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Plans for SIGCSE 2019

Topics/tags: Overcommitment, SIGCSE, things I wrote for other purposes

The other day, I sent my Dean a type of email message that I send him once or twice per year. What type of message? Read the first paragraph, and you’ll see the explanation.

Dear Dean Latham,

The Policy on Procedural Flexibility (p. 16 of the current Faculty Handbook) indicates that A faculty member should report to the Dean of the College any intention to leave the campus for any period which shall exceed two class days during the academic year. I am writing to report my intention to leave the campus for two such periods.

1. I will be attending the ACM FAT* Conference on Fair, Accountable, and Transparent AI from Tuesday, 29 January 2019 to Thursday, 31 January 2019. My attendance at the conference is a followup to areas I’ve been exploring as a Digital Bridges Fellow. For this trip, I will only miss one day of class (Wednesday, 30 January 2019) and I will arrange appropriate coverage for my classes.

2. I will be attending the 50th Annual SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education from Tuesday, 27 February 2019 to Sunday, 2 March 2019. I serve as one of the Student Volunteer Coordinators for that conference, helping manage the over 100 student volunteers that we rely upon. I am also co-presenting a paper on Grinnell’s CSC 321/22 courses and supporting my research students as they present [1] on their work. (Traditionally, SIGCSE has about a 30% acceptance rate for papers, so my students’ success in getting two papers accepted is quite good.) I am participating in a panel on community outreach in computer science and a Birds-of-a-Feather session on computing for social good. As Vice-Chair of the ACM Special Interest Group on Computers and Society (ACM SIGCAS), I expect to participate in yet-to-be-determined SIGCAS activities at the conference. For this trip, I will miss two days of class (Wednesday and Friday). I will arrange appropriate coverage for my classes.


-- SamR

What is the Policy on Procedural Flexibility? It appears in Part One: The Academic Organization of the College, Section IV. Faculty Duties and Responsibilities, Subsection A. Teaching and reads as follows.

2. Policy on Procedural Flexibility

The number of credits a course receives at Grinnell College is not tied to the number of hours per week that the class meets. This arrangement permits variation in frequency and length of class meetings, depending upon the nature of the course and the level of the students in the course, and provisions for reading periods during which times classes may have irregular or no meetings, as well as flexibility in the use of texts and examinations. It does not mean, however, that the faculty member is not accessible to students in the course who may wish consultations on their reading and research projects for the course. A faculty member should report to the Dean of the College any intention to leave the campus for any period which shall exceed two class days during the academic year. The Dean has the right to refuse such leave when in the Dean’s opinion, teaching will be unwarrantedly disrupted.

I’m not sure whether other faculty members follow the requirement that we report our anticipated absences; I expect that it falls in the fairly broad category of things that are in the handbook but don’t seem to be common practice [2]. Nonetheless, I’ve tried to follow this practice.

But that’s not the topic of this musing.

As I was finishing the paragraph about SIGCSE, I said to myself What were you thinking? I’ve committed to a surprisingly large number of activities at SIGCSE. Given my experiences as SV co-chair last year, any time I’m not at sessions in which I’m presenting, I’ll need to be in the SV coordinators office. As I’ve said, I didn’t expect all three papers to be accepted. I’d also put together a panel; I’m somewhat glad that it was not accepted [4]. I can’t back out of any of these responsibilities, and, in the end, I’m happy to participate in all these activities. But it will be an especially busy SIGCSE.

Maybe I’ll make saner choices next year.

Postscript: I also need to find a way to get to Gloria Childress Townsend and Mark Guzdial’s keynotes. Both have been great inspirations.

Postscript: Although I’ve committed to a lot at SIGCSE, I know that it’s less than Dan Garcia normally does and I expect it will be far less than Colleen Lewis does. They, and so many others, do so much for our conference in a variety of ways, but particularly through great presentations [5]. I don’t know how they do it.

Postscript: This musing reminds me that I have to get cracking on the SIGCSE Student Volunteers database. The last time I tried to do anything, it didn’t work. I’m a bit worried.

[1] I meant to write as they present two papers on their work. Oh well. That issue is clarified.

[2] There’s some evidence that our policy that faculty members share their syllabi with the Department Chair was not followed regularly until the past year or two. I also know that whenever I mention my practice as Department Chair of gathering feedback on teaching from the Student Educational Policy Committee (SEPC), people are surprised by that practice. But the Handbook does say that

The Chair of the Department shall meet regularly with the departmental Student Educational Policy Committee to obtain its impressions of the department’s programs and the performance of the department’s faculty members. Such impressions should be reported, when appropriate, to the faculty member concerned and to the Dean of the College. (p. 12 of the 4-18-2018 version of the handbook [3])

[3] There’s a newer version of the handbook posted. However, my conversations with FOC members suggest that that handbook contains incorrect text. That may be a story for another day.

[4] I think it was a good panel, and the reviews were strong. But that’s how things go sometimes.

[5] No, I’m not trying to suck up. I don’t gain anything from complementing Colleen and Dan.

Version 1.0 of 2018-12-07.