By Laken Franchetti, Editor-in-Chief
On Friday morning, The Gettysburgian held an interview with Provost Jamila Bookwala to learn more about the budgetary pressures facing the college and the administration’s plan to combat these pressures.
Full-time faculty, such as tenure-line faculty, have various appointments determining their contract to teach at the college. Tenure-line faculty positions include those who are pre-tenured and tenured. Visiting faculty positions are also full-time, and they typically are appointments for one to three years.
Bookwala explained that visiting faculty positions help to launch careers to tenure-track positions, whether at Gettysburg College or elsewhere.
“So when they’re [visiting faculty] here with us, typically they’re also looking for a tenure track position, or a position that aligns with their career interests. Some of them may decide, ‘I don’t think teaching is my thing or extensive teaching is my thing. I think I’m going to apply for a research position.’ It’s an opportunity for them to evaluate their own career goals,” Bookwala said.
Part-time faculty, which includes adjunct positions, have had year-long appointments in the past. However, the administration has made the decision to change adjunct faculty to semester-by-semester appointments. These semester-by-semester appointments will allow the administration to reevaluate the need for adjunct faculty members depending on the gaps that need to be filled. Year-long contracts made it difficult to do that.
“They [adjunct faculty] used to get year-long contracts, and they could teach up to five courses. That’s an unusual way to hire adjuncts because part-time faculty are really intended to fill gaps. You have to be nimble in your use of part-time faculty, or adjunct faculty,” Bookwala said. “What happens is you [the Provost’s Office] get locked in, and if you don’t need a section or you can actually cancel one section, it just becomes more difficult if you already have a contract in place.”
Adjusting these positions and their appointment length can help to reduce budgetary pressures. In the faculty meeting on Sept. 21, Bookwala addressed that about 30 visiting faculty and about 60 adjunct faculty are hired every year. This reaches a total cost approaching $3 million, yet with semester-by-semester appointments for adjunct positions, the administration believes they can lower this annual cost. Bookwala also shared that the administration will need to limit their reliance on visiting faculty positions.
Lab Teaching Credit and Course Capping
The current system at the college is that labs count as one teaching credit, the equivalent to teaching a course or a lecture. Tenure-track faculty, who are faculty that are currently tenured or are on the pre-tenure track, teach the equivalent of five courses over the course of a year.
Bookwala shared that many other institutions have had labs count as half credit, and this has been proposed to the faculty. This proposal has not yet been finalized.
“So, if we have 182 labs in a given year, we are talking about 182 courses or course equivalents… yes, they are teaching very important work, not to deny that that is important information and important skills that our students are learning, yet it is an unsustainable model,” Bookwala said. “Their instruction could have been redirected to a first-year seminar or the sophomore seminars that are soon to go online.”
Bookwala believes this is the right decision based on budget constraints and the right decision for students.
“I do think that it is right by our financial resources, and it’s right by our students because more of our students will have interaction with our tenure-stream faculty in different courses,” Bookwala said.
Bookwala explained that department chairs and their faculty have been asked to share their thoughts and ideas about the proposal. The administration has given faculty members a proposal worksheet with adjusted course caps to evaluate how their curriculums could adjust. Bookwala said these course caps would change 100 level courses to be capped at 35 students or more, 200 level courses to be capped at over 25 students (instead of the current 20) and 300 level courses or higher would be capped at 18 or 20 students.
Bookwala recognized that these course caps would have to be adjusted for classes such as first-year seminars, writing courses and capstones, which typically have much smaller caps.
Merging of the Language Departments
Bookwala acknowledged the possibility of the language departments being combined, which was discussed at the Student Leader meeting earlier in the week. She said that this idea was not new and had been talked about prior to her arrival at the college. Larger discussions with department chairs and faculty members will take place in the spring semester to workshop the idea.
“This conversation has occurred well before I came here, about the languages being combined because there are currently very small departments that each have a chair. That means we have chairs getting course releases, therefore we are relying on adjuncts and visitors,” Bookwala said.
Course releases refer to when a chair of a department can get one course reassigned for the work that they complete as a chair. This leaves a course open for adjunct faculty and visiting faculty to teach.
Bookwala reiterated that nothing has been solidified, and faculty will be consulted on how this proposal may work.
“The faculty will have agency. We will ask them, ‘Can you come up with a model that works?’ So, that way, we can combine this [language departments] and really, once again, look at how we are using our teaching resources,” Bookwala said.
Bookwala urged the importance for faculty to get involved in these discussions and workshops of proposed decisions.
“I hope the faculty are listening to us in terms of how we are trying to engage them. It cannot be long drawn out, and we have certain guardrails in which we have to function,” Bookwala said. “We want to protect our tenure track faculty, tenured and pre-tenured. We also invest most of our resources in them. We want them to teach our students as much as possible.
When asked if the administration is utilizing consultant firms for these budgetary decisions, Bookwala clarified that the academic division is not utilizing a firm. There is, however, a consultant firm working with the administrative division.
Teacher Certification Program
Bookwala said that she has been approached by numerous faculty that have responded to student concern about the teacher certification program going away. Before Bookwala became the Provost, the Department of Education was discontinued, and the teacher certification program was ended as a result of that decision.
Bookwala made it clear that the Education Department will not be resurrected, yet there could be a chance of the teacher certification program being reinstated separately from a department.
“Is there a way for us to resurrect just the teacher certification, maybe through an institute or a center of teacher certification? It would not be a major. It would be a separate entity that would allow students who want to get teacher certification… like they were in English and history, perhaps then some of the sciences like math, physics, or chemistry as well,” Bookwala said.
Bookwala shared that she has a proposal to read from faculty members that workshopped the idea. There have been no decisions on whether the program can return or not as the proposal would have to be taken to other administrative groups like the President’s Council.
“We have to make sure that there aren’t hidden costs in that, but I am very happy that the faculty are getting together—this is a faculty initiative—to try and reinstate the teacher recertification piece that we have lost that students are very interested in. We’ll see what happens,” Bookwala said.