Feb. 25, 2004

Officers attending: Pam Chambers, President; Fred Thomas, Secretary

Senators attending: Jim Brooks, Frank Clay, Myra Grinner, Kenneth Melendez, Jackie Myers, Nick Reeder, Shari Rethman, Ellen Rosengarten, Marti Shapiro, Marsha Wamsley

Senators and Officers not attending: Cindy Beckett, Susan Callender, Charles Williams

Others attending: Derek Allen, Dean Cole, Al Giambrone, Bill LeJeune, Laurel Mayer, Mary McGirr, Teresa Prosser, Colleen Whittington


Pam called the meeting to order at 2:30 in Room 6142

1.      Attendance Policy

Pam welcomed Mary McGirr, Dean Cole, Al Giambrone, Teresa Prosser and Colleen Whittington from the Attendance Policy team. Mary explained that the team has been working for several years to formulate a proposed attendance policy for Sinclair. The team began work as the “Top 45” Subcommittee of the Assessment Committee with an examination of the top 45 Sinclair classes in terms of enrollment. The team has been very methodical in its analysis of the issues and very consistent in its focus on student success. Mary explained that the team wanted input from Faculty Senate about the proposal. She distributed Background Information on Attendance (attachment FSMA20040225-01A), copies of a slide presentation on the Attendance Proposal (attachment FSMA20040225-01B) and a list of resources on attendance policies at other institutions (attachment FSMA20040225-01C).

The team presented extensive statistics, including the fact that the non-success rate (students who receive W, N, D and F grades) for Sinclair students overall is 31.9%. Some courses in the “top 45” have non-success rates over 50%. Studies at Sinclair and elsewhere have consistently shown that students with more absences are less likely to be successful. The team also cited several published studies, including one which found that the most common reason students gave for their absence was that “being absent did not affect their grade.” The team also reported Sinclair now has very few College-wide policies regarding attendance. The Student Handbook and the attachment included with all course syllabi both refer to attendance, but the only policies in the Faculty Handbook are an out-dated statement in section about VA benefits and a suggestion in section 2.11.1 that faculty might want to include attendance policies in their syllabi. The team felt that Sinclair needs to be more consistent.

The team shared its current draft for a College-wide attendance policy, which has been reviewed previously by the Assessment, Distance Learning, and Curriculum Committees, as well as by Instructional Council. The proposed policy states:

Students are expected to be present at all class sessions. It is the student’s responsibility to read and understand the class attendance policy or the web/video course participation policy that will be defined in the syllabus for each course. It is the faculty member’s responsibility to define attendance or participation requirements and to monitor and record the students’ satisfaction of these requirements. It is a program’s prerogative to have specific policies across multiple sections due to the unique requirement of that program. Attendance for traditional classes or participation for web/video classes may affect final grades, financial aid eligibility, and VA benefits.

Frank asked about the word “satisfaction” in the draft policy, and Mary explained that the intent was for faculty to record how well students meet the requirements, not how well they like them. Both the team and the Senate agreed that “fulfillment” would be a better term.

Frank also expressed surprise that 15% of students in some classes can be successful despite missing 50% or more of the class sessions. Mary answered that some students are able to learn simply from the text and that others may succeed because they have taken the same or a similar course earlier.

Ken asked if the attendance policy for a course could be that attendance is optional, and Teresa replied that it could. The point of the College-wide policy is to make sure that the attendance policy for each course is stated clearly in writing. Mary noted that this is an important protection for faculty in the event of disputes. Al emphasized, however, that the proposed policy does express a College-wide expectation of attendance.

Shari agreed that attendance is strongly correlated with success in class, but said that it might not be a simple cause-effect relationship. Committed students attend class and do well, but required attendance might not necessarily increase success. Colleen, Myra, Ellen and others emphasized the importance of student participation, not just attendance. Derek shared a description of how his attendance policy and his use of process learning have improved attendance.

Mary noted that class attendance can be a very important part of the workforce ethic that employers expect. Colleen emphasized the importance of providing guidance to part-time faculty with regard to the attendance policies they set for their classes.

Shari moved that Senate support the proposed attendance policy, with the change in wording from “satisfaction” to “fulfillment.” Marsha seconded the motion. After further discussion the motion passed.

2.      Announcements

Pam said that there has been some uncertainty among faculty as they read the Senate minutes about whether statements reflect the opinion of a particular Senator or a broader opinion within the division which that Senator represents. Pam asked Senators to stay as well informed as possible about faculty opinions within their division and to say as clearly as possible whose opinion they are expressing.

3.      Minutes from Feb. 11th

Ellen moved to approve the minutes from Feb. 11th with minor corrections suggested by Jim. The motion passed.

4.      Handbook Changes

Pam reported that Department Chairperson’s Council (DCC) has reviewed the possible change to Handbook section 2.4.5, paragraph 11. The paragraph limits the number of hours which can be taught by part-time faculty employed elsewhere, and was considered by Senate at its meeting of Feb. 11th, 2004. DCC has recommended that the paragraph not be changed at this time, pending additional discussions about faculty ratios and related issues. Jim asked if DCC is open to a future change to the paragraph, and Pam replied that it is.

Pam reviewed the proposed changes to Handbook section 2.6.1 on Faculty/Administrative Performance Reviews (attachment FSMA20040225-04A). She noted that there is going to be a group looking more broadly at the FAPR forms, but the immediate proposal deals only with the timing of the review process for faculty who start on dates other than September 1. Frank, Shari, Nick and others raised questions about how the proposed wording would be interpreted in various cases. After discussion, Pam agreed to take the questions back to Academic Policies Committee for further clarification.

Pam explained that the proposed change to paragraph 3 of Handbook section on the Operation of the Division Merit Committee (attachment FSMA20040225-04B) was intended to provide a clearer definition of the Committee’s membership. Frank asked for clarification about paragraph 2 of the section, particularly in the case of divisions with a large number of small departments. Shari, Marti and Pam agreed that there are important differences among the divisions in their departmental structure and in how departments can or should be represented in committees such as this. Shari said that DCC has also struggled with the question of how departments should be defined with regard to representation.

5.      Open Forum

a.      Pam reported that Ned Young has drafted a list of questions which will be shared with the administration regarding starting salaries and related issues.

b.      Marsha said that several faculty in her division have expressed concerns related to the Grow Our Own program. There have been cases in which faculty received tuition reimbursement, reduced workload and other support while they completed their master’s degree and then left Sinclair soon afterwards. Marti added that there are other faculty in the division who have paid for their own master’s degree work without that same support. Some faculty have questions about the fairness of the current system and there is concern that Sinclair may not be receiving the long-term benefits it should.

Myra and Derek both said that they were part of the Grow Our Own program. They emphasized that participants still have to pay a significant part of the cost for their master’s degree, particularly if they do not attend the least expensive available program. Myra also noted that participants in the Grow Our Own program start at the bottom of the Instructor pay scale and that there are important differences in the way departments and divisions choose to implement the system.

Fred said he recalled in early discussions about the program that the College preferred not to ask participants to make a long-term commitment to work at Sinclair because the College did not want to make a long-term commitment up front to keep the person. Derek expressed his opinion that it would be appropriate to expect participants in the Grow Our Own program to repay a portion of their tuition costs to Sinclair if they did not continue to teach in the College for a specified number of years.

The meeting adjourned at 4:22.

Submitted by Fred Thomas

Approved by Faculty Senate, April 7, 2004