Students aren’t the only ones having a negative reaction to the new class schedule changes, set to go into effect in September, The Executive Committee of the Faculty Association of St. John’s, A union for the University’s professors, recently sent a letter to all full-time and adjunct professors here stating they had not been informed that the proposed schedule change would taking place in the fall.
The new schedule includes 90-minute classes that meet on Monday and Thursday, Tuesday and Friday and three-hour classes on Wednesday and Saturday.
The Faculty Association claims that “no faculty body has had the opportunity to raise germaine questions.” According to the letter, the proposed schedule change was never put before the Faculty Senate or the Academic Planning Committee for deliberation, and that department chairs were never consulted about the change.
However, in an internal e-mail sent out Feb. 8 to the University community, Father Harrington states that the schedule change “was endorsed by the Deans and Chairs as an opportunity to enhance pedagogy.”
According to Dominic Scianna, the University will not comment on any questions pertaining to the schedule change until after classes have actually been set, which should be in mid-March.
It’s one thing, though, to have input from deans and department chairs – but it’s the rank and file that bear the brunt of this decision. Professors usually teach anywhere from two to four classes a semester, while department chairs generally teach one, in addition to working on research assignments. And adjunct professors usually have to teach at more than one institution to make ends meet.
A change in the schedule at St. John’s would affect their ability to work at other schools. For some professors, teaching classes on Saturdays might also conflict with religious observances as well.
It is for these reasons that professors should have played a part in the decision to move to a new scheduling format.
Professors are the core of any academic institution, and their opinions should be highly valued and taken into consideration.
While the terms of the decision-making process aren’t clear right now, it is clear is that there is a lack of communication between professors and administrators.
The Faculty Association has filed a formal grievance against the University regarding this situation and is investigating “whether or not the proposal, coming as it does before the deadline acceptance or rejection of the VSO packages, constitutes an unfair labor practice.”
Announcing the schedule change a little more than a month before the deadline for the buyout raises the question: Does the University view the schedule change as something that will influence a professor’s decision to take the voluntary separation offer?
If professors decide to take the buyout package because of their frustration regarding the new schedule change, how will that help the academic reputation of the University? Even though St. John’s is trying to cut back, academics should still be the most important area because having strong academics is the only way to attract strong students.
For all of these reasons, the University needs to address faculty concerns as swiftly as possible. If these concerns are not addressed soon, the transition to the new schedule is not going to be smooth, at best.
Although Dr. Upton stated the decision to change the schedule was not based on a “popularity contest,” maybe it should have been. Professors are the one of the most important parts of a university after all, and their opinions deserve to be taken into account. Without professors on board with this proposed change, we’re all going to suffer.