Faculty Discuss Pending Changes in Registration, Parental Leave
By Amro El-Adle ’13, Editor-in-Chief
In their first meeting of the semester last night, members of the faculty focused their discussion on the College’s transition to an online registration system, an amendment to the parenting-leave policy proposed by the Committee on Priorities and Resources (CPR) and the seemingly-imminent demolition of the Little Red Schoolhouse.

The online registration system, whose interface will be based in ACData, was designed with flexibility in mind, the members of the Information Technology (IT) department present at the meeting explained. The IT members presented a video overview of all of the steps involved in the new course registration system to the faculty. Under the proposed system, faculty members would meet with their advisees to discuss course selection, after which professors would be tasked with cataloging a list of approved courses for each of their advisees.

Students would then be allowed to register, online, for any course of their choosing from a digitized version of the College’s course catalog. If the courses a student registers for do not correspond to the list of courses approved by his advisor, the advisor would receive an email the following week indicating as much. On ACData, the advisor could then access an audit tray, which would highlight the discrepancies between the list of approved courses and the courses the student registered for.

One of the main points of contention included registration for Five-College courses. Since those courses are not included in the course catalog, students will have to list them as “dummy” courses online. Pending their advisors’ approval, the dummy courses would then be approved at the back end of the registration process by the registrar’s office.

IT members emphasized that the system would be a work in progress, and that they would make every effort to respond to feedback from the College community. They also mentioned that students would register in order of increasing class year. However, they stressed that this was only to prevent heavy traffic flow from bogging down the system and that all students would be allowed to enroll in any course.

Faculty advisors are slated to begin meeting with their advisees the week starting Mar. 28, so IT will hold daily tutorials for using the new system’s interface throughout spring break for faculty members. Course registration will begin the following week.

The faculty also discussed the College’s parenting-leave policy, which was described by Professor Catherine Epstein as “the least generous parenting-leave policy of all our peer institutions” in a letter she had written and read at the meeting. The current policy, Epstein explained, allows faculty members reduced course loads, although it does so at a hefty cost: reduced salaries. In the case of female professors who are the main providers for their households, the cost of parenthood can be overwhelming.

The current policy places an undue economic burden on precisely the professorial demographic the College is trying to recruit: professors just beginning their career paths. Perhaps just as importantly, Epstein pointed out that the policy “suggests that Amherst does not welcome faculty members combining their careers with family responsibilities” — a potential deterrent for new hires.

Under the new proposal, faculty members who will be expecting have a choice between a fully-paid one-course reduction for parenting leave or taking a parenting leave in addition to a medical leave and the accompanying two-course reduction. The parenting leave would also apply to members who adopt children. However, if both parents of the child are members of the faculty, then only one may take the leave at any given time, since the new policy only applies to the primary caregiver.

There was a litany of debates regarding the semantic implications of the current articulation of the faculty’s recommendation, despite widespread recognition of the lack of progress in this area. The faculty ultimately voted to send the current proposal, which was drafted with the aid of external legal counsel, back to the Committee of Six.

The changing demographic amongst faculty members also loomed large in the debate over the future of the Little Red Schoolhouse, as President Tony Marx announced that its proximity to the construction site of the new science center would render it unsafe for children once construction began. The 74-year-old schoolhouse, according to Marx, will in all likelihood be razed sometime within the next decade.

According to Dean of Faculty Gregory Call, “It’s pressing upon us to think about the hiring we need to do, steadily, over the next couple of years.” The Little Red Schoolhouse not only holds sentimental value for many of the faculty members, but also serves an essential role in attracting younger professors, who are more likely to have young children.

Issue 17, Submitted 2011-03-02 05:03:08