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AdCom to Reflect on NEASC Visiting Committee Report

The Faculty Advisory Committee (AdCom), established in order to facilitate communication between the faculty and the administration, recently discussed ways in which it can reshape its role on campus. AdCom, which usually meets every two weeks, consists of six faculty members who serve two-year terms. The current members of AdCom are Kathryn Birecki, Instructor in Athletics, Paul Cernota, Instructor in Chemistry, Matthew Hession, Instructor in History, Dale Hurley, Instructor in Math, Christopher Jones, Instructor in History and Elizabeth Meyer, Instructor in Classics. Temba Maqubela, Dean of Faculty and Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, attend the meetings and are sometimes joined by Head of School Barbara Chase. AdCom meetings primarily focus on responding to items on its agenda and faculty concerns shared with members of AdCom, either individually in person or via email. “Generally, the process in AdCom is to identify the specific office or department to which a concern should go, and then a member of AdCom will be asked to pass that concern along,” said Sykes. According to Sykes and Cernota, Adcom’s next meeting will be a joint meeting with the Senior Administrative Council. They will most likely discuss the final reaccreditation report of the Visiting Committee of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). “There were certainly ideas that were presented in both the [NEASC] self-study and in the visiting committee’s report that will be reviewed by AdCom members and the administration, and maybe even discussed by faculty more broadly,” said Sykes. Cernota said he believed AdCom would like to use reflecting on the self-study as a way to evaluate how it can become more effective and clarify its function and organization. According to the AdCom minutes from February, AdCom has recently discussed Standard 13, a section of the accreditation report that suggests “look[ing] at ways ‘…to realign, reframe and breathe new life into [AdCom].’” Members of AdCom considered appointing a chair or an individual responsible for forwarded concerns to find a way to ensure that concerns are followed up on. Members also deliberated not letting faculty members remove their names from AdCom elections, which would ensure that more faculty could serve in AdCom. Another idea was to have AdCom regularly give feedback or evaluation to the administration, to increase its role as a faculty-administration intermediary. According to Sykes, members of AdCom will occasionally arrange “open agenda meetings,” where they speak at faculty meetings and gather a variety of input. “Rather than having a specific agenda with a proposal or a report or something that’s being brought by a department or an office, AdCom will collect a series of ideas from the faculty. Anyone is welcome to bring up anything they wish,” said Sykes. Currently, the minutes of AdCom meetings are relayed to the Phillips Academy community through the weekly Andover Gazette. Members also discussed lengthening the current two-year term of members. There are two distinct positions within AdCom: the position of convener, who is in charge of the agendas of upcoming meetings, and scribe, who is responsible for maintaining the minutes from each meeting. Under the current system, these positions rotate every trimester. Each member serves as the scribe for half a trimester, and during his or her last year on AdCom members can serve as convener for a trimester. Currently, Hurley is the convener and Cernota is the scribe. “I think there have been a number of people on AdCom who feel that just as they’re starting to understand the whole structure of AdCom and what it does, two years is up and they’re out,” said Cernota. “One of the things that has been thrown in the air has been not necessarily increasing the total number of people serving on AdCom, but maybe having them serve for longer.” Members of AdCom serve two-year terms. At any given point, three members are returning and the other three are in their first year. The terms are staggered so not all six seats are vacated at the same time. The faculty votes annually to choose three new members of AdCom to serve alongside the three returning members. According to Cernota, AdCom begins the process by creating a list of possible faculty candidates. Those who do not wish to serve on AdCom remove their names from the list. Generally, faculty who have just finished their terms on AdCom and are already involved in administrative committees such as the Academic Council, choose not to be considered in the election. The election process entails several rounds of voting, “much like the presidential elections for students,” said Cernota. AdCom has directed concerns they receive to various groups on campus including the Senior Administrative Council, the Academic Council, the House Counselor Committee, the College Counseling Office, the Technology Office and the Office of the Physical Plant. The outcome of the conversation is reported in the following meeting’s minutes. Unless a faculty member specifically requests to be associated with his or her comment, individuals with questions addressed to AdCom are not named during the discussion. “As with everything, some people are more willing to bring things forward if they know [they can remain anonymous],” said Cernota.