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The Weekly Blab 1.2

The Weekly Blab

Vol. 1, Number 2—August 24, 2006

Dear Colleagues,

Here we go with the second issue of the Weekly Blab.  I appreciate all the kind comments I received about the first issue.  All comments received were positive, though one person said I should only do this once a month!  As tempting as it might be for me to follow that advice, I think I’ll keep it weekly for now to make sure everyone “stays in the loop”.


Just to remind you:  your input is invited on all items discussed here, or anywhere for that matter.  When you feel that a decision couldn’t have stunk more, you have an obligation to let us know, so that we can reconsider and hopefully come up with a better solution.




ITEM:  Let’s talk about the enrollment.  At the moment, things look very good.  The count is currently above 4300.  The all time high at SPSU was 4026, way back in 1989.  Obviously, some of these students will be dropped for non-payment, and we don’t know how many that will be yet.  Still, things obviously look very good.  Assuming the numbers hold, we should have more money in the Academic Affairs budget as a result.  Part of this money will go to pay the additional part-timers we have had to hire due to the increased numbers.  Money left over (assuming there is any) will go toward equity adjustments, better funding of departments, and so on.  I’ll keep you informed.


This does impact our thinking for next term.  Assuming the numbers hold well, we will need to increase the number of sections we’ll be offering in the Spring, because our enrollment will obviously be up then, too.  So—it isn’t too early to start thinking about identifying part-timers for those additional sections.


When the numbers settle down and we see exactly where we are, we can start thinking about full-time hires for next year.  It’s always great to be in a growth mode, and if we plan intelligently, we can find ourselves with a much better picture next year.




ITEM:  Lab Fees.  I just met with the ECET department to discuss the recently implemented lab fees (which were discussed for a loooong time last year).  A number of issues came up which I think are of general interest, so I’ll talk about them here.  Just to remind folks, some departments are charging lab fees of $40 in particular courses.  Not all labs are charging this fee—just some specific ones.  In Architecture, there is a studio fee of $75 in the design studios (it is larger because the standard lab is 2 ½ - 3 hours, while the Architecture studio is between 9 and 11 hours.)  The lab fee is capped, meaning that no student will have to pay more than $80 in a semester, regardless of how many labs they are taking.  Of course if they are taking 0 or 1 lab, they would only pay $0 or $40.


Anyway, some concern was expressed as to where the money will actually go.  What we’ll do is calculate how much money has been collected, and divide by the number of student-lab sections being taken.  This will give a $ amount per student-lab.  Multiplying by the number of students in the lab will give the amount of $ the department will receive for that course (obviously, we’ll adjust for the different amount charged in Architecture).  We have to do it this way because the fee is capped—if a student is taking 3 labs, they would only be paying for 2.  This money will go directly to the departments, probably in week 3 of the term, for them to spend.  How the department spends its lab fee money is up to them, so long as it is used for the direct improvement of the labs—which was the whole point of charging it in the first place.


One faculty member asked if next year, we might just charge a particular amount for any particular lab (without capping a maximum), and just have the money go directly to that course.  We might do it that way, but since we’re just starting this, we thought it was a better idea to have a relatively small number of lab fees and have a cap, until our students get used to the idea of having lab fees.


Another question that came up was “could any unspent lab fee money be rolled into next year?”  The answer is yes—we’ve figured out a way to do that too, so you don’t have to worry about losing it.  This doesn’t affect the usual $395,000 of equipment money, which we’ll allocate in the usual way a little later in the year.




ITEM:  Follow-up fromKick-off week.  A few folks have mentioned that while the kick-off week sessions were good, would there be any follow up?  The answer is yes—we intend to have additional sessions on technology in the classroom, additional sessions on various aspects of advising, and additional sessions for new faculty orientation (“old” faculty will be welcome to attend those, too).  Stay tuned for details.



ITEM:  Follow-up from the Deans/Chairs discussion on Best Practices on Faculty Evaluation.  I asked Alan Gabrielli (who facilitated this session) to give me what he thought were the main points that came up in the discussion we had last week on Faculty Evaluation.  Here’s what he wrote (edited slightly for reading flow):

  • Zvi commented on best practices:
    • Using a standard of “preponderance of positive evidence”, as opposed to looking for negatives
    • That accomplishments should be described and commented on, not just listed


  • A panel discussion was held, focusing on the following:
    • Much time was spent discussing the merits of variable weighting for expectation areas on annual evaluations.  The consensus was that we should implement this.  If a single action item came out of the workshop, it was this.
    • An issue of wide concern was “what correlation the annual evaluations should have on P&T reviews”, i.e., what is the relationship between satisfactory performance and noteworthy performance?
    • Much discussion, but no consensus, on the problem of evaluating teaching performance based on little but SIR evidence.
    • Talked about the value of faculty annual plans


The agenda item on Case Studies was omitted, so more time could be spent on panel discussion.


Thanks Alan, and if folks want to hear more about this, or weigh in on the subject, please let me know.  If any other attendees want to share their perspectives on this meeting, I’ll include them here next week.



ITEM:  T1, T2, T3 Status.  The issue of faculty workload, and of possibly changing the current policy on T1, T2, and T3 status is something that has come up lots of times in the past several months.  At the last ALC meeting (June 29—minutes available at http://fac-web.spsu.edu/aa /minutes.html) we discussed a possible model for change.  The chairs asked me to write a draft policy for their review.  I’ve done this, and will be distributing it for the next ALC meeting (which is next Wednesday at 2).  As it turns out, Mark Nunes (the new chair of English, TCOM and Media Arts) has drafted an alternative proposal, which I will distribute as well.  We’ll discuss these at the meeting, and if any consensus is reached, will send a proposal on to the Senate for consideration by the full faculty.  I guess the most important thing to say here is that no decision has been made, or will be made without full faculty participation.  Yes, ALC meetings are open meetings, so folks are welcome to attend.



ITEM:  Master Planning.  The first big Master Planning meeting was held last Monday.  Your Deans, Joel Fowler (as Faculty Moderator), Becky Rutherfoord (as SACS Visit Chair) and a batch of administrators were there.  The main topic was the basic layout for how the master planning process would proceed.  Participants were asked about what they thought might be issues that needed to be addressed by the process.  Among them were whether more student housing will be needed and when (as we grow) and the future status of some of the older buildings on campus (such as buildings D, E, G, K, etc.)—should these buildings be rehabbed and used for other purposes or have they passed any useful lifetime and be torn down.  This will obviously be the topic of much discussion.   


Also as part of the master planning process, we’re trying to project what our enrollments will be in 1, 2, 3, 5, 10 years, based on various possible scenarios (such as:  no major changes; with engineering added; with a big move toward comprehensive; etc.)  More about this as we move forward.


OK—I’ve hit my 3 page limit.  Let me know your thoughts.  Also, let me know if there’s any topic you’d like me to address, and I’ll try to do it.