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AAC focuses on libraries, "First Year Experience," committee membership

Published: Monday, November 22, 2004

Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 08:09

This past Tuesday, the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) met to help decide the future of Holy Cross.

As listed in the "Holy Cross Faculty Information Manual," the AAC is the principal faculty organization in regards to the academic life of the College. Reporting to the Faculty Assembly, the legislative body concerning all matters relating to academic affairs and faculty status, its stated goal is to "encourage and facilitate communication within the College among students, administrators and teaching faculty" and "represent the academic needs of the College to the Finance and Planning Council." Furthermore, the committee drafts and proposes all matters of academic policy for discussion and voting by the Faculty Assembly, effectively helping to determine the agenda of one of Holy Cross's most important assemblages.

"The issues debated here are very important in shaping the academic future" Dan Ricciardi '06, Student Government Association (SGA) delegate to the AAC, said. Indeed, several key issues of Holy Cross life, including library policy and the future of the college committee system came, to the fore during the committee's November 17 meeting.

The idea of a universal "first year experience" for incoming freshmen quickly became an early central issue. A proposed expansion of the current optional First Year Program, a collection of classes and events open only to first-year students would automatically enroll all incoming freshmen. A topic of much discussion over a long period of time, the AAC is currently in the process of gathering departmental responses to the suggested expansion in order to better decide the future of the proposal.

The assemblage also discussed potential changes to the statutes of the faculty. This set of rules and guidelines governs faculty policy ranging from appointments to retirement, and as a constantly evolving document, it has seen many revisions as developing situations dictate. Of special concern to the AAC were the rules for membership in college committees. This subject too has been the source of debate for several years, centering around differing opinions regarding the makeup of some of the school's key boards.

Much of the current discussion revolves around the role of school administrators on committee boards. An issue sparked by the proposed addition of a new member to the AAC.

As the responsibilities of the AAC sometimes overlap with those of the College's Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies (CISS) a proposal was made to have the director of CISS obtain a voting chair on the committee. This raised objections among some, however, who felt such a change would disrupt the committee's make-up and carried the potential of adding too many administrators into the mix of what was considered to be largely a faculty committee. A compromise proposal suggests that the director would serve on the committee in a nonvoting advisory role. However, agreement has not been reached on this proposition either.

"There is merit on both sides," Professor Mary Lee Ledbetter, speaker for the committee, said, acknowledging that any policy changes regarding this issue, while currently focused on the Academic Affairs council, could easily serve to potentially redefine other campus organizations as well. Ricciardi expressed a similar opinion, offering that at this point it was still too early to gauge the student body's opinions on any such statute changes.

With no consensus reached, it was decided that the issue would be brought up at the Faculty Assembly for discussion and a vote.

Other matters discussed included Director of Library Services Dr. James Hogan's report on library concerns and funding. He explained that while the Library's purchasing budget has only increased 3 percent in recent years the price of the various journals the library subscribes to has gone up about 10 percent. This unfortunate funding gap has led the Library to cut back on purchasing books as well as end their subscriptions to long-held journals in order to manage costs. This information led to a discussion over the faculty themselves could influence these costs.

Other library issues included the recent conversion to wireless connectivity that allows patrons to utilize the Internet without being tethered to a wall socket and the ongoing efforts to create a Student Advisory Committee (SAC).

Ricciardi, reflecting on the meeting, spoke enthusiastically about such efforts regarding the school's library system and noted that with the upcoming curriculum review the library will be the subject of a great deal of future discussion. He welcomed the AAC's actions and lauded the effort to create an SAC through the efforts of Lindsey Veautour '05. "I hope that we can continually collaborate and work together towards the ultimate goal of making sure Library Services are the best they can be," he said, reflecting on the enormity of the issue.

Ledbetter suggested she was pleased with the events of the meeting, praising this year's AAC. "The meetings tend to be productive; thoughtful issues are raised" she said. She also focused on the advantages of having diverse departments and interests come together to discuss college-wide issues and present a wide range of opinions.

Ricciardi echoed her thoughts. "AAC meetings usually provide a very interesting and important cross section of the general consensus of the Holy Cross community given its representation structure. Many of the topics that are passed through the AAC have a very large potential to improve the student body."

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