Task Force on Faculty Resources

Chair, Members, Advisory, Liaison

Carol Rifelj, Chair
Eric Davis
Jason Arndt
Kathy Morse
Eric Nelson
Mike Olinick
Chris Watters
Bob Huth
Andy Wentink
Alison Byerly, member and liaison
Franci Farnsworth, advisory on grants
Shel Sax, advisory on technology

Charge to Task Force

  1. Identify ways to better ensure that faculty time and energies are focused on the primary teaching and scholarship missions of the faculty
  2. Consider ways in which a reduction in the student-faculty ratio could increase faculty time for teaching, mentoring of students, and scholarship and artistic production; give careful assessment of costs and tradeoffs
  3. Reassess structure of the leave program to ensure that it best meets our goals for faculty research and development
  4. Identify needs in the area of support for faculty development and faculty scholarship and artistic performance
  5. Consider ways in which the College can continue to take advantage of emerging technologies in teaching while balancing that use with the human dimension of our teaching
  6. Consult, as appropriate, with the Task Force on the Curriculum in the Liberal Arts

Executive Summary
May 2005

Note: Each Task Force Report is a collection of background information, analyses, and recommendations that are submitted to the Planning Steering Committee and the President. Over the summer, the Steering Committee and the President will review and discuss all 15 sets of recommendations together in the context of the College's available resources.

Our overarching goal was to find ways to better ensure that faculty time and energies are focused on the primary teaching and scholarship missions of the faculty. We concentrated on four areas of our charge: the student-faculty ratio and teaching resources, leave policies, ways to save faculty time and faculty development funding. Our highest priority is the first. Responses to the faculty survey indicate that our colleagues support these recommendations.

1. Student-faculty ratio and teaching loads

Middlebury's current Faculty:Student Ratio is too high to effectively promote those qualities that characterize the very finest of liberal arts colleges: intensive teacher-learner interactions, student independent work and senior theses, and scholarly faculty research. We recommend increasing size of the faculty over next 7 years, improving the student faculty ratio from 11:1 to 8.7: 1.

How should we use these use resources?
1. By the end of the period, we should reduce the teaching load to a 2-2 load (plus WT).
2. Reduce class size. There is currently a disparity in departments' FTE/ student of 3:1. We should reduce the spread from 3:1 to 2:1. This will address enrollment pressures in certain departments.
3. Rather than expanding curricular offerings, we should build in redundancies, which will lead to greater flexibility within departments and programs.

Implementation: The Educational Affairs Committee will decide how to distribute these resources and what changes may be necessary to make in our teaching load guidelines.

Possible barriers to success: Faculty members may have high expectations that cannot be met: not all individual teaching loads will decrease significantly; not all department requests for staffing increases will be granted.
2. Leaves and grants

The College recognizes the need to have faculty who are active scholars and artists in order to bring their expertise into the classroom for general undergraduate education, mentor the next generation of research scholars and artists, and increase the College's academic prestige. In order to maintain active scholarship programs, faculty members increasingly experience the need and desire for greater flexibility to pursue opportunities to devote themselves to research over a sustained period of time. We recommend three changes. None should have an impact on the College's budget.

1. Greater flexibility in the leave calendar: currently faculty members are eligible for a yearlong leave after 5 years; they would have the option to split it into two semester-long leaves in the same six-year period.
2. Flexibility to pursue exceptional scholarly opportunities that fall outside of the regular leave schedule.
3. Permission to take grant-funded course releases.

Possible barriers to success: Flexibility for individual faculty members may place additional burdens on other faculty members to chair programs and departments, serve on committees, and advise students. It may also have costs in reduced curricular offerings. These consequences could produce resentment and strains between faculty members and within departments. However, the response to a question on the faculty survey indicates that a large majority of faculty members are willing to accept these tradeoffs.
3. Ways to save faculty time

New technologies make more things possible in the classroom. However, that ever-increasing range of possibilities, combined with the fast pace of technological change, can seem overwhelming. As research expectations have risen, the faculty also faces increased demands on their time for grant-related tasks and research support. As a result, both faculty and staff have far greater needs for clerical and technological work. We recommend various ways to increase support - clerical, technological, and curricular - for both teaching and scholarship. These include:

1) Enhancing the Library and Technology Liaison Program.
2)Providing some sort of department-based decentralized support for the most crucial periods of the year
3) Library/McCardell Bicentennial Hall Digitization Centers
4) Reference desk assistance
5) Grant Administration Assistance
6)Enhancing support for Academic Coordinators with regard to burdensome tasks
7) Providing centralized, coordinated clerical and organizational support for event planning and execution
4. Faculty development funds

As the Middlebury College faculty has grown, and as its research, scholarly, and artistic activity has increased, our faculty colleagues have greater needs for faculty development support. We recommend a change in the administration of the Faculty Professional Development Fund that will eliminate the application process for regular faculty.

Possible barriers to success: If the new program leads to spending increases that the budget cannot support, it may be necessary to reduce the annual allocation from the current maximum funding per faculty member.