Faculty Votes to Approve Revised Academic Model

Hui Li ‘21

Co-Chief Graphic Designer

On Tuesday, May 4, the Faculty of the College of the Holy Cross voted to approve the Common Requirements Steering Committee’s new academic model. 

Graphic Design by Hui Li ’21

The vote, according to committee member Mark Hallahan, associate professor of Psychology, was conducted via Zoom. He stated that in a normal assembly, the faculty cast their votes on paper. Due to COVID-related restrictions, most faculty voted via a poll on Zoom while others communicated their votes via email, phone, or text message.

Kevin Walsh, associate professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, is the current chair of the Committee on Nominations and Elections, a group in charge of counting votes at faculty assemblies. He shared the provisional results of the faculty vote: 113 voted in favor of the new model, 76 voted against it, and 9 abstained.

Regarding these numbers, Professor Walsh stated, “As with any vote at an assembly, these numbers are provisional for the moment – the official vote tallies will appear in the minutes of the faculty assembly and must be formally approved at a later faculty assembly meeting. It is conceivable the exact vote numbers could change somewhat if discrepancies are found, or there is some dispute about the voting process.”

Also present for the vote was Connor McNerney ’22, the student representative of the committee and one of the SGA co-presidents for the 2021-2022 academic year. As the faculty cast their votes, he shared, “I was on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the Faculty Assembly. When the results came in and showed that the proposal had passed, I felt overwhelmed with excitement and relief. The dedication and work of the Steering Committee had finally paid off.”

McNerney joined the committee as a second-year student and stated that he “felt honored to be chosen by Caroline Babinski and Christian Realbuto (SGA co-presidents for the 2019-2020 academic year) to serve as the single student representative of the committee.” When asked about adding these extra tasks to his existing duties as Co-Chair of Sustainability for the SGA, he replied, “I knew that by taking on this role, I would represent the interests of the student body, which was both an important and nerve-racking responsibility.” Despite being the only student on the faculty-led committee, he found that his “opinions and concerns were always valued and appreciated” at the weekly meetings.

When he was scheduled to start meeting with the committee in March 2020, McNerney was disappointed when he and a majority of the other students on campus were sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the shift to a remote format did not stop him from joining committee meetings, which were held online on Friday mornings from April until the end of the Spring 2020 semester. McNerney continued to join meetings through the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters as the committee drafted its proposal for a new academic model.

The Common Requirements Steering Committee, which has been active for three years, has attempted to “synthesize all the different perspectives of our community and incorporate them into [a new academic] model” for the college,” according to the committee’s co-chairs Josep Alba-Salas, professor of Spanish, and Scott Malia, associate professor of theatre and dance. “As you can imagine, there are a number of different points of view among faculty, students and staff, and universal agreement isn’t possible,” they shared in a joint statement to The Spire.

Professor Alba-Salas and Professor Malia also looked beyond Holy Cross in their work for the committee. “There were several groups of comparison schools that we looked at, including not only Jesuit and Catholic peers, but also non-religious-affiliated elite liberal arts colleges, and we had to strike a proper balance to make sure our proposal reflected the different aspects of Holy Cross’s mission and identity. So, our biggest challenge is also our biggest source of pride; we feel that the model reflects the voices in our community, best practices, and Holy Cross’ institutional commitments as a Jesuit and Catholic liberal arts college,” they added.

When asked about the next steps for the new academic model, they responded, “This concludes the work of the Common Requirements Steering Committee. The AGC will now draft a new mandate for an Implementation Committee to oversee the next steps in the process.”

According to Professor Hallahan, who previously served on the AGC (Academic Governance Committee), stated that professors on this larger committee are elected for two-year terms, and that many of the faculty on the Common Requirements Steering Committee are either former or current members of the AGC. It is this group that will work on creating the Implementation Committee in a later session. The Implementation Committee will report to the AGC and the Faculty Assembly in later meetings.

Professor Alba-Salas and Professor Malia stated that they will not be the co-chairs of the Implementation Committee. “The mandate from the committee will define how many members the committee should have and what areas of Holy Cross they will represent, so we probably won’t know who will be on the committee until the fall. We both look forward to seeing this next stage unfold,” they wrote.

Reflecting on their work over the past three years, the committee co-chairs had messages of thanks for everyone involved in the process. “We’d like to express our incredible gratitude to our fellow committee members, past and present.  While we were often the voices heard at faculty assemblies, this work could not have happened without their time, dedication and insight.  That gratitude also extends to the rest of the campus community –students, faculty and staff alike– who have been incredibly generous with their time and ideas.  Even those who disagreed with aspects of the proposal engaged in respectful and thoughtful dialogue that was rooted in a genuine care for our students,” they shared.   

 McNerney stated that he “learned the importance of out-reach and transparency” through his participation in the Common Requirements Steering Committee’s meetings. “I advocated for the committee to prioritize student concerns, opinions and suggestions throughout the development of our proposed learning goals and modeling process,” he stated. He played a role in coordinating SGA outreach for the committee, adding, “I was able to bring the Co-Chairs, Professors Alba-Salas and Malia, to multiple SGA Cabinet and Senate meetings in order to gather student input. Additionally, the SGA endorsed the Learning Goals and Final Report. The SGA endorsement was in part because the committee made revisions that we advocated for, such as making it a requirement for students to take [courses covering topics such as] Justice and Equity and Oral Communication.”

Regarding his role as SGA co-president starting next fall, McNerney stated, “Maggie Ober and I hope to apply these skills by being an approachable administration in the sense that students want to voice their concerns. We want to make sure that individuals and student organizations know the ways that SGA can help provide various resources. One way that we plan to ensure transparency is by restarting the SGA Skimm to provide monthly updates on completed and ongoing SGA projects along with advertising RSO, MSO, and IBO events.”

 When asked about when the requirements of the new academic model will be in effect at the college, Professor Alba-Salas and Professor Malia answered, “The new system would not be implemented next academic year; most likely, it would take a couple of years – that would be something for the implementation committee to decide.”

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