Departments and Programs

What Is Reasonable Accommodation?

I’m running into a problem with our disabilities services office, which on our campus reviews and manages student requests for accommodations such as extra time, alternative exam formats, and the like. In the opinion of some of our faculty, this office regularly moves from its management role to a more charged advocacy role that at times has become almost adversarial, especially in terms of pushing what might the boundaries of a “reasonable accommodation.” As chair I’m caught in the middle of this. I occasionally get informed by the office that some faculty are not being especially helpful, with the implication that I should intervene or pressure them. Similarly, faculty seek my support for the limits they believe they need to put on the office’s requests, which can include telling the office to respect the faculty member’s decisions. I’m sympathetic with both parties–how do I manage these sort of situations effectively?

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Building a Better Major

Like a lot of departments we tend to aim our programming at a type of student that I will call the Classic Major. If we are aiming to develop both depth and breadth of knowledge in our students, this is the kind of student that we are looking for. However, these majors are now in the minority, at least at my institution. But we have many more of what I will call the New Major. If there is a unifying principle to the category of the New Major, it is that many of these students identify their main interest as creative writing.

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Material Interests

Part of what one learns from being chair is the inescapably material character of academic life, how the academic fabric is woven in our workplaces. It is a good thing to keep the economic underpinnings of the enterprise front and center for colleagues, helping them to balance their idealism against the many competing, often economic, priorities that departmental discussion and decision-making need to take into account.

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