Updated as of March 10, 2022 at 2:47 p.m. to include additional video.

As students, faculty and staff head into the final months on campus for the 2021-22 academic school year, Elon University’s academic council met to discuss a new course requirement for future students, elections for faculty councils and streamlining on-campus, faculty committee work. 

Chair of academic council Jason Husser, who has just a few weeks remaining in his term, said the academic council’s work this year focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, how the university’s shared governance model works for faculty and the current faculty evaluation system:  Student Perceptions of Teaching.

“T​​his is a year where we’re doing some pausing and reflecting and thinking, ‘Do our structures make sense for Elon as it is today?’” Husser said.

Check out the latest on ELN Morning below:

COVID-19 and faculty

Back in 2020, the academic council was involved in pandemic discussions with the university  about reopening campus, from spacing of desks in classrooms to testing strategies. 

Lifting the indoor mask mandate was announced days before the all-faculty meeting, a university-wide faculty meeting that happens four times throughout the year. Husser said the largest concern voiced during the meeting on March 4 was faculty asking why the mandate will be lifted March 14, as opposed to another day. 

March 14 is during Elon University’s spring break, which means students will come back to campus and have the opportunity to no longer wear masks in class. 

“There were a couple of faculty that expressed concern, particularly about the timing,” Husser said. “The primary thing raised … was why this week rather than after spring break.”

Jeff Stein, chair of the Healthy Elon Committee, told Elon News Network that the two week buffer was to give students, faculty and staff time to adjust.

“We intentionally waited and chose the 14th, even, so that we would have spring break for the case numbers to come down further before everyone was back on campus,” Stein said. “All of those things are moving in the same forward direction. We have no interest in switching things up unnecessarily.” 

Committee on committees 

Husser said one of the biggest items on his mind is making the most of on-campus faculty committees. Elon faculty have over fifteen committees they can be a part of on-campus, from the Academic Standing Committee and Admissions Committee to the Graduate Council and Library Committee. 

“All these collectively take a lot of time, and we want to make sure that we're making use of our time in such a way that is most helpful for students and students’ success and the mission of the university,” Husser said. “I'm hoping that we as a faculty will have a discussion of how can we optimize the amount of time we spend on committees, and trying to make them work better for both faculty and students.”

To account for and address faculty members serving on numerous committees, Husser said it is important for academic council to prioritize committees systematically.

“I don't think anybody really wants to drastically change them right away. Major changes that are across the board can often be insensitive and end up causing unintended consequences,” Husser said. “This is a long continual process. It's going to require incremental updates and improvements over time. That's been something I've cared a lot about personally this year.”

Equity course requirement

The academic council is also focusing on adding an equity course for all students. The course, similar to an Elon Learning requirement, would be a designation rather than a specific class dedicated to equity in the United States.

The course right now is in the curricular stage, meaning it is still being workshopped by the committee and is not yet a course. The requirement would not be for current students, but incoming students in the future.

“One comparison is every student takes advanced studies classes, so it's not a single class, but everybody's got to take a couple classes in this category,” Husser said. “Right now the curricular committees are focused on how should we go about doing one of these classes, where it works for all the departments on campus and works for people and students in various majors.”

Switching chairs

Husser will serve in his role as chair of the academic council for just a few more weeks before Chair-elect and Chair of the Department of Accounting Danny Lanier Jr. will step into the role of chair in May. Academic council elects on a three year cycle, with different positions elected each year. In total, 19 members serve on the council in addition to the chair of the university curriculum committee, the president of Elon University and the provost of Elon University.