Author: Emma Whitford

A Collective for Change on the Hill continues discussion on terms of engagement

This is a continuation of a series of stories about the sit-in in Tomson Hall on May 1, 2017

President David Anderson ’74 ended discussion in Tomson 280 when he left Continue reading “A Collective for Change on the Hill continues discussion on terms of engagement”

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

New employment category approved

On March 9, the St. Olaf faculty voted to approve a new category of employment. Called “teaching specialist,” the category will serve a handful of professors who have lingered between visiting and tenure-track for years. A teaching specialist will be granted three-year contracts and faculty review and will have access to a special set of research funds and opportunities.

The college utilizes different types of employment categories to serve different needs in each academic department. Tenure-track lines create long-term positions, whereas non-tenure-track (NTT) positions are created to fill short-term teaching needs, such as sabbatical vacancies.

Occasionally, short-term needs become long-term ones. There are a handful of NTT professors at the college who have taught at St. Olaf for decades, but continue to receive one-year contracts without the benefits that typically come with long-term positions, such as job security, research opportunities and faculty review.

The teaching specialist category serves to alleviate those types of situations. Teaching specialist positions will be granted to departments that demonstrate the need for a longer-term professor but not a tenure-track position.

“These teaching specialist positions should be filling a different kind of need,” Provost Marci Sortor said. “In both cases they’re teaching needs, and in both cases there is expertise that’s needed. But, typically someone who is a teaching specialist might provide something that no one else can provide, but the department doesn’t need a full-time person doing it. Or it could be that what the department needs is a really great person who can fill in and serve all different kinds of courses.”

One of the aspects that differentiates a teaching specialist position from a tenure-track line is the emphasis on teaching. While hiring processes for tenure-track positions often include a focus on research and published work, those factors won’t play into teaching specialist hiring processes as heavily.

The proposal reflects eight years of work by the Faculty Life Committee (FLC) and Faculty Governance Committee (FGC) to provide longer contracts and more fair compensation for long-term NTT professors at the college.

“I’m happy with the result,” FGC chair and Associate Professor of Political Science Tony Lott said. “It will mean great stability in student/faculty interaction, as well as provide greater stability for our colleagues.”

There was some contention within the FGC over the titles for teaching specialist professors. Currently, it’s impossible to distinguish between categories of employment based on title; all professors, regardless of appointment category, are granted visiting, assistant, associate or full professor titles. The new system will refer to teaching specialists as “professors of practice” and continue to use different rank distinctions. For example, a political science professor who is hired as a teaching specialist may be called “Assistant Professor of Practice in Political Science.”

“We had a certain constraint that we had to kind of act within, which was that administration said that they needed the title to be distinct from assistant, associate, or full [professor],” Associate Professor of Religion Mara Benjamin said. “So, given that, we went with what we felt the NTTs, who made themselves known to us, what they preferred. I think a number of them and a number of us, our ideal solution would be what we currently have, which is identical titles.”

There are a number of professors who will likely move from NTT to the teaching specialist category, but it hasn’t yet been decided who will move when or how that will happen. Department chairs will be charged with submitting applications for these transitions, and that application process is still in the works.

The proposal faces one final hurdle before implementation in the fall – the Board of Regents must vote to approve the new category in May.

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Students gather to share poetry

Students gathered in the cozy living room of the Wendell Berry House on Tuesday, Nov. 29 to read, listen to and appreciate poetry and prose. Wendell Berry House and The Quarry hosted a joint literature event at which many students shared their own written works while others recited classic favorites, including poems from John Keats and Wendell Berry himself. The readings ranged from emotional to beautiful to funny.

Wendell Berry House is located in Lincoln Manor, an honor house just off campus. Wendell Berry’s mission is focused around sustainability and community, particularly related to food.

“The mission of the house is to reestablish the link between people, communities and the food that we eat, in accordance with Wendell Berry’s dedication to the land and sustainable agriculture,” resident Rita Thorsen ’18 said. “However, another really important part of his work is to communicate that dedication through literature and justice. Essentially, our goal is to create more just and holistic communities.”

Thorsen was pleased with the event’s turnout. One unique aspect of the reading was the willingness of readers to be vulnerable and the strong sense of community among a diverse group of students.

“It was really pleasing to see how many people were enthusiastic about the reading,” Thorsen said. “It’s inspiring to get so many people who don’t necessarily know each other together to read. It was especially awesome to hear people read their own work and know that we had created a space in which people felt comfortable enough to get to that level of vulnerability.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Quarry, St. Olaf’s literary and visual arts magazine. This is one of the Quarry’s first events of the year leading up to the release of the magazine this spring.

Though the magazine is only produced once a year, The Quarry staff aims to help campus create spaces for enjoying literature, art and poetry throughout the year.

Executive Editor Josh Torkelson ’17 is still planning events for this spring, and encourages students to submit their creative work for publication consideration and to attend the release party this spring.

“February begins our submission period for our online and print publications. This year’s release will feature a gallery show in the Groot Gallery of the represented student work,” Torkelson said. “This new format [of the release] allows more exposure for contributors as well as a space for music, performance art and space-based works. Also in February, there will be a surprise installation collaboration with Sigma Tau Delta in the Buntrock Cage Gallery, so stay tuned for that.”

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye