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Faculty Research Grants in Limbo

Faculty Research  Grants in Limbo

By Madeleine Thompson

The Office of the Provost has proposed restructuring the grants that fund faculty research. The plan would eliminate the Faculty Development Grants (FDG), competitive grants that support faculty members scholarly and artistic activities, and the Teaching Initiative (TI) Grant, which funds the development of new courses and enhances teaching methods and strategies in existing and new courses.

The new structure would redistribute that money into the Individual Faculty Development Accounts (IFDAs), which currently provide $1,500 to tenured and tenure-track professors for professional costs like travel expenses to attend conferences, publication and copying costs, [and] research supplies, according to the Kenyon website. Under the new plan, the amount of each IFDA would increase to $2,250 and allow for accumulation up to $6,750. It would also create a supplemental fund for fine arts equipment and increase the size of an existing interdisciplinary teaching grant called Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT).

I think faculty members are still unclear about [the plan], President S. Georgia Nugent said, because there are three separate piles. Theres the IFDAs that would be increased for every faculty member, theres the need for special equipment in certain departments that would be available in a way that it has not been before, and then there was a concern that still sometimes there are big ticket items.

Indeed, some faculty members have voiced concern. While the current development grants are competitive, they have a higher payout. That means the money is not guaranteed, but if secured it can foot more than travel expenses.

According to Professor of French and Chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC) Mortimer Guiney, issues have arisen among the fine arts department, which uses the TI Grants to purchase materials and technology for classes. They would be at a disadvantage without that resource, he said.

The IFDAs really arent intended for costs associated with teaching, Guiney said, adding that this discrepancy compelled the FAC and the Provosts Office to look for a way to redefine other available grants and funding so that faculty can continue to apply competitively for the kinds of things that they need.

Nugent said she plans to reallocate money from a discretionary presidential fund to pay for equipment acquisition. This fund is very vaguely defined, she said, but its also delimiting because it has to be something that would in some sense benefit the whole academic program.

Associate Professor of Studio Art and chair of the art department Marcella Hackbardt used to pay for her art shows out of pocket. But once the grants became available seven years ago, she took advantage of the opportunities they provide. In 2008, Hackbardt used an FDG to put on a show at the College of Wooster Art Museum. And this year, she won $2,500 to stage a show in New York City. She said she would be sad to see FDGs go but acknowledged the proposed expansion of the TTT Grant would compensate for the loss.

Under the proposed plan, the TTT fund would expand to include more projects, according to Provost Nayef Samhat. My thought was, in addition to changing the way we allocate the equipment funds for the fine arts, we could also change the terms of the [TTT Grant] so that it would have a broader criteria, Samhat said. Faculty and professional development, as well as interdisciplinary teaching, all could be directed toward that TTT Grant. That way, tenured and tenure-track faculty get an increase [and] fine arts get an increase in equipment funds.

Nugent, who helped establish the TTT Grant, said, currently there are about $38,000 available. Ultimately, we would expect for that to grow to about $60,000. We believe that this fund, which has had more exclusive use, can be more open-ended and can take care of that need.

Hackbardt anticipates that wider access to funds would be enough to make ends meet. If there is an equipment fund, I think we would do well, Hackbardt said.

The other thing is that having more funding in the IFDAs is good for everyone, so we dont want to slow that down, but we want to make sure were able to meet the needs of our students.

According to Guiney, the next step in the process of vetting these grant changes is to analyze faculty feedback and put it to a vote in which the ayes will likely have it.

We think we know where the objections are, and together with the Provost were trying to come up with solutions to those objections and still go forward with the change, Guiney said. I think were at the stage now where we can say, This is what weve come up with, this is what we can do. … Now that you know what the situation will be like under this change, lets vote. Guiney thinks its probable that the plan will be voted on at the next faculty meeting, which will be held on Monday, March 29.

Samhat believes the proposed changes would be beneficial for faculty in the long run and will continue to address all concerns until needs are met.

We enter into this profession because we find we love studying or doing something, Samhat said. You want to create opportunities within the resources we have to help faculty fulfill their aspirations in this way.

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