For a meeting that will help make or break UVU’s reputation and future, the representation of UVU’s over 2,240 teachers at the faculty meeting with the Northwest Council on Colleges and Universities was somewhat sparse.
The gathering of adjunct, part-time and full-time instructors in the library auditorium at 11 a.m. on Nov. 3 only numbered about 20, not counting the members of the NWCCU seated on the edge of the stage and casually sauntering in during the first few minutes.
The meeting which was held Q&A style to recognize and address the faculty’s concerns for the institution.
Jonathan Lawson, chief academic officer at Idaho State University and NWCCU council member, led the meeting.
“What’s going to happen,” he said to the audience and, gesturing to his fellow council members, “is that these people have questions they want to ask you. Now, this is anything but an inquisition.”
He had one question for the faculty himself, he said, but indicated that he wanted to save it for a later time in the meeting.
“None of you are allowed to ask [it],” he said, glancing in mock sternness at his NWCCU colleagues.
What followed in that hour was certainly, as Lawson had assured, anything but an inquisition. Members of the council asked questions relating to various areas of concern specific to UVU and its growth, and teachers answered frankly.
Some answers reflected a cautiously positive outlook on the university’s growth while others voiced frustration.
What remained a consistent theme, however, was concern for the experience of individual students in the face of unprecedented institutional growth and the inclusion of graduate programs.
Many full-time faculty members said that they felt overwhelmed by the workload of 12 credits they are required to teach each semester, in addition to ever-increasing administrative or undergraduate research advisement duties, and worry what that workload might mean for students.
“This is an institution that is growing rapidly and trying to stay on the wave,” said one Biology professor. “I think we have a danger … that we will lose touch. As the workload increases, we won’t have time to talk with students.”
These demands, another professor said, make it difficult for the faculty to fit research in among their other duties.
Another concern was that while new hires are paired with a senior faculty mentor to train them, many find the requirement that they begin teaching right away to border on overwhelming.
The meeting ended without Dr. Lawson having had the opportunity to ask his question, “But that’s okay,” he said.
“It’s a silly question,” he revealed later, “but it usually brings up some interesting answers – ‘If you could change one thing about your university, what would that be?’ ”
It may or may not have yielded relevant answers at the meeting, but perhaps the question was answered without having been asked. The answer? Instructors need a way to continue to serve individual students in the face of growth.