MLL Task Force Summarizes Concerns over Fall Teaching

Below is the report of the Task Force on Teaching assembled in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department, which to our knowledge is the largest and most thorough effort to gauge faculty perspectives on plans for the fall semester, identify concerns, and propose solutions for consideration.  The emails below, posted with permission, include details of the process that generated the report.


Dear friends,

      Recently, the faculty of Modern Languages & Literatures asked me to form a Task Force on Teaching. Their reason was that a Task Force could serve as a forum for the members of the department.  Rather than the many individual emails we chairs receive concerning the future–many of which we cannot answer–they thought that an Ad Hoc Committee could be more effective in transmitting to me collectively their concerns and ideas. I’m sure you are well familiar with the excellent teachers in MLL. There have been so many Sujack Teaching and Research Prize winners and nominees, I couldn’t list them because I would leave someone out.

     Therefore, on the basis of their dedication to teaching, I agreed to form the Task Force and asked for two part-time instructors, two NTTs, and two tenured faculty to serve on the committee, which was chaired by Dr. Cristina Lombardi-Diop. After two meetings in June, they developed a survey to be distributed among the faculty and staff of MLL. Then they synthesized the response in the document that is attached to this email.

As is my custom as chair, I trusted my colleagues to work not only collaboratively but independently. After I constituted the committee, I played no part in the drafting of the report other than to respond to the survey as prima inter pares.

     As you will see in their note to me below, they asked me to forward it to the parties listed above. I deleted Tom Regan but included our new Dean, Dr. Peter Schraeder, as well as Associate Provost, Dr. JoBeth Williams, and obviously, our provost, Dr. Norberto Grzywacz.
     It would be very gratifying to my colleagues, who spent the better part of a month on the committee’s work, to receive your response to their report. I am certain that many of the issues they raise have a resolution or have already been addressed by you. I’m also certain that they represent the concerns of faculty members in other departments.
     Kindly realize that we are appreciative of the immense effort that all of our administration has put into the preparations for the fall. This is in no way a criticism of those efforts. Rather, it should be seen as an Addendum.
     Below is the Chair of the Task Force‘s letter to me which accompanied their report.
    Susana Cavallo
———–
Dear Susana,
     Attached is our report, the result of our collective work. Over half of the faculty responded to the survey. The statements in the report reflect their questions and concerns.
    It is our will for this report to reach the higher administrators: Tom Kelly (The Office of the President), John Frendreis (The Office of the Provost), David Slavsky (The Office of Institutional Effectiveness), Tom Regan (The CAS Dean’s Office), and Benjamin Johnson (Loyola AAUP Chapter).
    Thank you Susana for your continuing support of the MLL faculty.
    Best regards
    The Task Force on Teaching
Cristina Lombardi-Diop (Chair) (Italian)
David Beltran (Spanish)
Beth Maldonado (Spanish)
Jack Hutchens (Polish)
David Posner (French)
Alrick Knight (Spanish)

 

TaskForceReport 6-29-Final

Faculty Member Analyzes LUC’s Reopening Plans

Finding that they were fielding many questions about Loyola’s plans for face to face instruction in the fall, a senior faculty member developed this analysis of how the administration’s plans seem likely to work in practice, and the pressures that the stated goals of holding 80% of predominantly first-year classes and 60% of other classes will create for department chairs and deans.  (text, originally an email, has been slightly edited for clarity).


Thank you for following up with Faculty Council on this. I agree that the policy represents a potential change only for “those people who are not physically at high risk (or live with someone high risk) but rather wish to request remote teaching because they simply do not feel safe.” However:

  1. One statement reads: “All requests for online teaching will be considered, but faculty who are not in a high risk group, or do not live with someone in a high risk group, should be prepared to teach on campus this fall if that is what is required by the University.” In other words, those faculty will not automatically be required to teach on campus, but they will be asked to do so if the University sees the need.
  2. The school’s memo contextualizes the new request process by stating that the University must be responsive to student preferences, and that, therefore: “It is our goal to have roughly 4/5 of our seats in courses commonly taken by first year students on campus, and 3/5 of our seats in upper level courses on campus.” For higher-level classes, the target is 3/5.
  3. So although the decision on whether non-risk faculty can teach online is nominally being left to “the individual unit heads,” the memo is not really saying that deans and chairs can be as generous as they please. At some point a unit may be told “Only 68% of your freshman courses are being taught in the classroom, and we need you to bring that up to 80%.” The dean or chair will have some discretion in deciding how to achieve that goal–i.e., in deciding which reluctant faculty to force into the classroom–and perhaps some negotiation will be allowed (“Will you cut us a break and set the bar at 75%?”). However, I think it’s clear that what the memo as a whole is saying is that some faculty who wish to teach online may not be allowed to do so because their unit is not meeting the provost’s targets.

 

Also consider this: modes of delivery for every course at Loyola have already been determined through communication between the faculty and their chairs or deans. That information has already been posted on LOCUS, giving it the appearance of finality. But the same key paragraph in the provost’s memo refers to faculty “tentatively assigned to teach online this fall.” So the assignments in LOCUS are now deemed “tentative,” and a process has been established by which some of those assignments will be confirmed as untouchable (because the faculty member qualifies as at risk) while others will be flagged as changeable. In the same memo, the need to “provide our students with the educational experience they desire” is being adduced as the reason why certain targets for on-campus instruction have been set. The connection between these two points–the targets, the tentativeness–is being made delicately, but I don’t find it unclear. The University is claiming the right–which they will exercise through the unit heads–to overrule faculty preferences. That right will come into play in cases where a unit is not providing students enough seats in the classroom.

I hope this clarifies my interpretation of the memo. I would like to learn from Faculty Council that I am wrong, but I don’t think I am.

 

Civil Rights and the AAUP

Dear Colleagues:

 

AAUP Loyola joins the national AAUP in its celebration of two recent Supreme Court decisions announced last week.  The first, Bostock, clarifies that the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Acts does protect gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination; the second halts the Trump administration’s abrupt ending of the DACA program.  (Please see the message below from the national AAUP).  The current phase of the struggle for racial justice, focused on the outrageous and pervasive police violence against African Americans and other people of color, is a reminder of the importance of a just and equitable legal system that protects the rights of all.  We are proud that the AAUP filed amicus briefs in both cases, in defense of “diversity, tolerance, and openness on university campuses.”

These ongoing issues are of pressing importance to all of us as faculty members and to Loyola as an institution that showcases its commitment to social justice.  We appreciate the advocacy on behalf of the DACA recipients (dreamers) that Loyola as an institution has shown for years, and the eloquent statement made by President Rooney shortly after the announcement of the Supreme Court decision.  We wish that a similar statement had been issued about the Bostock decision, all the more so since Loyola is an institution that might well be able to take advantage of the exemptions for religious institutions  written into the decision. Indeed, Loyola’s attorneys have previously argued for such exemptions in other contexts, including in unsuccessful efforts a number of years ago to argue that the application of the National Labor Relations Act to lecturers and adjuncts violate Loyola’s religious freedom — a position that Trump’s National Labor Relations Board has just upheld.

Similarly, we welcome the numerous initiatives that Loyola has unrolled in response to the unprecedented Black Lives Matter mobilizations across the country.  But we are disappointed that Loyola’s administration has not announced an evaluation of our own campus security officers and Loyola’s relationship with the Chicago Police Department, matters to which the Black Graduate Student Alliance and other campus groups have called attention.

Progress on these three issues — institutional racism, LGBTQ rights, and protecting the undocumented — has been made possible by grassroots activism.  We encourage our colleagues to write with their concerns and requests about these issues to President Rooney and to their representatives on the Faculty Council.  And if the AAUP strikes you as an effective advocate for inclusive and just practices at universities, please consider joining.

 

Sincerely,

 

AAUP Loyola Officers

 

Benjamin Johnson, History

Ian Cornelius, English

Devorah Schoenfeld, Theology

Rhys Williams, Sociology

Sherrie Weller, English

Elizabeth Coffman, Communication

David Ingram, Philosophy

Abby Annala, Library

Reuben Keller, IES

John Pincince, History

Alec Stubbs, Philosophy

Paige Warren, English

 

Dear AAUP Member,

We want to highlight two significant and startlingly positive Supreme Court decisions that came out this week with important implications for many faculty and students—and for higher education in general. In both cases the AAUP joined an amicus brief for the prevailing side.

In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, et al., the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender workers due to its prohibition of discrimination based on sex. The ruling allows employees discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or transgender status to sue. While questions remain about the rights of religious employers and practical details such as bathrooms and locker rooms, the court emphatically states that “employers are prohibited from firing employees on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status.” Read a summary of the decision and amicus brief.

In Department of Homeland Security et al. v. Regents of the University of California et al., the Supreme Court blocked the current administration’s attempts to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The DACA program allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to remain in the country legally and expands access to higher education by providing eligibility for in-state tuition and state-funded grants and loans to participants. However, the ruling leaves open the possibility that this administration may try again to eliminate DACA. As the court states, “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.” Read a summary of the decision and amicus brief.

The AAUP applauds these rulings and believes they provide critical support for members of the AAUP community and the students it serves. We emphatically support protections against discrimination, and our legal work reflects our commitment to promoting diversity, tolerance, and openness on university campuses.

The AAUP

Twitter AAUP Website Facebook 

 

 

 

 

Shared Governance in a Time of Crisis

May 12, 2020

Dr. Jo Ann Rooney

Dr. Norberto Grzywacz

Mr. Tom Kelly

Dear President Rooney, Vice-President Kelly, and Provost Grzywacz:

Thank you for your recent communications to the faculty about Loyola’s response to the Covid epidemic and the economic circumstances that it has created. We are gratified to learn of the option to extend probationary periods for tenure track faculty, and that financial austerity is beginning with pay cuts for the university’s most highly compensated administrators.

This is surely an early chapter in what will be a long and difficult story for all of us. So we, the officers of AAUP Loyola, write this letter to urge you to adhere to the standards of shared governance that are widely practiced in academe, articulated in policy documents generated by such organizations as the American Association of University Professors and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and embodied in many provisions of Loyola’s faculty handbook. The ongoing challenges posed by the Covid epidemic only heighten the importance of adhering to these standards.

Our concern was raised by a decision to change admissions standards for M.A. programs made by the “Management Policy Command structure” and announced to Graduate Program Directors (apparently with no previous discussion, according to the complaints that we received) in an April 30th email from the Director of Graduate and Professional Enrollment Management. Perhaps the changes announced are necessary or even wise, but matters such as admissions requirements fall squarely in the realm of faculty oversight and ought not be promulgated outside of structures and practices of shared governance. The “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities,” jointly formulated by the AAUP, The American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, outlines principles of joint or shared governance in which the faculty exercises “primary responsibility “ for decision-making on academic matters, including “curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction.” It also stipulates that “[w]ith regards to student admissions, the faculty should have a meaningful role in establishing institutional policies, including the setting of standards for admission.”

We hope that this decision does not become the model for making the hard choices that the university will confront over the coming weeks and months. A May 5th email message from Athletics Director Steve Watson indicates that “oversight of the University’s operations now falls in under the Management, Policy, Command (MPC group), which is led by Tom Kelly and consists of other University leaders. All University functions flow up through ‘Sections’ that are tasked with planning for current and future operations.” We are concerned that the new MPC structure is replacing normal processes of university governance and policy-making, as described in the faculty handbook, involving a Faculty Council, University Senate, and a structure of departments, schools, and deans.

The pattern of making important academic decisions outside the bounds of shared governance bodies predates this crisis and thus amplifies our concerns. The decision to offer retirement incentives for tenured faculty in the VTIP program this past fall, for example, had enormous implications for the undergraduate curriculum and for the viability of graduate programs. Yet department chairs, graduate program directors, and even deans had no role in formulating the program or ensuring that its impact on the university’s core academic mission could be gauged beforehand. Cuts made to international programming and English language instruction over the past several years were similarly made without any meaningful participation or evaluation of faculty involved in such programs. Such participation might have ensured that any retrenchments in this area would not have actually cost the university more money than they saved, as seems to be the case. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, engaging faculty—both individually and through their networks—will remain crucial to the continued success and viability of instructional, research, programmatic and student concerns at LUC.

Crises underscore, rather than weaken, the importance of shared governance. Painful decisions such as cutting academic programs, or furloughing or laying off faculty and staff, are not just fiscal decisions to be made by budget officers. They are also academic decisions, and their full impact on our core educational mission can be evaluated beforehand only with substantial faculty participation in policy-making. Shared governance concerns are not about reaching 100% consensus. Neither are they intended to slow down the decision-making process unreasonably. Involving faculty in difficult decisions leads to more widely supported outcomes, and may, in fact, identify a variety of creative solutions. As the AAUP statement “On Institutional Problems Resulting from Financial Exigency” states:

There should be early, careful, and meaningful faculty involvement in decisions relating to the reduction of instructional and research programs. The financial conditions that bear on such decisions should not be allowed to obscure the fact that instruction and research constitute the essential reasons for the existence of the university. Given a decision to reduce the overall academic program, it should then become the responsibility of the faculty to determine where within the program reductions should be made.

We ask the administration to inform faculty of their role within the new “Management, Policy, and Command” group and to explain the relationship between this new structure and the regularly constituted university bodies and lines of authority.

Crises are moments of truth for individuals, institutions, and entire societies. They can bring people together or pit them against one another. The mechanisms of shared governance provide a means by which we might all work together to steer Loyola University Chicago through this difficult time.

 

Sincerely,

 

Benjamin Johnson, History

Ian Cornelius, English

Devorah Schoenfeld, Theology

Rhys Williams, Sociology

Sherrie Weller, English

Elizabeth Coffman, Communication

David Ingram, Philosophy

Abby Annala, Library

Reuben Keller, IES

John Pincince, History

Alec Stubbs, Philosophy

Paige Warren, English

 

Federal Appeals Court Blocks Duquesne Union

Given last week’s other clear signs of how fragile our democracy is, it might have been easy to miss this incredibly discouraging ruling from a federal appeals court, with potentially enormous implications for Catholic and other religiously affiliated institutions like universities and hospitals. Duquesne has succeeded in denying its adjuncts the right to unionize, under the claim of a religious exemption to the National Labor Relations Act. Worse yet, the university was supported by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Loyola has in past filings with the National Labor Relations Board claimed such an exemption, which if upheld would allow them to decertify the SEIU union that represents lecturers and adjuncts. And if employers like Loyola can claim exemption from labor law under the guise of “religious freedom,” can they also be free from anti-discrimination or workplace safety statutes? Given the Republican stronghold on judicial appointments, even if they start losing elections this is one of the ways they will perpetuate economic inequality, in this case joined by the self-professed advocates of “social justice.”

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/01/29/federal-appeals-court-blocks-adjunct-union-duquesne