- The Committee on Academic Priorities 2006 (CAP)The Committee on Academic Priorities 2006 (CAP)
The faculty members and the Trustee-appointees of the CAP were appointed by the Committee of Six; the staff member, by the Advisory Committee on Personnel Policies (ACPP); and the student members, by the Association of Amherst Students. The committee met with approximately twenty-five groups of faculty, staff, administrators, and students and held four open meetings for faculty, which were attended by more than 90 percent of faculty in residence. The committee consulted with the Trustees through three meetings with the full Board, as well as conversations with individual Trustees. Alumni were generous with their time and counsel in meetings on campus and in other cities. The CAP met in executive session from December, 2004, to January, 2006, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis during the semester and held seven all-day or multiple-day retreats.
More than previous planning committees, the CAP operated within a network of other entities that include: the Special Committee on the Amherst Education (SCAE) and the five working groups that have continued its work; standing committees of the faculty; all academic departments and programs; the administrative units that report to the Dean of the Faculty; various President’s Initiative Fund (PIF) groups; and a range of ad hoc groups formed among faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The CAP received more than fifty formal planning documents, none of them perfunctory, these groups articulate their missions with a depth and creativity that capture the vitality of Amherst’s academic cultures, as well as their individuality.
Earlier stages in this many-sided initiative have already resulted in new courses on foundational skills, workshops outlining innovative pedagogies, new divisional working groups, a special program of academic advising added to New Student Orientation, a new faculty committee to oversee study abroad, and the creation of an Office of Institutional Research. Since most of these collaborating groups remain on the job, the CAP has reported the faculty at a moment when it is easier to cite progress than to claim closure. The aim of the CAP is not to end, but to focus the process of self-assessment and experimentation that began with the SCAE in 2002.
The CAP received more than 60 proposals for new faculty appointments and tried to map a general strategy for meeting the clearest needs within a range of growth that is fiscally responsible and appropriate to Amherst’s culture. Similarly the committee received proposals for half-a-dozen new standing committees of the faculty, alongside equally compelling pleas to cut back on the burden of committee service. As with new faculty positions, the CAP report assesses institutional needs rather than ranking specific proposals, so that the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) may make a more careful assessment after the faculty has expressed its will about the College’s central academic priorities.