Faculty Council upholds term contracts, addresses declining student mental health


Bianca Cseke | The DePaulia

DePaul University Lincoln Park campus.

At the final Faculty Council meeting of 2020,  the council discussed the issue of termination of term faculty contracts along with how faculty can help students during a mental health crisis.

The council first reviewed the CCF Business Resolution, which addressed the Early Termination clause in term faculty contracts. 

Sponsors of this resolution, associate professor of psychological science, Kimberly Quinn and conductor at the School of Music, Michael Lewanski, discussed the problematic nature of the clause implemented to terminate term faculty on Dec. 31. They argued term contracts should be respected as yearly contracts. 

The termination clause was implemented to safeguard DePaul’s financial health amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the resolution. However, Quinn and Lewanski detailed the reasons on why this would hurt DePaul. 

The resolution, argues that terminating term faculty is a violation of DePaul’s faculty handbook, which has transformed yearly contracts into quarterly ones. The handbook states that term faculty members are initially hired on one or two year contracts, according to the resolution. 

Aside from violating the handbook, the resolution highlights the academic and economic concerns around the termination. Within the academic realm, losing term faculty would compromise the quality of learning, as they teach many of DePaul’s required classes. 

In addition, the resolution noted that term faculty also serve as directors and associate directors of programs. It argued that terminations would weaken the financial security of term faculty. 

“It’s not very Vincentian to have faculty terminated in the middle year,” said Sonia Soltero, the vice president of DePaul’s Faculty Council. 

The resolution also highlighted how term faculty are a significant representation of DePaul’s longevity. It noted that 46 percent of term faculty have taught at DePaul for six years or more and approximately 22 percent have worked for 11 years or more. 

“Term faculty are in a very disadvantaged position,” Soltero said. 

The Faculty Council voted 33-1 in favor of the resolution to respect term faculty’s contracts as yearly. 

Following this, Paeth asked the vice president of student affairs, Gene Zdziarski and Ashley Knight, who is the associate vice president of student affairs, to discuss mental health initiatives and how faculty can help. 

Knight said that she views faculty reports about student concerns and looks at both individual student cases along with trends. There are three dominant trends that have been found through these reports, she said. 

The first is that students are directly affected by Covid-19, whether they’re catching it themselves,knowing a person close to them who has it or fearing getting the virus. 

“Some are becoming very, very ill,” Knight said regarding both students and their family members. 

Knight said that students can fill out contract tracing forms, where they can be referred to quarantine guidance and medical resources. 

The second trend revolved around the stress of digital learning. Knight said there was a decline of the brain’s ability to learn during these times due to the new modality, which prompted some to completely abandon their online coursework altogether. 

“It’s hard for students to concentrate and feel on task,” Knight said. 

She addressed how faculty can engage with their students more in their classes by holding one-on-one discussions or small groups, to allow space to converse. 

The third trend showed how students greatest needs were in the realm of accommodation. Knight advised faculty to find different kinds of ways to be flexible on deadlines with students, along with working with other colleagues to find ways of accommodation. 

Knight said that faculty can make the biggest changes by making the learning environment an adaptable and dynamic space. She also said that University Counseling Services (UCS) has a counselor on call 24 hours a day year-round. For students seeking help in other states, UCS can provide them with local resources.

Knight also said the office of Health Promotion and Wellness partners with the Office of Multicultural Student Success to help students of specific demographics. 

Aside from preserving health for students while remote, DePaul’s Health Committee discussed how to incorporate mask-wearing in classrooms on all syllabi when classes are mainly to be held on campus again. 

“Having faculty being aware of this and having it in their syllabus would be another way to get it out,” said Craig Klugman, a professor of health sciences at DePaul. 

Klugman made this proposal with Jay Baglia, an associate professor at DePaul’s College of Communication who focuses on health communication. 

Baglia said students must wear masks during class, and that the consequences of not wearing a mask would include public safety and removal from class. With discussion from the Faculty Council, this will further be discussed with their Executive Committee in January. 

Round up:

  1. The Faculty Council held a moment of silence for the passing of Lori Holland, who recently became the chair of the Board of Trustees at DePaul on July 1. “She was an inspiration, and her journey represented the quintessential story of so many DePaul students,” President A. Gabriel Esteban said about Holland in Newsline. 
  2. Members from the Student Athletic Committee made announcements around athletes’ academic progress. John McEnroe said that DePaul set a new record with athletes holding an average  GPA of 3.556. 
  3. The council passed a new major in the Bachelor of Science in Business: Economic Data Analysis (BUS) and a new concentration in Storyboarding and Character Design in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. 
  4. The Associate Provost for Academic Planning and Faculty, Lucy Rinehart, said that the PPR Tableau will display results for over 250 graduate and undergraduate programs through the dimensions of mission, quality, demand, finances and the efforts to grow and improve these programs. It will also demonstrate comparisons across dimensions and colleges and will be available to all faculty.