Meeting Minutes 7/30/2020
Task Force for the Future of Baruch
Thursday, July 30, 2020
ZOOM Video Conference
Meeting Convened: 1:00 PM
1. The five subcommittees provided updates of their work. A reoccurring topic within all the committees was communication. Provost McCarthy posed the following questions: what should we communicate and when? Should we set a firm deadline, commit to an approach on teaching modality, and stick to that decision—even if that decision is hyper conservative? And how do we effectively advertise available support to faculty members? Taskforce members suggested providing students and faculty with anchor points for decisions, with the understanding that all decisions are subject to state regulations. In the interest of allowing faculty and students ample time to prepare and plan, the members favored sharing information and making decisions sooner rather than later, as long as there remains flexibility in those decisions. The taskforce also briefly touched upon how technology should be used—establishing best practices vs. mandates to avoid confusion. Provost McCarthy explained that the taskforce’s next report should move in two directions: first, go farther into the future, and provide a more speculative, but more aspirational picture; and secondly, provide specific recommendations for faculty development programs and other initiatives in the immediate future, including details on costs and plans for implementation.
The individual subcommittee updates are as followed:
Subcommittee # 1 – Course Delivery
The subcommittee met with Jim McCarthy and consultant, Matthew Hillman, on Monday, July 27. For the spring 2021 term, the subcommittee will likely recommend the college try to have as many courses in the hybrid form as social distancing guidelines allow. Ideas discussed within that meeting included:
- Creating blocks of the basic speech and writing courses in hybrid format—an idea the directors of both these courses felt was achievable.
- Alternative ways to get more courses in a hybrid format.
- Increasing the amount of teacher assistants and graders available for jumbo courses and reimaging those courses.
In regards to the goal of more hybrid courses for spring, if plans need to be rolled back, the subcommittee believes the move from hybrid to fully online courses will be much easier for students to plan for than the reverse. The subcommittee’s August report will look more closely at the “educational trade-off” encountered by students who do not do well in an online classroom setting. The committee would like to explore the possibility of courses that give a small number of students the option to attend face-to-face; these courses could be recorded and offered also to students that wish to take the course fully online. The subcommittee also remarked that the post-COVID environment will likely require selective courses and programs (roughly 25-30%) to continue to be offered fully online in order to meet student expectations.
Unfortunately, seating capacity for the first five floors of the Vertical Campus is considerably less than originally anticipated, which will make the committee’s call for more hybrid offerings a greater challenge. When space protocols were initially designed in May 2020, the plans called for 36 sq. per person. The guidelines released by the state in mid-July require 113 sq. per person. This will unlikely impact the Fall 2020 semester, as there are fewer than 500 students registered for hybrid courses, and only 40-42 sections (including CAPS). Larry Manganello expects the test fitting of classrooms for the fall semester to be completed by Monday, August 3.
Subcommittee # 2 – Faculty Support
Much of the work of the subcommittee in the past week has been focused on the different levels of support that faculty need to teach effectively online. The first tier of support prioritizes identifying and helping faculty who are in the greatest need. This includes instructors who “hit a wall” and were unable to complete their teaching work in the spring semester. The second tier of support involves building resources that aid in both video production and instructional design. This type of refined support will help faculty generate a more impactful, higher quality product; something that is valuable for even instructors who have had online success. The key will be reaching out to the faculty and letting them know these enhancements are available. Long term, the college should look at increasing capacity for video production and instructional design. Without knowing the extent of budget shortfalls, there may be a need to patch in resources to address necessities in the short run. Another level of support proposed would exist within individual departments, in both the form of a faculty mentor, who would answer simple technical and discipline specific questions; and periodic department meetings to discuss the various pedagogical issues that surface in online teaching.
Subcommittee # 3 – Technological Support
The subcommittee met with Jim and consultants this week and began to look at the timeframe beyond Fall 2020. Many of the technological and instructional design investments the committee hopes will be made for the fall semester, are investments that will have a lasting impact well after the term. The committee identified three key goals the college can achieve within the 1-5 year range if significant investments are made in BCTC and the CTL:
- Increase access to the college’s courses and programs within the New York region, particularly for New Yorkers who are missing courses for degree completion—which is part of Baruch’s mission to serve New Yorkers.
- Create new, innovated, and attractive programs that will be partially or entirely online, that will generate revenue as we continue to address budget shortfalls.
- Adjust to the new normal post COVID-19, where online courses will be a significant portion of what we offer. This will help alleviate one of Baruch’s biggest problems in recent years: lack of space.
The subcommittee will reiterate their original recommendations and add a call to increase the ability for BCTC and CTL to provide on demand support for staff, faculty and students for courses; and invest in production spaces and technical support to create high quality video content. Given the lack of space, the committee suggests the creation of portable, loanable resources for production of asynchronous courses materials, that faculty can borrow and use at home or in their office. The committee is also working on prioritizing recommendations.
Subcommittee # 4 – Student Well-being and Success
The subcommittee met with Mary Gorman and Art King and went over their list of recommendations. There is already movement in Enrollment Management around the Student Success Portal, and the effort to conglomerate information into a place that is readily accessible to students is underway. In regards to physical space for students on campus, it is unsure what the newly announced student center might be utilized as, in that it essentially already spoken for. Arthur Downing sent an email on CUNY-wide library access, and the committee is looking at what that will mean for students. The group has yet to meet with the consultants but will next week.
Subcommittee # 5 – Staff Support
The subcommittee met Wednesday, July 29 for the first time. Discussed was the lack of communication directed specifically to staff. Up until now, communications have been largely targeted towards students and faculty which has cause some confusion on whether staff is expected to return to campus or are to continue to work remotely. The group is working on a series of questions for a survey which will be distributed to staff. The survey will focus on staff’s needs, experiences and expectations. The group also discussed the possibility of a fact webpage for staff that would contain pertinent information such as the protocol for campus access.
2. Town Hall meeting, Fall 2020 and Beyond:
Baruch will host a virtual town hall on August 4 for faculty and staff members. The discussion will be divided into five parts, one for each subcommittee. The event will be moderated by Prof. Shelley Eversley and already has almost 300 registrants. The logistics of how questions from participants will be answered, and if participants will be able to voice comments during the event is still being worked out.
Provost McCarthy will forward the recently released CUNY Data book and a report generated by the WSAS on the spring 2020 semester to the Taskforce.
Meeting Ended: 2:12 PM