Ad Hoc Committee on Institutional Service

Summary of Work and Findings



Committee Members:  Jimmie Agnew (A&S), Mike Calhoun (AC, EDU), Tina Das (LSB), Cindy Fair co-chair (A&S), Richard Haworth (A&S), Paul Parsons (Academic Administrator, JCM), Tim Peeples – co-chair (AC, A&S)


At the request of Academic Council, Council members Mike Calhoun and Tim Peeples were asked to form a committee to examine the current definition and significance of institutional service at Elon University and to encourage a campus conversation about such. The ad hoc committee was formed in late-September, met several times over the remaining months of the fall term, and developed and distributed a survey that went out to senior academic affairs administrators, deans, chairs, and department faculty. The following represents what the committee has learned from the surveys.


What is generally agreed upon about institutional service?

1.        First-year faculty are generally protected from service by their chairs.


2.        It is generally recommended that first-year faculty “get known by” and “get to know” the campus, so they can find their niches – the ways they can best serve the institution.


3.        It is generally agreed upon that as faculty become more senior service should increase in scope and responsibility, from departmental-level to institutional-wide level and from “member” to “chair” or “director.”


4.        Though it is broadly agreed that our strong campus community is built, partly, on the attendance of faculty at the wide range of ongoing campus events, it is, also, generally agreed that in order to maintain a healthy community such attendance should be considered voluntary rather than expected, and that such attendance should not be considered a form of institutional service.


5.        We find wide-spread concern that faculty are being asked to be everything to everyone – great teacher, tireless citizen to the campus community, and active scholar – and that this will lead either to burn-out and/or mediocrity across the board.


What are some of the primary issues related to institutional service?

1.        Lore contradicts handbook  The associate professor expectation of being “capable of undertaking institution-wide responsibilities” seems to be translated in cultural lore to mean that assistant professors must already serve the University as associate professors before going up for promotion to associate. Expectation seems to be that assistant professors should, at least, serve on standing committees by their third or fourth year (in a traditional 6 year probation period) but are better off if they have served as committee chairs or program directors by this time.


2.        Standardization vs. flexibility  There is a contradictory urge to quantify/standardize service expectations yet also to say that “one size does not fit all,” sometimes in the same survey responses. Probably in an effort to have a definitive sense of what is expected, we hear people asking the University to quantify the “amount” of service expected of faculty at different ranks and in different tracks. At the same time, we see people wanting to acknowledge that the amount and kind of service will be different from person to person, especially in relation to the amount and significance of one’s research/scholarship.


3.        Assessing service  From early on, we have seen a struggle between quantity and quality of service, as well as how “significance” is assessed.


4.        Blurring assessment categories  We have also seen in the survey responses a little confusion over where certain activities “fit” into the categories of service, teaching, and professional activity. For instance, where should holding an office in a professional organization be “counted”? Or where does one “count” Elon 101?