3 guest speakers visit Faculty Senate

JJ Bullock, Editor-in-Chief

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Testing accommodations for students at Eastern was a hot topic once again at Eastern’s Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday in Booth Library.

The topic was brought up for a second meeting in a row; this meeting, however, the topic was discussed for a longer period of time, and the idea of an ad hoc committee to advise administration on how to handle the issue was proposed.

The issue currently facing the faculty regarding testing accommodations is that there is no central location for faculty to send students who need accommodations and instead, departments must create their own accommodations. This has created what faculty calls a logistical issue.

A central testing location did exist from 2013 to 2016, but the facility became defunct during the state budget impasse.

The facility was used for students who needed to have tests read to them, needed extra time or needed a distraction-free environment to take tests, for example.

The need for these accommodations still exists, which has put departments at odds with how they can handle all of the accommodations. There has also been a 25 percent increase in students needing accommodations in recent years because of a spike in students dealing with test anxiety.

Senate member Don Holly, an anthropology professor, said that currently in any class of 40 to 45 people, a faculty member could have two or three students needing accommodations.

“The type of accommodations that we’re talking about that testing services should help with would be extra time, quiet spaces or readers,” Holly said. “Finding room for two or three students for each class when you have many of these is a challenge for departments to find spaces for that. A centralized location would be great for that.”

Eastern Provost Jay Gatrell said working out a solution to this issue is a priority for him, and a number of solutions, including using graduate assistants, have been discussed. He also said, however, in the near future he sees no solution other than the status quo, but in the future they would like to get it figured out.

Holly said his hope is that testing services opens again.

“It is good for everybody,” he said. “Students need it; it would certainly help faculty. The university wants to accommodate students with needs, so I think it is good all around.”

Three guest speakers: Catherine Polydore, the chair of “Making Excellence Inclusive”; Grant Sterling, Eastern’s general education coordinator and philosophy professor; and Kenneth Wetstein, Eastern’s Vice President of University Advancement, delivered reports to the senate.

Sterling discussed what the general education committee, which looks at general education course goals at Eastern, was planning to do in the coming year.

That committee is under the Council on Academic Affairs and reports to Gatrell.

The general education committee’s current goal is to look at what general education courses are supposed to be doing and if the courses are working.

Wetstein informed the senate of his office’s plans in how to deal with donors moving forward. His plan includes proposing more need-based donations to donors and molding a master philanthropic plan at Eastern.

Polydore delivered the senate information about the upcoming Reaching Inclusivity in Student Excellence conference, which will be held at Eastern on Oct. 11.

The conference will include 18 sessions, which faculty can attend to learn about inclusivity in education.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].