Self-Study Report: Chapter Two
A Mission-Driven, Accountable College
The mission documents of Calvin College are clear, public articulations of its vision and commitments. The Reformed tradition gives diligent attention to establishing first principles for action, understanding the relationship between theory and practice, and exercising theological precision. This has meant, as Robert Benne observed in his study of six premier colleges that have resisted secularization, that “Rarely has a college thought out and applied its vision in as much detail and with as much care as Calvin.”1
Defining the Mission: A Documentary History
Calvin has produced a variety of detailed documents that address its mission. Five of these are the most relevant for the college today. The mission statement of the college is defined in An Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College (1992, revised 2004). The program of general education is described in An Engagement with God’s World: The Core Curriculum of Calvin College (1999), while Professional Education and the Christian Liberal Arts College (1973, revised, 1986) lays the foundation for professional programs at the college. From Every Nation: Revised Comprehensive Plan for Racial Justice, Reconciliation, and Cross-cultural Engagement at Calvin College (2004) sets out college’s approach to racial and ethnic diversity. Finally, the document outlining the principles and system of governance for the college is the Report of the Faculty Organization Study Committee to the Faculty of Calvin College (1972).2
An Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College
An Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College (ESM) was the product of a long series of consultations between the drafting committee and the faculty, administration, staff, and various constituencies of the college. Approved in 1992, it was bound and published in 1996 to honor Gordon Van Harn, retiring provost, whose able leadership had steered the ESM toward completion. It has been a staple item for introducing the college to prospective faculty and administrators, and, on occasion, to interested prospective students and their families.
After the ESM was published, a condensed mission statement—“Vision, Purpose, Commitment”— was developed for specific use in promotional literature. Identifying Calvin as a “comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity,” the simplified mission statement declares that through learning, members of the Calvin community “seek to be agents of renewal in the academy, church, and society,” and “pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God’s work in God’s world.” It sets out three primary purposes: to “engage in vigorous liberal arts education that promotes lifelong Christian service,” to “produce substantial, challenging art and scholarship,” and to “perform all our tasks as a caring and diverse educational community,” in response to a divine calling. Finally, the statement affirms the college’s commitment to the authority of Scripture and the witness of the ecumenical creeds and the Reformed confessions—in particular, those of the Christian Reformed Church. In this portable form, the ESM has taken on an enhanced public role for the college. Its brevity allows the imagery and vocabulary of the ESM to find its way not only into the college’s catalog but also into its recruitment and promotional literature, Web site, departmental mission statements, and course syllabi.
An Engagement with God’s World: The Core Curriculum of Calvin College
Calvin College’s new core curriculum grew out of an assessment of the core curriculum that was conducted in 1996-1997.3 The assessment project indicated that many Calvin students were not able to adequately articulate the mission of the college: “…after a year of Calvin study, the perspective of the college is not clearly evident to these students.”4 Later, this longitudinal study revealed that only about one third of the seniors in the sample could give an adequate account of the college’s perspective. This study was powerful evidence of a need for curriculum revision. A core curriculum revision committee had been created already, and its mandate to draft a revised core curriculum for the college was fortified by this evidence.
The document produced by the Core Revision Committee, An Engagement with God’s World: The Core Curriculum of Calvin College (1999), is made up of three parts: the statement of purpose, the description of the new core curriculum, and a suggested structure for the ongoing work of supervising the core curriculum.
The 42-page prefatory essay of An Engagement with God’s World gained campus-wide acclaim as an especially elegant articulation of the mission of Calvin College. Quoting the ESM, it reiterated Calvin’s purpose to offer vigorous liberal arts education to promote lives of Christian service. The essay traced the historical, theological, and practical roots of the tradition of the college, situating Calvin at the intersection of American higher education and Reformed Christianity. It reminded readers that Calvin’s distinctive mission was not merely liberal arts education or the promotion of lives of service but, rather, “the combination of these two elements under the heading of ‘Christian.’”5 Indeed, “In the Reformed tradition of liberal arts education, the whole life of the mind combines with the whole life of service under the headship of Christ.”6
Professional Education and the Christian Liberal Arts College
Professional Education and the Christian Liberal Arts College (PECLAC) was produced by a faculty study committee in 1973 and amended in 1986. The document noted that the college was founded partly in response to the need for a preparatory program of education for ministers in the church. PECLAC provided a rationale for the conscious expansion of the college’s professional programs, grounded in the need for service-oriented institutions in contemporary society, the demands for stewardly husbanding of the church’s educational resources, and the growing collaboration between the liberal arts and professional education.
The document laid the foundation for the “institutionalized, well-organized and imaginative integration of liberal arts and professional education” that characterizes Calvin College today.7 PECLAC offered four guidelines that the college has used in the development of its professional programs. First, the college should involve itself only in what PECLAC called “college-related professions,” by which it meant programs that are multidisciplinary in character and that employ sophisticated technologies that presuppose knowledge and skills drawn from several academic disciplines.8 Second, the college should assess the need for such programs through consideration of its role of servant to its students, the Christian community, and the larger human community. Third, the college should evaluate how its resources meet the educational needs of the communities that its professional programs serve. Fourth, the college should consider how it might make an effective contribution to professional programs by way of liberal arts education.9 In this regard PECLAC treated the core curriculum of the college
The college adopted the specific recommendations of PECLAC regarding the liberal arts core for the professional programs.11 A 1986 amendment clarified the minimum core curriculum requirements for students in professional programs. When the new core curriculum was installed in 2001, it was the occasion for a careful review of each professional program’s appropriation of the core requirements. The result, overall, was that these programs took fewer exemptions from the new core than they had from the old one.
The Calvin Anti-Racism Team (CART) and From Every Nation
Since the mid-1980s the college’s explicit commitment to racial and ethnic diversity was embodied in a document titled A Comprehensive Plan for Integrating North American Ethnic Minority Persons and Their Interests into Every Facet of Calvin’s Institutional Life (more commonly known as the Comprehensive Plan).12 The Comprehensive Plan grounded its goals and recommendations in the concept of the church universal. Citing the biblical vision of the kingdom of God as formed “from every tribe and language and people and nation,” quoting the words of Revelation 5:9-10, it called for the college to be seen as “a credible witness of the culturally diverse character of the kingdom of God,” and that it “build bridges of communication and cooperation with ethnic minority communities.” On the heels of a 1998 college conference on multicultural concerns,13 a review of the Comprehensive Plan was led by members of the Calvin Anti-Racism Team (CART). CART reported its findings to the Planning and Priorities Committee,14 which created a task force that recommended that the Comprehensive Plan be strengthened through a more explicitly antiracist orientation, a deeper sense of urgency and commitment, and more effective mechanisms of accountability.15 The result was a revision and expansion of the Comprehensive Plan, called From Every Nation: Revised Comprehensive Plan for Racial Justice, Reconciliation, and Cross-cultural Engagement at Calvin College, passed by the faculty in the fall of 2003.
In From Every Nation (FEN) the college reexamined its foundational documents with a particular eye toward strengthening an anti-racist stance.
Three themes informed the recommendations of FEN: the need for cross-cultural and intercultural competencies in a global environment, the need for enhanced institutional accountability, and the need to be agents of reconciliation and restoration.16 After cataloging the college’s progress toward the goals set out in the original Comprehensive Plan, the revised document set out new goals, recommended strategies of implementation, and established mechanisms of accountability through existing committees and offices of the college. It mandated a new dean’s position in multicultural affairs and charged the pre-existing Multicultural Affairs Committee with making annual reports on progress in the various areas covered, as well as reviewing the entire plan every five years. The new goals included the following: to develop a more racially and culturally diverse faculty, staff, administration, and student body; to reflect the character of the body of Christ; and to “resist racism, embody reconciliation, and live together in Christian community.” The new goals commit the college to “introduce students to global perspectives, cultivate the virtue of discernment, and impart a commitment to counter racism,” through the core curriculum and major programs. Instruction at the college “will reflect significant sensitivity to racial and cultural diversity and will model the ability to discern and counter racism.”17
FEN assigns responsibility for these goals to specific faculty committees and administrative units, and it outlines plans to communicate these priorities and commitments to the supporting constituencies of the college, including the Board of Trustees, Calvin Alumni Association, and Christian Reformed Church. It sets forth the two goals of Calvin’s becoming “an effective agent of racial justice and harmony in its external partnerships,” and effectively communicating these efforts.
Report of the Faculty Organization Study Committee to the Faculty of Calvin College
Calvin College, perhaps more than most of its peer colleges, has involved faculty in the governance of the institution. The basis for faculty governance at the college goes back to a document, Report of the Faculty Organization Study Committee to the Faculty of Calvin College, passed by the faculty and accepted by the Board of Trustees in 1972. This was the so-called FOSCO (Faculty Organization Study Committee) document, the product of a faculty committee that conducted its work over a period of five years beginning in 1967. FOSCO described a system of shared governance in which faculty committees, with some representative administrators and student members, became the principal policy-making bodies of the college.18 In 1995 the college modified this plan to include a faculty senate to review and approve the policies and programs developed by committees. This document and the governance structure of the college will be discussed in detail below.
A Pervasive Sense of Mission
Understanding of and support for the mission are pervasive at Calvin College. The mission guides strategic planning and decision-making, as well as the creation of new policies and programs.
The Mission and Faculty, Staff, and Board Development
Orientation programs for new staff, new faculty, and the Board of Trustees are intended to familiarize them with the mission of the college and the basics of the Reformed tradition. In the Kuiper Seminar, which takes place during every January Interim, new tenure-track faculty members study the mission and traditions of the college. They read significant works by seminal figures in the Reformed tradition— St. Augustine, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Abraham Kuyper, H. Richard Niebuhr—and learn about the history of the college and its supporting denomination, the Christian Reformed Church. Against this backdrop they hold discussions and write papers that focus on how their own teaching and scholarship can both be grounded in and progressively extend the college’s tradition. A similar seminar, known as “ Kuiper II,” with much of the same intent as the Kuiper Seminar, is in place for faculty members on terminal appointments.19
An orientation program has been developed for new staff at the administrative or support staff level. This orientation is modeled after the faculty Kuiper Seminars but is conducted in a less intensive format, over seven weeks. It is offered three times per year, with all staff hired in the previous four months invited to participate. The orientation includes an introduction to the mission of the college; an overview of all campus services; a session on the history of the Christian Reformed Church and the college; a presentation on the core curriculum; a presentation on Reformed theology and its application to student activities; sexual harassment awareness training and anti-racism training; and a session on life at Calvin, which encompasses opportunities for personal, spiritual, and physical health and wellness as part of a Christian community. New staff members are given assigned readings from the basic mission documents of the college and from Cornelius Plantinga’s book, Engaging God’s World. Upon completion of the program, staff members receive a certificate of completion as well as a Calvin golf shirt. This program is a partnership between the office of the President and the office of Human Resources.20 The Board of Trustees conducts a seven-hour orientation session for all new trustees of the college prior to the first meeting of the season, led by the vice chair of the board, the college president, and the executive associate to the president. The program gives an overview of the mission of the college, the functions of the various board committees, and the responsibilities for board representation to the Christian Reformed Church, alumni communities, and other constituencies.21
The Mission and Student Life
During the last ten years, the Student Life Division has made an intentional move toward more professionalism and a more intensive uptake of the aims of the college. In 1994 only one division staff member had a doctoral degree. Now, there are five PhDs on the staff (three in the Broene Counseling Center, one in the Service-Learning Center, and one in the office of the Chaplain); three other staff members are currently enrolled in doctoral programs. In addition, a master’s degree in higher education or a related field is sought for most professional-level positions, including resident directors (RDs). Training, support, and oversight for RDs have all expanded, including the reorganization of the central office of Residence Life. In 1990 the office had two deans (a dean of men and a dean of women), one housing assistant, and one shared administrative assistant. Now, there are four deans: the dean of residence life, two assistant deans, and the dean of students for judicial affairs, a position created in 2003 to manage higher-level judicial cases and oversee the larger disciplinary process.
The Student Life Division introduces the mission of the college to students at the very start of their academic careers. The three days of the fall orientation program (called Quest)22 are organized programmatically around the three key phrases of the abbreviated mission statement: “Calvin is a comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of Christianity. Through our learning, we seek to be agents of renewal in the academy, church, and society. We pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God’s work in God’s world.”
The first-year components of the new core curriculum, Prelude and Developing a Christian Mind, are central to the college’s efforts to communicate its mission and the basics of the Reformed tradition to students. Prelude seminars (half-semester, one credit hour) are coordinated and taught by Student Life Division staff.23
As part of the previous NCA accreditation process, the Student Life Division updated its own mission statement and created a list of desired outcomes for students. This list formed the basis of a divisional programming calendar that is used primarily by office of Residence Life staff in both peer-based and staff educational programming efforts, and is supported by the work of the other Student Life Division units.24
Another goal of the Student Life Division ten years ago was greater collaboration with faculty, and much progress has been made in this area, as described in the introduction to this report. One tangible outcome of this collaboration has been the growth in academically based service learning across the curriculum.
Table 2.1 Service-Learning Student Participation Statistics, 1993-2004
*Since totals prior to 2000-2001 did not distinguish between Student-Based Service-Learning (SBSL) and Academically Based Service-Learning (ABSL), the data for SBSL and ABSL are combined for the years thereafter.
a Represents the ABSL total
Finally, the college’s commitment to diversity is reflected in the ongoing efforts of the Student Life Division to support students and create experiences for learning. The many programs and events generated by Student Development office staff, including UnLearn Week (an anti-racism initiative), community-wide Institutes for Healing Racism, Readers for Reconciliation study and discussion groups, the Sister-to-Sister Program for one-on-one cross-cultural dialogue, Student Life Division staff participation in the Calvin Anti-Racism Team (CART), and the Mosaic Community, a living-learning residence hall floor to promote discussion of multicultural issues, are evidence of this commitment.
The Mission, the Curriculum, and College Programs
As will be seen in chapter four, assessment of student learning, focusing on the mission of the college, played a central role in the development of the new core curriculum. One goal of the current strategic plan is to encourage development of departmental mission statements. All academic departments have written mission statements, but some have not been reviewed for many years. Over the past five years the Educational Policy Committee has encouraged departments that are proposing major curricular revisions to sharpen their mission statements and assessment plans as well.25 Quite a few programs and offices have also written mission statements in recent years, including the Mosaic Community, Project Neighborhood, Academic Multicultural Affairs, Broene Counseling Center, Calvin Theatre Company, Calvin Accessibility Advisory Committee, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Student Academic Services, Health Services, and others.26
The Mission and Creation Care
The ESM reminds us that the Reformed tradition of Christianity is a living tradition that continuously seeks to “understand God’s redeeming purposes toward creation.” The Reformed tradition emphasizes that “God is sovereign over all of creation,” and that “all believers are called to serve the Lord as witnesses to Christ’s love in every area of life and as agents of renewal in the creation.” One feature of humanity’s uniqueness is that “we are stewards of God’s whole creation with the responsibility to help the creation flourish while we also respect and preserve what God declared good.”27 In response to this stewardship mandate the college has approved and supported the formation of four creation-care groups:
These committees have been instrumental in implementing a recycling program in dormitories and college offices, promoting the use of mass transit by the campus community, and developing a general awareness of the college’s environmental ties to the surrounding community. They have also promoted the use of native plants in campus landscaping and in habitat restoration sites on campus. They also promote and support various other campus creation-care initiatives.
Among these efforts, the college has increasingly incorporated energy-conserving strategies into its buildings, including two cogeneration plants that drive the campus heating loop. In developing the new east campus, the college has committed to landscaping with native species and has taken numerous measures to integrate new development with the Ecosystem Preserve, a campus nature preserve established in 1985. In its newest construction, the Bunker Interpretive Center, the college followed the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines of the U.S. Green Building Council to create a building that is a demonstration of creation care in building design and construction. The college has received LEED gold certification for the building.29 College stewardship in land use is reflected in the Ecosystem Preserve. In addition to preserving local habitats, the Ecosystem Preserve provides a venue for college-sponsored environmental education programs for local elementary school students. The new Bunker Interpretive Center, adjacent to the preserve, will be a hub for further promoting a stewardship ethic to our campus community and beyond and for enhancing the educational use of the preserve.
The college has also established curricular programs that emphasize awareness and understanding of creation care, including an interdisciplinary environmental science major and an environmental studies minor to complement other programs of concentration.
The Mission and External Relations
Calvin College has been working at a consistent, integrated, mission-driven approach to external relations for more than a decade.
These efforts grew out of the recognition that the students who would be most successful in taking advantage of what Calvin has to offer were those who understood the mission of the college. By the late 1980s the college was beginning to attract the interest of Christian students from a broader spectrum of American Protestant denominations. The Admissions office looked for ways to relax the invisible borders of its strongly Dutch, Christian Reformed Church culture so as to better communicate itself to these potential students and new audiences. Calvin needed to learn not only how to be welcoming to that wider population of students but also how to be honestly self-promotional without compromising the long tradition of institutional modesty. The development of mission statements and strategic plans, based on the ESM, in the offices of what is now the Enrollment and External Relations Division fit this overall effort. In these documents the offices of the division worked at capturing the essence of Calvin College and using it to communicate with various audiences.30 In admissions and financial aid decisions, the college approaches these new audiences in a fair-handed manner. There is, for example, in admissions policy no “legacy” weighting that favors the children of Calvin alumni. Students who come to Calvin as members of Christian Reformed churches qualify for a denominational grant, but there is no link between this program and parents who are alumni of the college. There are a handful of competitive Calvin Alumni Association scholarships available, which, when awarded, are treated as part of an overall financial aid package. Similarly, egalitarianism prevails in financial aid decisions, so that, for instance, National Merit Scholars who come to Calvin all receive the same award. The approach is to try to serve all students who fit the mission of the college so that they are enabled to attend.31 Using the results of a survey conducted in 2003,32 the Enrollment and External Relations Division has expanded its contact with parents of Calvin students. Survey results showing that parents of Calvin students were very satisfied convinced the division of the need to do better at communicating with them and keeping them involved in the long-term life of the college. In 2003 the division significantly expanded its small office of Parent Relations, believing that a strong parent organization can provide support to the Academic Affairs and Student Life divisions by assisting, for example, in issues arising from the transition to college.
Another office that has been significantly enhanced is the office of Community Relations. During the past 15 to 20 years Calvin’s influence, especially in West Michigan, has significantly broadened beyond the Christian Reformed Church and Christian schools. Not only do more students come from a variety of denominations and schools, but faculty, staff, and students also connect to scores of agencies and organizations for research, scholarship, and academically based service-learning. The Grand Rapids community expects the college to be a key player in civic and social causes, and in order to respond appropriately and effectively, Calvin’s director of community relations is leading efforts to prioritize and refine relationships with public schools, community and faith-based organizations, and municipalities.
The Admissions office also runs a distinctive, mission-focused visit program called Fridays at Calvin. Rather than bring prospective students to campus on only three or four special weekends during the year, “Fridays” gathers smaller groups of about 100 high school students on eighteen Fridays—basically, every normal Friday of the academic year at Calvin. These visits always include classroom visits and a luncheon with faculty members identified by academic department. In this way, prospective students observe the college going about the normal work of living out its academic mission.
Another tool in this effort is the college’s Web site. Although the technology side of the Web site is administered by Calvin Information Technology (CIT), the appearance and content of the upper levels of the Web site, and the structure of the whole, are the responsibility of the Enrollment and External Relations Division. At least in part, the Web site is an image and public relations tool, as can be seen, for example, in the parents’ resource page and in the Calvin Distinctives.33
One final example of the efforts in the Enrollment and External Relations Division to develop a consistent and integrated communication of the mission of the college is the new tagline, Calvin: Minds in the Making. Calvin’s Admissions office first engaged the firm Communicorp for an evaluation of its public presentation after a national search in the early 1990s, prior to the 1994 NCA review. Communicorp, which had significant experience in higher education, produced a report that identified four marketing points for the college that arose immediately from its mission: (1) that Calvin was a Christian institution, (2) that it was a strikingly academic institution, (3) that it was a welcoming community, and (4) that it was an institution devoted to Christian service.34 At the time, Calvin’s Admissions office dramatically increased its investment in communications and design. After a beginning that including standardizing the Calvin nameplate, Communicorp was dissolved, and for three years Calvin used another firm to continue these efforts. Dissatisfied with its progress, however, Calvin conducted another national search in 1999 and settled on Crane MetaMarketing, one of Communicorp’s successor firms. Thus, eight years after its people had first come to Calvin, Crane MetaMarketing was back in 2000 to help the college build a marketing strategy that could communicate effectively with its Christian Reformed base audience while simultaneously reaching out to achieve greater national visibility.35 The result was not merely an admissions slogan but a positioning statement, a succinct summary of what Calvin reliably “delivers” to its students: Calvin is the distinctively Christian, academically excellent liberal arts college that shapes minds for intentional participation in the renewal of all things.36 This positioning statement produced Calvin’s institutional branding tagline, the short-form, memorable concept phrase that has become the “handle” for the college—Calvin: Minds in the Making.37
The Mission and Diversity
At Calvin the term diversity is used in slightly different ways in different contexts. Frequently, it means racial diversity, as when speaking of people of color or when discussing the make-up of the Calvin student body, faculty, and staff. Sometimes, it means ethnic diversity but of a different kind, and is used to describe the growing number of students, faculty, and staff including but not limited to people of color, whose ethnic heritage is not Dutch American. Sometimes it refers to what might better be termed religious plurality, when speaking of the variety of denominations in the North American Christian context. And at times the term diversity is used to talk about different kinds of learners, including students with disabilities.
Diversity in the Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College
The ESM commits the college to becoming an institution that is welcoming to diverse groups of students. In order to do this, the ESM had to acknowledge Calvin’s history as a college that aimed to educate the children of the church and to use that as a foundation for building new institutional structures for more diverse learners. The ESM is an essay in two main parts: “shaping a college mission” and “enacting a college mission.” The first is rather inward looking; the second, more outward looking.
The first section of the ESM explains and affirms the relationship between Calvin College and the Christian Reformed Church as mutually supportive and valuable. It can at one level be read today as a historic moment in which this relationship was especially strained. Accusations of heresy had been cast at one faculty member by certain members of the church, and there were more general suspicions among conservative church members about the intellectual and spiritual state of the college. The church itself was in the midst of a wrenching debate about the role of women and, especially, about the appropriateness of ordaining women to office in the church, a debate in which the faculty of the college were perceived by some in the church to support one partisan position. In the face of these debates the ESM insisted that the church still needed the college, and the college still needed the Christian Reformed Church. At another level, the section can be read as affirming the historic relationship of college and church, including the particular origins of both in religious and social movements in the Netherlands that were responsible for the particular intellectual tradition of each institution. Yet this section does not neglect the role of the college in focusing on the community, and in preparing Christian leadership in culture: “The classroom is a context for looking outward, for equipping students with an understanding of the world in which they live, and for bringing a redemptive message to that world. The college thereby serves as a mission by the church to modern culture.”38
The second section of the ESM takes this theme up more directly, turning the attention of the college to the world outside its own walls, recalling its long experience of participation in broader trends of American higher education, and revitalizing conceptual models available to it from within its own intellectual tradition. Drawing on the line in the mission statement that Calvin engages in vigorous liberal arts education that “promotes lives of Christian service,” the document connects the need to serve an increasingly diverse student body with the recognition that Calvin is a particular kind of community, a learning community, and that in this community differing Christian traditions are “gifts to be strengthened through sharing.”39 The ESM explicitly recognizes that the challenge was raised by Calvin’s own historical trajectory,
The learning community of Calvin is to be purposeful, aimed at shaping hearts and minds through higher learning for Christian living; it is to be just, recognizing the worth of each member; it is to be compassionate, with each member being in “concerted sympathy with the tasks and gifts of others”; and it is to be disciplined, pursuing the mission of the college and remaining true to its rich heritage in the Reformed tradition.
The ESM grounds Calvin’s commitment to diversity in the diversity of the church. “Christ’s church is characterized by the unity of diverse persons who contribute different formative experiences to our understanding of the faith. We affirm the goal of seeking, nurturing, and celebrating cultural and ethnic diversity at the college.”41
While the college seeks diversity in gender, race, and ethnic heritage, the ESM also broadens the definition of diversity, stating that “…the nature of the church and the nature of education require that the college serve an increasingly diverse student body.”42 This means that Calvin
Likewise, the philosophy statement of Calvin’s office of Student Academic Services roots all its programs—for students with disabilities, for North American minority (AHANA) students, for international students, and for students who need academic support—in the fundamental commitments of the college to the church and the kingdom of God that are articulated in the ESM.44
Diversity in the Core Curriculum
The core curriculum directs this outward orientation into specific categories of knowledge, skills, and virtues, emphasizing that one of the points of the curriculum is “enabling Christians to live effectively in contemporary society.”45 In contemporary American society, the knowledge of God means not only knowing God and knowing the Reformed tradition of Christianity, but also knowing other religious traditions. “This world contains other major religious traditions that inform the beliefs, practices, institutions, and cultures of many nations and billions of people.”46 Knowledge of the world means, among other things, knowledge of human society:
The Calvin core curriculum requires competence in a foreign language, as a “key that unlocks the door to the people, literature, history, outlook, and activities of another culture.”48 Additionally, the new core curriculum requires competence in what it calls “the art of cross-cultural communication,” since the world is made up of many diverse cultures, and since North America, which is home to most Calvin students, “…has itself become culturally complex as a result of European colonization, the institution of slavery, policies of forced migration, the cumulative effects of immigration, the growth of international economic systems, and development in the technologies of travel and communication.”49
Understanding of these issues is, of course, spread throughout a number of required courses in the social sciences and humanities. Fulfillment of the specific cross-cultural engagement core requirement is managed by the Cross-Cultural Engagement (CCE) Committee. The committee drew up a set of objectives to be met by students in particular courses carrying CCE credit.50 Beyond this, student learning about social and cultural diversity is carried by two requirements. The first is the course History of the West and the World, about the global context of Euro-American civilization. The second requirement is a course in the core category of Global and Historical Studies, which requires that students pursue further study of a distant culture.51
Among the virtues that the new core curriculum seeks to instill in students is the virtue of empathy, “an imaginative transposition of the whole self into the matters to be understood, a readiness to experience the world as others have experienced it.” Students “should be encouraged to move about in their imaginations, to inhabit locations that differ significantly from their own, standpoints from which the world not only looks different but feels different….”52
Diversity across the Campus
Shortly after the publication of the ESM, planning began for a high-profile initiative to draw attention to the place of the college as a diverse community of learners. Celebrated with events and programs throughout the 1996-1997 academic year, this initiative was known as the Multicultural Year.
Out of that experience came some enduring campus features—most notably, an ongoing lecture and performance series, and Rangeela, an annual performing arts extravaganza planned and produced by international students. A summative conference at the conclusion of the year became the occasion to review the college’s progress under the 1985 Comprehensive Plan and to begin the process that produced an overhaul of that plan, From Every Nation (2004).53
The Mission and Governance
The governance and administrative structures of the college promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable Calvin to fulfill its mission. Calvin College has resisted tendencies in higher education to move toward a business model of governance and to limit faculty involvement in governance to strictly academic matters. Tensions do result, however, especially among faculty who feel the pressure of expectations to produce works of scholarship and art, and yet are asked to serve on policy-making committees and administer programs for the college. During the years since Calvin’s last accreditation review the college has accommodated the need to streamline governance by moving from a model based on deliberations at meetings of the full faculty to a model based on representation in a faculty senate. This change has not come without certain strains.
The Board of Trustees
The relationship between governance structures and the fulfillment of Calvin’s mission begins with the Board of Trustees. As Robert Benne has observed, “The Reformed vision prevails at Calvin because a strong and disciplined Christian Reformed Church provides a board of trustees for Calvin College that is sophisticated enough theologically to monitor both Calvin’s administration and faculty for theological orthodoxy and for skill in relating faith and learning.”54 As the Board of Trustees Handbook states, “The Board of Trustees’ basic function is to ensure that the college accomplishes its mission. The board does this primarily through its role in the determination of policies, strategies, and budgets.”55
Calvin’s Board of Trustees is currently made up of 31 members serving three-year terms. Sixteen are regional trustees elected by the classes (regional groupings of congregations) of the Christian Reformed Church. Thus a majority of the board is drawn from the Christian Reformed Church. Three trustees, nominated by the Calvin Alumni Association and elected by the Board of Trustees, serve as “ alumni trustees” to bring an alumni perspective to college matters. Twelve trustees are nominated as at-large representatives by the board itself.
The board meets three times annually, in February, May, and October. Between meetings its business is conducted by its Executive Committee, composed of the board’s chair, vice chair, secretary, the president of the college, and the chairs of the six committees of the board. Besides the Executive Committee and the Trusteeship Committee, the board has five other standing committees, corresponding to the main divisions of the college and advised by the vice president of each. The Executive Committee of the board meets with the Student Senate annually.
A major restructuring of the Board of Trustees had recently been completed at the time of Calvin’s last accreditation review. The separation of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary in 1992 occasioned that restructuring.56 This change occurred concurrently with the college’s work on the ESM, and the mission statement became the primary reference point for policy development and for the identity of the Board of Trustees thereafter. A major impetus for the change was the desire to make the board a more representative, expert, and active governing body. The board restructuring left church representation in place through the mechanism of the regional church classis representatives, but it added members nominated by the board and the Calvin Alumni Association as at-large members. As a result the board became more diverse, with the election of more women and minorities as trustees. Without the need to govern the seminary, the board not only became more reflective of the range of vocations addressed at the college but also became more focused on support for the college. One hundred percent of board members now support the college financially—a rather normal occurrence among most college boards, but one that had not been the case at Calvin before the reorganization.
Thus the Board of Trustees is an active agent in the governance of the college, especially in warranting the quality of the curriculum and the work of the faculty to the college’s supporting constituency. Recently, for example, in response to requests from Faculty Senate for a review of the faculty membership requirements, the board appointed a joint study committee with faculty members to investigate the matter. After receiving its report, the board reaffirmed its commitment to the existing standards, but because of its close consultation with faculty and administrators, it saw fit to recommend some changes in how these standards are implemented and administered.57
The board is closely involved in the faculty hiring process, both in ex post facto review of the hiring decisions of academic departments and the Professional Status Committee, and in oversight of the reappointment process. Of the materials in each candidate’s dossier, the board reads a candidate’s abbreviated vita and his or her written essay on the integration of faith and learning. The board interviews all candidates for first faculty reappointment and for tenure. In preparation for these interviews, board members make classroom visits to observe the teaching of these candidates. A board member also participates in the Professional Status Committee’s initial interviews of faculty members recommended for tenure-track and multi-year terminal appointments.
The Board of Trustees sets the major components of the college budget, in that it approves an overall summary, the tuition and room and board rates, and the faculty and staff salary scales. It oversees the evaluation of the president and the provost and participates in the strategic planning process.
The document outlining the faculty’s role in governance at Calvin is the Report of the Faculty Organization Study Committee to the Faculty of Calvin College (FOSCO), adopted in 1972. A major theme of FOSCO is the collaborative responsibility of the board, faculty, administration, and students for governance at Calvin. This collaborative responsibility arises from the shared purpose of all parts of the Christian academic community that is the college. In this setting, FOSCO concludes, “… to think in terms of faculty power versus board power, faculty power versus administration power, or faculty power versus student power is to misjudge the nature of the institution and to place the problem of its government in a false light.… [T]he various agencies involved in the governing of the college are not adversaries.”58
FOSCO created the committee structure of the college as a way to facilitate faculty deliberation on policy. Faculty committees were to provide this means of deliberation because “the initiation and preparation of policy proposals cannot be performed by the faculty in plenum, but must be delegated to committees.”59 Although it allowed exceptions to the general rule, FOSCO gave the chairmanship of committees to faculty members, insisting that “committees remain faculty committees despite the presence of non-faculty members.”60 The FOSCO document stressed that the policy-making function of committees “should be performed mainly by the faculty,” but in the next sentence it recognized that the president and the top administrators of the college qualified as faculty members, and “in that role they are the equal of every other voting member, no more, no less.”61 Hence FOSCO made administrators and faculty members partners in the shared governance of the college. They play complementary roles. Responsibility for making policy and establishing programs and standards lies with the faculty, while responsibility for implementing policy and applying rules and standards lies with administrators. Responsibility for what FOSCO called “ leadership”—that is, inspiring and energizing the community, enlisting loyalty and respect, representing the campus to its constituencies and the larger public, directing and coordinating other people, and proposing and encouraging change—lies with the president and senior administrators.62 The committees of the college also have at least one student member, and several of them include a member from the Board of Trustees.63
Five Key Committees
In the current governance structure, five key committees have considerable policy-making input. Two of these are committees of Faculty Senate—that is, they are constituted from the senate membership. These are the Planning and Priorities Committee, which does institutional planning, and the Committee on Governance, which supervises the entire committee structure of the college. The others are the Educational Policy Committee, Professional Status Committee, and Core Curriculum Committee. Four of these five committees are chaired by administrators with faculty status.64 The Planning and Priorities Committee meets about six times each academic year. Its members include:
The committee mandate states that it “shall be concerned with the long-range direction of the college and with evaluating specific needs and priorities in light of the college’s mission. In particular it shall be responsible for developing and implementing a process of systematic, continuous, and effective institutional planning.” It regularly reviews and revises current initiatives in the light of emerging opportunities and challenges. It annually reviews the financial situation of the college, regularly evaluates data concerning institutional trends, and reviews proposals brought by committees, with an eye toward supervision of the college’s resources.65 The Planning and Priorities Committee was created, in other words, to be the link between long-range strategic planning and the operative governance structures and procedures of the college, responding to progress reports on the strategic plan as well as initiating activity. The agenda is generated from initiatives coming from other committees, task forces, and the President’s Cabinet.
The Committee on Governance usually meets about six times a year. Members of the committee include:
The Committee on Governance makes appointments to all faculty committees, based on a survey of faculty preferences and on recommendations from the college president, the provost, and the academic deans. Thus its agenda is largely drawn from the work of other committees. It is also mandated to coordinate changes in the faculty committee structure and to review and report on the governance structure of the college every three years.66
The Educational Policy Committee plans and coordinates the “orderly development” of the curriculum in keeping with the mission of the college. Its membership includes:
The chair draws up the agenda for the weekly meetings in conversation with department chairs. Its busy agenda is dictated by departments’ work in curricular review and development.
The Core Curriculum Committee is a standing committee that reports directly to the Educational Policy Committee. Its membership includes:
The Core Curriculum Committee holds responsibility for oversight of the core curriculum of the college. Its mandate also includes oversight of four pieces of the core curriculum, whose coordinators report directly to the committee: the Prelude course, the Developing a Christian Mind course, the Research and Information Technology (RIT) course, and the cross-cultural engagement (CCE) requirement.
The Professional Status Committee functions as the faculty personnel committee. The committee’s mandate gives it the responsibility to “ensure that the college professional staff possesses a firm Christian commitment, is academically and professionally qualified, and maintains its academic and professional competence.” Its membership includes:
This committee meets weekly. Its agenda is driven by the fall calendar of faculty reappointments and tenure cases and by the spring calendar of initial faculty appointments. These cases are submitted by departments and managed by the academic deans and the office of the Provost.
The mandates, membership, useful guidelines, and minutes of all of these major committees are posted on the committees’ Web sites to aid in communication.67
The Student Body and Faculty Governance
The FOSCO report ensured student representation on all college committees except the Professional Status Committee, in order that students be closely involved in the processes by which the faculty make and review policy.68 Student members are generally appointed by the Student Senate Appointments Committee, but the student members of some committees are specified by the committee mandate. The Student Senate president, for example, is a member of the Planning and Priorities Committee; the vice president of Student Senate is a member of the Committee on Governance. Student Senate is a representative elected body that governs budgets and policies for student organizations, takes up matters of common student concern, and consults with Faculty Senate about matters of policy.
The overall policy-making review and approval is conducted at Faculty Senate meetings. Faculty Senate meets seven times a year (monthly from October to December and from February to May) to discuss and take action on college policy, and to review policy implementation. The bylaws of Faculty Senate are published with other faculty bylaws in the Handbook for Teaching Faculty.69
Faculty Senate is composed of 44 elected senators, who serve three-year terms, and four ex officio members (the president of the college, who is the non-voting chair, and the provost and the two academic deans, who are voting members). The election process is supervised by the Committee on Governance. All persons holding faculty status are eligible for election to Faculty Senate. The senators are elected by faculty vote, with representation being distributed in the following manner. Each academic department elects one senator. Two senators are elected from among persons with faculty status who are not members of academic departments (the librarians, counselors of the Broene Counseling Center, some members of the office of Student Academic Services, and other administrators with faculty status). Eight senators are elected as at-large representatives of the academic divisions—the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; the Division of Social Sciences; the Division of Languages, Literature, and Arts; and the Division of Contextual Disciplines. Eight senators are elected as at-large representatives of the entire faculty. Thus Faculty Senate replicates in its representation the departmentalization of the faculty itself—more than half the seats are allocated to departmental representatives.
officers of Faculty Senate are the college president, who is non-voting chair of the senate; the non-voting vice chair of the senate, who is elected at large from among the full-time faculty; the secretary of the senate, who is elected from among the elected senators; and the parliamentarian, who is a senator appointed by the chair, the vice chair, and the secretary. The chair, vice chair, and secretary compile the agenda for Faculty Senate meetings, in consultation with faculty committees and the administrative team of the college. Decisions of Faculty Senate are subject to review and action by the college’s Board of Trustees.
Meetings of Faculty Senate provide a forum in which persons in various levels of college governance come together and interact. Faculty Senate regularly receives reports from the chairs of major committees. The President’s Cabinet presents a written summary of its minutes. All the divisions present reports on a scheduled rotation: Academic Affairs, Student Life, Development, Enrollment and External Relations, Administration and Finance, and Information Services. The Faculty Senate officers, provost, and deans meet with the new chairs of faculty committees each September for an orientation. Each committee submits its agenda for the year in the minutes of its first meeting. Faculty Senate elects from its own membership the faculty representatives of two important standing committees—namely, the Committee on Governance and the Planning and Priorities Committee. Faculty Senate has power of approval or disapproval of recommendations of the committees, and power to shape the composition of two of the more powerful committees (Governance and Planning and Priorities) by naming some of their members.
Meetings of the Faculty Assembly
The full faculty meets for a faculty assembly at least once each year, normally in November. At this meeting, the chairpersons of major committees may present important agenda items or reports, and the president and provost speak on matters of all-college concern. Faculty bylaws also prescribe that “faculty members may direct questions to any committee or official regarding matters of all-college concern.” Moreover, Faculty Senate may, by majority vote, confer governance on the full faculty, calling a special meeting of the faculty assembly to consider an urgent or major item of concern.70
Evaluation of Governance System’s Effectiveness
Among many faculty members the perception persists that initiative for the setting of priorities and for decision-making has moved increasingly during the last ten years to the full-time administration of the college, especially the members of the President’s Cabinet. Decisions regarding policy and priorities are effectively made within committees, but not within faculty committees alone. The formal committee structure seems to do its work too well. When initiatives reach Faculty Senate, they appear as finished pieces. At Faculty Senate meetings, some members state, the presence of the college president as chair presents a barrier to the senate’s capacity to function as an autonomous instrument of faculty governance.
The President’s Cabinet, a long-standing advisory body that was formalized in the early 1990s,71 consists of the president, the provost, and the four vice presidents. The stated role of the cabinet is to do research and propose and present initiatives, which it brings to the Planning and Priorities Committee. Through the cabinet’s representatives on that committee, it has a connection to the faculty committee structure. Faculty Senate and the Planning and Priorities Committee review the minutes of cabinet meetings. The Planning and Priorities Committee tends to be more involved in conceptualizing initiatives and in reviewing their later forms, with the priorities laid out by the strategic plan. Meanwhile, the detailed shaping of these initiatives takes place in other units of the college. A vital example concerns preparation of the budget: to the extent that the budget-making process constitutes policy-making, the President’s Cabinet has important authority in decision-making about priorities and planning prior to, or outside of, mechanisms of faculty governance such as the Planning and Priorities Committee and Faculty Senate.
The President’s Cabinet provides a window into the less formal but functionally powerful structures of governance at Calvin. There are other such bodies. One is the Academic Council, also known as the Deans’ Council, consisting of the provost, the five deans, and the registrar.
The Academic Council meets every second week and provides a way for the deans to coordinate operations and discuss common and overlapping tasks and issues. Its formal influence over policy is limited to advising the provost about how to use certain restricted funds, yet it functions as a forum in which deans and the provost often identify problems and decide to take ideas to committees for action. Another forum for sharing information, and for presentations and discussions of major all-college issues, is the bi-monthly meeting of department chairs. These meetings feature a short program concerning issues of common interest and are coordinated by the office of the Provost. There is also a biennial department chairs’ retreat, held over two days at an off-campus location. Another example is that of the relationship between the senior administrators, Faculty Senate, and the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at Calvin. AAUP plays an important, informal role as a forum for faculty concerns and as a source of advice to Faculty Senate and senior administrators.
The symbiotic relationship between these informal bodies and the formal structures of governance at the college is, of course, taken for granted, yet the composition and influence of the President’s Cabinet set it apart. A perusal of its minutes shows that it most often serves a communication function between the divisional vice presidents of the college and spends much time discussing relatively minor housekeeping matters. Yet it does play the very important roles of assembling the annual budget and recommending all-campus planning projects, which are then overseen by the Planning and Priorities Committee.
These concerns about how well the new governance system and the new administration are maintaining the historic balance of shared governance have led to a number of studies and recommendations. As called for in the initial proposal for the creation of Faculty Senate, in the spring of 1998 the Committee on Governance conducted a review of Faculty Senate’s effectiveness. The Faculty Senate was at this time three years old, having been established in 1995 as a replacement to the long-standing feature of faculty governance at Calvin, the full faculty meeting. For the purposes of the evaluation, the Committee on Governance conducted faculty focus group discussions, distributed and tabulated a survey of the faculty, and held an all-faculty forum.72
Many respondents to the 1998 survey cautioned that while fine tuning would be appropriate, the Faculty Senate structure should be given, in the words of one veteran faculty member, “a little longer to mature before contemplating radical change…. [W]e’re all pretty new at this.” Analysis of the results of this evaluation led to a number of changes in the Faculty Senate bylaws, particularly those governing communication between Faculty Senate and the committees. In order to balance the leadership of Faculty Senate, its bylaws were changed in 1999 to make the vice chair of the senate an elected faculty member, rather than the college provost.
The Committee on Governance also directed that subsequent reviews be done every three years in order to maintain a dynamic, coherent structure. Accordingly, in 2002-2003 a subcommittee conducted a second review of the faculty governance system that focused on the college committee structure. Based on the subcommittee’s recommendations, several changes were made. Committees were reclassified based on workload and mandated mission. Once the classification scheme had been developed, committee terms were lengthened from three years to four, except for those now designated “intensive governance” committees (i.e., the Educational Policy Committee, Professional Status Committee, and Core Curriculum Committee). Policies regarding committee membership and other aspects of faculty workload, including research leaves, Faculty Senate memberships, and other assignments, were clarified. Levels of clerical support to committees were regularized. The changes strengthened the fundamental idea that all faculty members should be involved in governance at Calvin, either through serving on committees or by being a faculty senator, or both. 73
As more faculty members cycle through terms of service on Faculty Senate, and as the faculty and administration gain experience with this model of governance, these issues may become less acute. Certainly, a key overarching issue is communication. Through the structure of having senators representing different segments of the faculty community (departments, divisions, administration, at large), regular channels for reporting senate activities were established. When these channels function as they should, they go far toward alleviating the complaint of faculty members that they are unaware of basic college business. The practice of having all-faculty assemblies at least once each year helps to facilitate structured communication among members of the college community.
In sum, while Faculty Senate and committees composed primarily of faculty members still are the formal arenas for approving policy, they rarely function as the starting points for problem-solving or for the college’s big-picture thinking. Some faculty members have expressed concern that these patterns show an erosion of their power as policy-makers, while at the same time, others have expressed concern about the demand on their time caused by committee work. Yet it is true that some important shifts in decision-making initiative have taken place at the college under the current administration. It is not so much that faculty members have lost strategic and operational initiative as it is that the sources for such initiative and leadership have broadened out. Under previous administrations, FOSCO’s governmental function of “ leadership” fell more exclusively to the president, while in the current regime, the president has shared the leadership more with the vice presidents, who in turn have made decisions and taken the initiative more collegially with their deans and directors. And the pace of programmatic innovation and change has quickened. To busy faculty who tend to governmental matters on a part-time basis, there is a definite feeling of loss of control. At the same time, as the HERI surveys show, general faculty regard for the college’s administration remains comparatively high. The general reservoir of trust and the sense of common cause is well stocked, but there has been some depletion of late. Efforts to fortify communication and consultation across the campus “body politic” should prove helpful. More such efforts are needed, especially in the annual budgetary process.
As a first response to expressions of concern about the budget process, in the fall of 2003 the cabinet approved a new budgeting time line with built-in occasions for interim reports and advice-seeking from the Planning and Priorities Committee and Faculty Senate. These faculty bodies have never been vested with budgetary authority, but there is hope that they can play a more regular and timely consultative role in shaping the annual budget.
Women at Calvin and Faculty Governance
Calvin has a larger percentage of women on the faculty today than it had ten years ago. The number of women in senior administrative positions has not, however, increased significantly, with the exception of the deans’ positions. This change has implications for the role of women in the faculty governance structure—implications that the college has not fully explored. As discussed in chapter one and summarized in the table below, the number of female faculty has grown considerably, but most are still quite junior and thus are not yet available to lead.
Table 2.2 Female Representation among Calvin Faculty
At the time of the 1994 self-study 19 percent of full-time faculty members (43 of 227) were women. Of these female faculty members, 14 (33 percent) were tenured, and about half were on tenure-track appointments. By 2003-2004, the percentage of Calvin female faculty members had risen to 30 percent (92 of 305 full-time faculty members). About half of these were on tenuretrack appointments, and 27 (29 percent of the women faculty members) were tenured.
As a result, there has been only modest progress in placing female colleagues in leadership roles. In 1994 three of Calvin’s four vice presidents (including the provost) were male, and one (the vice president for student life) was female. Three of the four deans were male. Seventy percent (28 of 40) of the positions classified as director, executive director, and executive associate were male. Of the department chairs, 25 of 28 (89.3 percent) were male. In 2004 the position of provost is held by a male, and only one of the now five vice presidents is female—and it is perhaps worth noting that this is still the vice president for student life, although it is a different person filling the position. Calvin now has more deans (nine), and more of these (five) are female; also, 13 of 45 (29 percent) administrative department or program office directors are female. Of the current 25 academic departments, 21 (84 percent) are chaired by men.
In Faculty Senate, the number of seats held by men and women does not yet resemble the gender balance of the full-time faculty: 81.8 percent of elected senators (36 of 44) are men. The situation on major policy-making committees, however, has improved, as the following chart shows.
Table 2.3 Female Representation on Major Faculty Committees*
* Since the number of committee members on the committee has changed over time, percentages, rather than raw numbers, are provided.
During the past academic year (2003-2004), two of the ten current members of the Educational Policy Committee were women, while two of the seven voting members of the Professional Status Committee were women (though its two academic deans, both of whom are non-voting members, were both male). If we count the dean for instruction, who typically attends its meetings, three of the nine members of the Core Curriculum Committee were female. Two of the twelve members of the Planning and Priorities Committee were female, while only one of the members of the Committee on Governance was female—though this represents the lowest level of female representation on the Committee on Governance over the past five years.
Clearly, the college has been working to establish the presence of female faculty members on all of the leading committees, to ensure that women’s perspectives will surface and shape policy-making. With women in the minority and disproportionately represented in the junior ranks, a greater burden for governance falls to the small cadre of tenured women. Until more women join the senior ranks, the college has no choice but to ask its senior women faculty for this larger share of the more intensive committee work.
The Staff and Faculty Governance
Another issue with potential implications for the governance system of the college is the relationship between the faculty and the administrative staff of the college. This relationship is, on the whole, a good one, yet in this period of transition in governance structure, certain strains have occasionally surfaced.
Calvin’s comparatively low ratio of full-time administrative and support staff to full-time teaching faculty (1.18:1; see Table 2.4) is partially a reflection of the degree to which Calvin is still a faculty-run institution.
Table 2.4 Calvin College’s Faculty-Staff Ratio Compared with Other Institutions, 2003
Many administrative posts at Calvin—and all deanships—are filled by men and women who continue to be members of the teaching faculty. Indeed, even the academic deans continue to teach one course per year. Table 2.5 provides a listing of the various approved positions (as of April 1, 2004) for which administration is coupled with a reduction in teaching responsibilities. (Not all of these positions are filled or even fully funded.)
Table 2.5 Administrative Responsibility Compensated with Reduction in Teaching Load
Calvin’s lean staffing profile translates to a high degree of administrative efficiency and carries very positive consequences for the financial operations of the college. That Calvin has been able to sustain this pattern over a long period of time is eloquent testimony of the staff’s high level of identification with and commitment to the mission of the college.
Yet it may also mean that the administrative staff, including the members of the teaching faculty who take on administrative responsibilities, are overworked. This is probably a difficult item to measure, but the frustration occasionally expressed by members of the administrative staff that the college faculty do not fully acknowledge or appreciate the staff’s contribution to the mission of the college may be taken as perhaps one indication of the presence of this underlying issue.74 Meanwhile, some faculty members continue to express resentment at the perceived growth in the number of administrative staff employed by the college. Given that the staff is no larger than the faculty and has grown no faster, this feeling on the part of some faculty members is probably a misreading of a trend that could support the opposite conclusion: that the college is too leanly staffed. Increasingly, faculty are asked to do non-teaching work, participating in telephone recruiting of prospective students, becoming more involved with the parents and families of students, and serving as personal mentors for students. These increased demands on faculty time come at the cost of teaching and scholarship, and they also lessen the capacity of faculty members to devote much time to the larger “vision” issues of the college. At the same time more administrative staff members are taking responsibility for classroom teaching in the first-year core program. The previously fixed boundaries between the faculty and the staff—once penetrated only by certain administrative positions that carried faculty status—are blurring, with only poorly articulated implications for perceptions of professional status and privilege. There may also be a gendered dimension of the issue, since a greater percentage of the non-teaching administrative staff is female.75
It is perhaps helpful to view these tensions with an awareness of the historical moment in which the college finds itself. With the arrival of Faculty Senate, an era passed at Calvin, in which the full faculty met regularly as a deliberative body. In the transition to Faculty Senate, it is easy to idealize those full faculty meetings. This is particularly the case because faculty members find themselves with a diminished grasp of the full operation of an increasingly complex college, even while the faculty committees on which they serve are exceedingly busy in active policy-making and administration. The normal strains of everyday life become an issue of college governance at the point at which the faculty want representation in administrative decision-making but feel they do not have adequate access to it, and administrative staff want representation on Faculty Senate and in appropriate faculty committees and feel that they do not have access to them. Both faculty and staff want to know what the other is doing; both the faculty and staff want to be respected for their expertise and for the role they play in helping the college fulfill its mission.76
Operating with Integrity and Accountability
Calvin College upholds and guards its basic organizational and operational integrity. In its published documentation as in its materials intended for internal consumption, in its policies and processes of communications as in its human relationships, Calvin aims at a standard of transparency and openness.
Documents produced for public consumption, including the college catalog and the materials used by the office of Admissions, office of Alumni and Public Relations, and Development office, accurately describe the mission of the college, its course programs, and requirements. The mandates, membership lists, useful guidelines, and minutes of faculty committees are posted on the Calvin Web site.77
Careful and detailed handbooks have been developed or revised for the Board of Trustees (revised 2003); for faculty, including athletic coaches; for staff; and for students. They contain descriptions of the basic units of the college and include detailed sections on rights, responsibilities, and due process. Faculty, student, and employee handbooks are available on the college’s Web site.78
The Board of Trustees Handbook describes the organization and function of the board, the expectations and duties of trustees, the roles of the officers of the board, and mandates of board committees.79
After a statement of the mission of the college, the Handbook for Teaching Faculty contains a description of the administrative organization of the college; the faculty by-laws; personnel policies, including the processes of review and tenure; instructional and related policies concerning faculty responsibilities; a description of faculty development programs, including research and sabbatical programs; a description of faculty compensation and benefits; and copies of faculty policies and standards, including policies concerning allegations of professional and scientific misconduct, sexual harassment, confessional unorthodoxy, environmental health and occupational safety, faculty membership requirements, and the like.80
The Staff Handbook contains a description of hiring policies and practices; rules of conduct and policy; and salary, wages, and benefits, including educational benefits and the use of campus facilities. Like the faculty handbook, it is available on Calvin’s Web site.81 Certain departments on campus have also created their own manuals and handbooks.82
In like manner, the Student Handbook conveys detailed information to students. It describes campus services, offices, and programs; offers advice and policies regarding safety and security; and explains a variety of campus guidelines and policies governing all sorts of matters. The Student Handbook covers topics ranging from academic probation to parking regulations, smoking, ID cards, and the “manner and method of dissent.” Within its 88 pages are also explanations of students’ privacy rights, the procedures for mounting an appeal of a campus judicial decision, and policies on sexual harassment and alcohol use. But in the very beginning, there are the words of the Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College, describing the kind of community Calvin College aspires to be.83
In summary, Calvin College is a well-documented institution with regard to its procedures and policies of basic operation. Board members, students, faculty, and staff have ready access to carefully organized, comprehensive, frequently updated guides and reference resources for conducting the work of the campus.
The accounting policies, procedures, and internal controls of Calvin College have been developed in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles ( GAAP). Internal controls are guided by the controller of the college, who is primarily responsible for accounting policies and procedures and is required to possess certified public accountant ( CPA) licensure. The controller is also charged with the responsibility of selecting and supervising competent accounting staff to adequately carry out the daily financial business of the college. The procedures applied during the external audit examine transaction cycles and internal accounting controls and provide reasonable assurance that the financial reports of the college are presented in accordance with GAAP, consistently applied.84 The college also submits to an annual audit by an independent accounting firm, ensuring external controls.85
Budget tracking has been streamlined throughout the administrative divisions of the college. The heads of every unit in each division of the college, including the academic departments, receive and review monthly financial reports. The vice presidents and academic deans review the monthly financial reports for their divisions. Cumulative reports are, in turn, reviewed monthly by the President’s Cabinet and are submitted to the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees by the vice president for administration, finance, and information services. Budget management and planning follow macro-model reviews of fiscal performance over five years and anticipate forward trends five years into the future.86
Accountability and Integrity in Intercollegiate Athletics
Intercollegiate athletics is housed in the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance, and Sport ( HPERDS) at Calvin College. Thus the governance structure places control of intercollegiate athletics in the Academic Affairs Division; athletics at Calvin College is considered an extension of the college’s curricular offerings.87 The men’s and women’s athletic directors report to the chair of HPERDS, which is housed in the Social Science Division and reports to the academic dean for social sciences and for languages, literature, and arts. A philosophy for intercollegiate athletics and a set of operational policies are used to conduct the program. Faculty control is administered through the faculty athletic representatives and a standing faculty Athletics Committee, which reports to Faculty Senate. Athletic budgets are reviewed and approved through the same process as those of academic departments, via the divisional academic deans and the provost.
Calvin College has been a member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association ( MIAA) since 1953. A philosophy statement and policy manual for league governance are published and used by the MIAA commissioner for program operation.88 Calvin has representation on MIAA’s Faculty Athletics Representative Committee, Student Athletes Advisory Committee, Board of Controls, and Presidents’ Council. Like those of other schools, Calvin’s athletic directors sit on the MIAA Committee on Athletics. Ultimate governance power and responsibility in the MIAA reside in the Presidents’ Council, chairmanship of which rotates annually among the presidents of the member colleges.
The MIAA and Calvin College are members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association ( NCAA), Division III. Various compliance documents must be completed on an annual basis.89 Infringement of NCAA rules and regulations must be self-reported, although the NCAA does have the right to investigate possible regulatory violations.
Research Integrity and Accountability: Compliance with Regulatory Guidelines
Calvin College has long-standing oversight committees for reviewing proposals for research on human and animal subjects, in compliance with federal laws and regulations. Calvin’s Institutional Review Board, a standing faculty committee, reviews all proposals for human research, in accordance with federal laws and regulations. Proposals for animal research are reviewed by the Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee of the West Michigan Regional Laboratory ( WMRL), an animal care facility located in the lower level of DeVries Hall. WMRL, which serves all of West Michigan, was constructed and is currently operated as a cooperative project with Spectrum Health, a local hospital system in Grand Rapids. WMRL is managed by the Michigan State University School of Veterinary Medicine and governed by a board of directors made up of four representatives from Spectrum Health and two representatives from Calvin College, including David DeHeer, professor of biology, and Henry De Vries, vice president for administration, finance, and information services.90
The college has an appointed environmental health and safety officer, and has formed a standing committee on environmental health and safety in order to help ensure compliance with all state and federal safety regulations. In the past six years many safety policies have been drafted, and the college has assembled a hazardous materials response team. In 2002-2003 all employees received safety training. The environmental health and safety officer continues to work toward updating policies and procedures, including a chemical safety plan, a blood-borne pathogen plan, and others.91
Integrity and Accountability in Peer Relationships
As a comprehensive college with a variety of professional programs, Calvin College has developed many working relationships with partner agencies in the community: with teaching hospitals and community health agencies for the nursing and audiology programs; with school districts for teacher aiding, special projects, and practice teaching; with social service agencies for social work internships; and with a variety of local business corporations for the business, computer science, accounting, and engineering programs. In each case, the college has developed ways and means, both formal and informal, to sustain these relationships in mutual accountability.92
Calvin College has a thorough and thoughtfully nuanced body of literature on its mission. Faculty and administrators are well versed in this literature, and it is regularly referenced in the development of college programs and policies. Students are acquainted with the college’s mission early and often, both through the core curriculum, which was recently revised to better convey the mission, and through their majors. Mission-driven thinking has become so integral to the life of the college that the ongoing process of the institution has become dependent upon continued reflection, critique, and refinement of this body of thought. Indeed, the first item for the current strategic plan of the college is to foster a renewal of Reformed Christian “principial” thought and its fresh application to the vital issues of our time. Calvin College follows a long Presbyterian/ Reformed tradition in its passion for doing all things “decently and in good order,” which is translated to mean thorough documentation and written rationales. Its pattern of governance, regulations, and procedures for students, staff, and faculty, and for its various spheres of operation, are all well codified and accessible. Calvin continues to wrestle with changes in governance, both in structure and in practice. As an institution, it is busier and more complex than ever, and faculty members notice that this pace is sustained by more planning and initiative-taking emanating from administrators than from the faculty itself. Faculty members seem of divided mind as to whether they want to govern more actively or to spend less time on the governmental process. But whether individual members prefer more or less personal engagement, there seems to be a strong body of faculty opinion calling for better communication and consultation. To address this concern, the college has developed additional ways to improve communication about policies, programs, and priorities. It has also modified Faculty Senate to engage another faculty member in its leadership. The challenge remains to sustain open and regular communication about priority setting and budget planning in order to honor and sustain Calvin’s principle of participatory governance.
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