Faculty Intensive, Day One

It’s not easy to get started on any new venture; you have to overcome inertia, build new habits and relationships, disrupt comfortable positions, and ignore the easy escape routes. You also have to know that the first time you try something new, at least some small part of your efforts may fail. You have to risk that, plan for it as best you can, and then just start.

We have presented our faculty intensive three times now, and each time we have organized Day One a little differently. We typically start with an introduction by our facilitator Libby Roderick and a few exercises to get people talking. We develop our own discussion rules and codes of conduct for the week. UAA philosophy professor and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences James Liszka presents a brief history of academic freedom and leads a discussion of several recent cases that put our evolving rights and responsibilities to the test. Psychology professor Claudia Lampman discusses her study of contrapower harassment on UAA’s Anchorage campus. UAA Dean of Students Bruce Schultz discusses safety issues and outlines a number of effective responses to disruptive students. Interspersed with these more formal presentations, we’ve told each other stories of past confrontations, and we’ve role-played alternate endings. We’ve tried to identify the difficult dialogues within our own group.

Whatever the precise order of exercises and presentations, we’ve tried always to keep certain goals in mind. We want to start right away building trust and a sense of shared purpose within the group. We introduce a range of approaches to ensure that participants of all learning styles will be as engaged as possible. We try to defuse any fears and tensions in the room by allowing people to tell their stories, critique the day’s activities, and share their individual experiences and goals with each other.

These are the ground rules of our project: participation, engagement, collaboration, balancing safety and risk. And this is our shared purpose: understanding and exercising our academic freedom in the interests of strengthening our teaching and raising the bar on civil discourse in our classrooms, campuses, and communities.

None of this is easy, of course, and none of what we do is complete. But you have to start somewhere.

Sample Agenda

  • Introduction and Overview
  • Exercise: Code of Conduct
  • Presentation: Academic Freedom
  • Discussion: Case Studies
  • Presentation: Contrapower Harassment
  • Exercise: Tales from the Trenches
  • Presentation: Recognizing and Handling Disruptive Students
  • Reflection: Critical Incident
  • Questionnaire