College meeting of department chairs to devote their plenary session to discussion of three questions (click each one to access the Chairs' responses):
- In your experience, what are some of the things that the Five College Consortium does really well?
- In your experience, what are some of the things that the Five College Consortium does that it could do better?
- Based on your experience, what are some of the things that the Five College Consortium presently doesn't do that we might do effectively?
Chairs took a few minutes to write brief responses to each question on forms included in their registration packets. Discussion followed, and the forms were collected as chairs left to attend breakout sessions. Ninety-two chairs returned the forms. The chairs’ suggestions for improvements -- and their recommendations for new cooperative initiatives -- are being incorporated into Five College’s online planning database. What follows is a brief summary.
In the forms submitted, chairs identified as successes the consortium’s support of faculty seminars, library coordination, the course Interchange, support for collaboratively organized events, joint faculty appointments, joint academic programs (many chairs listed programs by name), the Faculty Exchange, the bus system, consortial grant writing. They even lauded the value of the annual meeting of department chairs.
Perhaps not surprisingly, chairs felt many of these same areas of consortial activity need more work. Many pointed to the Course Interchange, suggesting specific improvements—easier cross-campus registration processes (perhaps even a single registration system), better presentation of courses (for example, courses could be listed online by departments and subfields), coordination of course schedules. Chairs especially insisted that successful course interchange requires restoring the alignment of campus calendars. Several chairs suggested the interchange is impeded by departmental advisement and expressed concern that interchange enrollments are not properly credited when administrations calculate departmental and faculty member workloads. Some said campuses should hold places in courses for Five College students, especially when a course is required for their majors. Some suggested courses likely to drawing large numbers of interchange students should be concentrated at particular hours of the day or centrally located. Many chairs also called for improvements in transportation to support not only the interchange, but student life, and community engagement. While applauding library coordination in general, chairs repeatedly called for expanding shared access to e-resources. Chairs said academic cooperation required more infrastructural support -- better web presentation of course information, regular meetings by departments and subfields (either actual or online) to discuss scheduling courses and leaves and to explore integrating curricula. They also recommended creating more incentives for cooperation. Some chairs expressed uneasiness about joint appointments, noting the need for greater clarity regarding procedures for appointment and review and the challenges posed by 2-way shares. Some called for a study of tenure rates -- and of post tenure outcomes for departments hosting joint appointments. Many chairs suggested the need for better communication: news of events should flow routinely among the campuses; and Five College opportunities should be better advertised. Many called for greater support of spousal partners.
Chairs had many suggestions for new work -- they had more to say in response to this question than either of the others. Chairs suggested more sharing of mid and senior level faculty members, including the creation of multi-year arrangements and facilitation of cross-campus team-teaching, which they viewed as inhibited by current procedures and incentive structures. Many chairs also called for pooling resources to support research and scholarship, including collaborative work (for example, the establishment of a Five College research institute similar to Smith’s Kahn Center, support for field research centers within the U.S. and abroad, collaborative funding of research facilities and scholarly journals, and greater coordination of exhibitions and more sharing of exhibition spaces). In a related vein, several called for the development of Five College post-baccalaureate programs and more arrangements usefully connecting faculty members at the colleges (and possibly college students) with graduate students from the University. Some also suggested the need for new collaboratively funded staff positions (for example, to coordinate international internships, teacher certification, and service learning and community-based learning placements in local communities).
While chairs clearly value institutional autonomy -- and see the diversity of the institutions that comprise the consortium as one of its strengths -- some also suggested the need to reconfigure institutional decision-making. For example, some argued that Five College possibilities should become more central to planning at each institution, in particular, that Five College programs, especially interdisciplinary programs, need a larger voice in staffing decisions currently dictated on each campus primarily by departments. Some chairs also called for changes to Five College governance, arguing that faculty voices need to be more central in Five College planning. Various means were suggested: annual meetings of Five College program directors (like the annual meeting of department chairs), direct access to the Five College Deans Council by faculty groups seeking Five College support, creation of a Five College Faculty Council.