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Designing a handbook for our Student Educational Policy Committee

At the last meeting of Department Chairs with the Dean, we talked about a variety of issues: The roles of chairs specified in the faculty handbook (including some many of us seem to ignore), the new charge from DAR [1] to spend down our restricted fund, ways to communicate with candidates in a search, and the forthcoming student strike [2].

Somewhere in the middle of discussing the roles of chairs, we hit the issue of the Student Educational Policy Committee, or SEPC [3]. When Student Affairs was revising the Student Handbook a few years ago, they decided to remove any mention of SEPCs. That was a really bad idea, since SEPCs play a formal role in the evaluation of faculty. When I was on the Faculty Organization Committee [7], we were charged to rewrite the faculty handbook so that it no longer assumed that the SEPC were the elected representatives of the majors in the department [8].

Dean Latham suggested, sensibly enough, that we should probably put policies regarding the SEPC in both the Faculty Handbook and the Student Handbook [9,10]. Policies would indicate who can serve (some departments allow only declared majors to serve, some allow a broader group of students to serve [12]) and how and when elections are held. There are also some official policies on the roles of student review committees [14] with regards to faculty reviews and faculty searches

But there’s more to the SEPC than those policies. It was suggested at the meeting that we ask SEPCs to develop handbooks of guidelines and suggestions for the less formal aspects of SEPCs. I think there are certainly some good common practices that every SEPC should follow. But there are also some practices that differ from department to department.

When I next meet with my SEPC, I think we should work on outlining the CS department SEPC handbook. Let’s see, what would I put in there?

  • A general list of responsibilities. (This list changes over time, but we could keep it up to date.) Most are entries below.
  • College requirements for SEPCs [15]
    • Implicit bias training
    • Title IX training
    • ???
  • SGA requirements for SEPCs
    • Some monthly meeting
    • ???
  • Material pertaining to faculty reviews
    • Information about process and responsibilities for faculty reviews, including some of the information from the Faculty Handbook.
    • Sample review questions.
    • Sample review letters.
  • Material pertaining to faculty searches
    • Expectations for SEPCs - attend lunch with candidate; attend candidate’s talk; serve as a gateway for student feedback; provide prompt commentary (preferably within a day)
  • Funding
    • From SGA (how much? how do they get it?)
    • From the department (how much? how do they get it?)
    • General College policies on turning in receipts
  • Traditional SEPC social activities
    • Weekly study breaks
    • T-shirt voting
    • Pub quiz
    • Picnics
  • Election procedures and policies (at least until the College ends up specifying those)
  • Approximate yearly calendar - what needs to get done when
  • Collaboration with other departmental student groups: ACM Student Chapter [17], Women in Computing [18], After School Code Club, and others I’m probably forgetting [19].
  • Expectations for weekly or bi-weekly meetings with Department Chair.
  • General information on the department that the SEPC (and, probably, other students) should know.

Wow! That’s more than I thought, and that’s just a starting point. This project will definitely take some time and effort. Given how busy the members of my SEPC seem to be, I’m guessing that I’ll have to take the lead on getting something started, and then let them edit it. But, as I said, that’s something to discuss with them. Maybe they won’t even want a handbook.

[1] Development and Alumni Relations.

[2] No, I have no plans to write about the student strike.

[3] I’ve always wanted to call them the Student Educational Policy, Teaching, and Instruction Committee, but no one else seems to like that idea [4].

[4] I also think that South-East Polk should have ticks as their mascot, so that they can be the SEPticks [5].

[5] Sometimes, I worry about the things my brain comes up with [6].

[6] I also worry about the things with which my brain comes up.

[7] I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I still think that the Faculty Organization Committee should be Organizing the faculty. I have a list of Union songs all ready.

[8] Because of that rewrite, I’ve pushed back, sometimes a little harder than I should, when the Dean’s office sends out guidelines that indicate that the SEPC is responsible for faculty reviews.

[9] Because the College doesn’t understand the concept of permanent URLs, or even long-term URLs, it is likely that the link to the student handbook will break within six months of me posting this essay. You can probably find the latest student handbook somewhere at

[10] Self-gov suggests that students should probably develop those policies. However, I have been asking the SGA VPAA [11] to rewrite those policies for the past four years or so, and it hasn’t happened. When students yield their responsibilities, I think others have to take on those responsibilities. However, I do think we should develop those new policies consultatively.

[11] Student Government Association Vice President for Academic Affairs.

[12] One of our best SEPC members was a Philosophy major, and we regularly have not-yet-declared majors on our SEPC.

[14] Yes, that change I mentioned above replaced SEPC with Student Review Committee in many places. There’s also a note that, in many cases, the SEPC will serve as the Student Review Committee.

[15] If you search the College’s Web site, you will be unable to find any documents that specify that SEPCs need this training. But there was an agreement reached between the Dean’s office and the SGA VPAA last year, and that agreement exists in a desk drawer somewhere [16].

[16] I believe it also exists in my mailbox somewhere.

[17] If it still exists.

[18] Our Women in Computing group tends to make their activities open to everyone.

[19] I should probably get the leaders of those groups together once a semester to talk about big-picture issues.

Version 1.0 of 2017-02-14.