The Committees

What’s the one thing that the University runs on? Committees, you say? No, it’s actually money. But I’m glad you brought up the committees.

The workload of tenured/tenure-track academic faculty is expected to be 40:40:20 (teaching:research:service). That is, 40% of work time should be spent on teaching/prep work, 40% should be spent on research, and 20% should be spent on “service.” When I was first starting out, I didn’t know what that meant, either. Then someone told me it meant “volunteering,” which I thought meant, like, joining Uncles at Large or picking up litter in the river valley. Er, no.

In academic jargon, “service” means volunteering your time to participate on internal university committees (among other things). Without this volunteer work, the university would come to a standstill. Yup, even if we had so much money that we could build a Butterdome out of actual butter, everything would come to a crashing halt.

Here are some examples of committees on campus and what they do:
  • Department Council: every teaching department gets together on a roughly monthly basis to discuss changes and updates to courses, the curriculum, the Calendar, programs, and admissions. In the Department of Psychology, all Academic Faculty belong to this, as do Faculty Lecturers, some administrative staff, and there are also undergraduate and graduate student representatives.
  • Undergraduate Curriculum Committee: how does the Department Council make decisions about curriculum? Proposals are brought forward for a vote by this group within a department (instructors and admin staff) who look at current and future course needs, recommend the use of learning objectives in teaching, and do things like kill off popular courses (ahem).
  • Department Screening Committee: if a Department is going to hire someone, this group has to go through the applications and narrow down the choices to a select few, who are then referred to a separate Hiring Committee, which will be involved in a formal interview process. You wouldn’t believe the qualifications of some of the people who apply for a position in psychology.
  • Arts Council for Technology & Innovation: this group is “an advisory body to the Dean [of Arts], with broad representation, that guides the direction of how technology will support the teaching, learning, research and administrative needs of the Faculty.” Members also share information about IT needs. (ACTI is not to be confused with the Information Technology Committee (ITC), the Information Technology Enterprise Committee (ITEC), or the Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC), which are associated with the VP IT. LOL!)
  • InSciTE/E visioning committee: This Faculty of Science committee is, well...I dunno. I don’t know what “InSciTE/E” stands for. Innovation something, science something, teaching something. This committee hasn’t met yet.
Well, anyway, all these committees have something in common. They’re all made up of volunteers, giving their time to ensure that the University continues to move forward, innovates, and deals with challenges and opportunities at many different levels--from departments, to faculties, to central administration, and even cutting across those levels.

Oh, there’s one more thing those committees I listed above have in common: I’m on all of them--even though I don't have to be (my contract does not explicitly require service, but I like to contribute anyway). Now, I gotta go and prep for an upcoming meeting.

Why aren't you studying?

Update 3/26/2014: OK, now this is getting out of hand. In the past week, I've now been placed on two more committees: Intro Psych Textbook Review Committee and SCI 100 Future Planning Committee.


Anonymous said...

Well, the long form of InSciTE/E is out there; it stands for Incubator for Science Teaching Evolutions and Enhancement. It sounds cool, but what on earth does that mean? Do you know why you ended up on it? and do you have any idea what you'll be meeting on it to discuss?

Karsten A. Loepelmann said...

I think "InSciTE/E" is pronounced "insight". Clever, eh?

The Faculty of Science is responding to central admin's call for teaching innovation. The goal of this committee (as I understand it) is to foster teaching and learning innovation. That is, creative means of course delivery; something beyond just lectures.

I suspect some of this has to do with budget. Science got hit pretty hard in the last round of budget cuts. If there's more innovation going on that attracts attention, it will be that much harder to deliver punishing cuts to a highly innovative Faculty. But that's just a guess. I didn't go to the last Science town hall meeting.

How did I get on it? My boss recommended me. And I'm not officially on the committee--I have to pass an interview first!

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