11/16/2015 Meeting Agenda and Minutes

ESA Agenda and Minutes: Monday, 11/16/15, 4:15-5:15pm


Esther Bernstein, Meira Levinson, Danny Dupont, Jason Nielsen, Michael Rumore, Colin Macdonald, Erin Glass, Shoumik Bhattacharya, Michael Plunkett, Charlotte Thurston, Alyssa Mackenzie, Kaitlin Mondello, Elly Weybright

The meeting began with a discussion of points 1-3 below, followed by committee reports, and concluding with discussion regarding Revels.

1) MLA: Executive Committee will share feedback from the discussion of MLA program support at the past Executive Committee meeting.  Esther and Meira opened ESA-listserve and in-person conversations with students and alumni regarding possible areas of MLA support; co-chairs will report on their findings, discussions, and ideas for going forward. After both these reports, the topic will be open to discussion regarding specific plans/suggestions for MLA support programming, spreading the word, etc.

–During the ESA meeting, the co-chairs shared that student feedback thus far reveals that students desire faculty support – and would utilize the program suite – for the following issues:

  • Emotional support to help students engage, as confidently as possible, with interviews and MLA in general
  • Last-minute interview questions – likely minor, and not connected to specific fields/interviewees, but small, logistical, last-minute questions that students have before their interviews; faculty, alumni, or students who have gone through the interview process in the past who can helpfully and calmly be available to field any such questions would be immensely supportive, reassuring, and productive for current students on the market.
  • Help connecting and networking with people present at MLA – whether GC alumni or faculty colleagues from other institutions.

 2) Comps: General update regarding the comprehensive exam discussions from Curriculum Committee

3) Lounge is Glammed!!!: Tremendous THANK YOU to Alec, Alicia, and Christina for organizing this year’s spectacular Glam the Lounge, and to all the participants who made such *stunning* (if we do say so ourselves) artwork!!! The lounge looks simply fabulous. We’re also in the process of adding a “Glam Box” to the lounge back room – anyone who has any crafts materials &/or supplies to donate, at any time of the year, may leave such materials in the box, to use for future lounge-glamming activities.


Committee Reports:

Elections Committee (Alyssa, Rose)

Alyssa was present and reported that the Elections Committee has successfully founded the Editorial Committee (see below for Editorial Committee members & report); congratulations to those who were nominated to the Editorial Committee! The Elections Committee is currently discussing how best to proceed without the former GC survey software, which is now unavailable due to IT budget cuts. The current plan is to use Survey Monkey, but if students have other ideas/feedback, the Elections Committee would be happy to take suggestions.

Alumni & Fundraising Committee (Laura, Madison, Michael, Elly)

Elly was present, and reported that the Alumni & Fundraising Committee has been in email contact with the DSC regarding alumni donations towards ESA-sponsored travel and research funding for students. The current Alumni & Fundraising Committee sent out an alumni appeal this semester, and they have mailed hand written thank you notes to last year’s alumni donors.  The ESA has already received donations from alumni in response to this year’s appeal; further information regarding the exact amount of money donated, and the designations of said donations, is pending. The Alumni & Fundraising Committee is also discussing possibilities of an alumni phonathon for future fundraising.

–During the ESA meeting, both the Friday Forum and Alumni & Fundraising committees agreed that one way to build our alumni community, and to foster relationships between alumni and the program, is to send alumni the Friday Forum form, as a way to reach out, and show our interest in keeping them informed and inviting them to be actively involved. If we’re contacting alumni and asking them for donations, it would be thoughtful and respectful to also make an effort to engage them, keep them actively informed regarding program events, and encourage and/or invite them to participate wherever possible.

Admissions and Financial Aid: (Amelia, Danica, Wendy, Makeba, Talia)

Activity will begin after applications are submitted.

Course Assessment: (Timothy, Alyssa, Lindsey, Patrick, Lindsay, Alex)

  • We are seeking to incorporate an explanatory header on the assessment form relating to the students the assessment form’s objectives, especially emphasizing their importance for hiring decisions. This would be done in order to make student responses on assessment forms more focused and productive.
  • We have also raised the possibility of an alternative response form that is open answer (roughly two paragraphs). Many students in our program prefer to give feedback in letter form, as it can often be more substantive and lucid. Short response encourages more truncated feedback and often asks students to address aspects of the course that aren’t relevant to them. Students could potentially be offered both forms.
  • We raised the possibility of dissertation supervision feedback, but ultimately quashed the idea due to its perceived difficulty in implementation, as well as its political problems.
  • We would like to make an effort to publicize the digitization of the forms and where to find them. This objective was pursued by last year’s assessment committee, but it was not followed through.
  • We are going to aim to incorporate the above changes for the spring.

–During the ESA meeting, a few students suggested that the Course Assessment Committee clarify, if two assessment forms are offered, how they work together (e.g. whether students should choose between the two forms, fill out both, etc.). Concerns were voiced regarding length if students were asked to fill out both; however most students at the table agreed that choosing between two possible forms would be a viable and productive option.

Faculty Membership: (Lauren, Marissa)

When we met last, the majority voted against hiring an 18th century scholar at the moment. The decision is to defer to next school year and reevaluate budget, student need, and student course enrollment. The committee is actively searching/vetting candidates in 3 different areas this school year, however: Latinx studies, rhetoric and composition, and modernism (Allison Pease is currently teaching a course at the GC). We are holding another meeting later this month.

Friday Forum: (Kaitlin, Elly)

Regarding reasons some proposals didn’t get spots: this was largely because the limited available spots were for specific weeks, so in some cases proposals simply did not work with the schedule.

Some useful information for students proposing Friday Forums in the future:

First, having a few possible dates spread out throughout the semester might help avoid the above problem (it’s also worth noting that this semester was particularly full to begin with, so other semesters may have more open-ended schedules). Additionally, we found that the proposals that were most appealing to the committee were those that were most clear about who would be speaking, how the proposal’s intended questions, topics, goals etc. would be addressed in the forum, and what the people proposing the forum saw as its exigency. Moving forward we’d advise students to be as clear as possible about what they envision and what they already have planned. Some proposals included only titles and maybe a few speakers; a brief abstract and specificity about who would be speaking made it much easier to consider how the proposal would contribute to/fit in with the scheduled forums.

We also found at the meeting that the faculty on the committee had in mind a schedule of forums that addressed a common topic, but that the ‘theme’ of the semester had kind of failed to materialize in the actual forums. We suggested that part of the problem was that we and the rest of the student body weren’t very aware of that intended topic. Whether themes for each semester will continue to be a thing hasn’t really been decided, but if that does happen, we’ll make sure students know what the current theme is so that they can keep it in mind when they propose forums.

–During the ESA meeting, students asked the Friday Forum Committee (both student members present) whether there were 2pm Friday time-slots available for students to propose events; perhaps future Friday Forum proposal forms could include an option such as “check here if you’d be open to a 2pm time-slot” – especially for proposed events that do not have high budget needs. The committee replied that they would inquire as to these options, and report back.  

–During the ESA meeting, the committee also emphasized that student proposals were very strong and appealing, and that they, and Mario, encourage these students to re-submit their proposals for Fall 2016 Friday Forums. This is especially true given that one major factor in the low number of accepted student proposals for Spring 2016 was the already-packed schedule; hopefully there will be more openings in the fall.

–During the ESA meeting, both the Friday Forum and Alumni & Fundraising committees agreed that one way to build our alumni community, and to foster relationships between alumni and the program, is to send alumni the Friday Forum form, as a way to reach out, and show our interest in keeping them informed and inviting them to be actively involved. (See also notes above, re. Alumni committee)

Placement: (Alec, Chris, Liz, Briana, Austin)

Today (November 16) is the date that we’re closing the survey. It’d be great if you can ask any of the meeting’s attendees to complete it quickly if they haven’t had a chance to already do so. From my understanding, there are no new items from the committee on our end. Our next steps will be to review and assess the survey results in order to determine the best means of compiling and presenting the data to the faculty members on the committee. We’re also still accepting any resources and sample job materials that fellow peers are willing to share.

Website: (Erin, Charlotte, Dale)

We’ve been soliciting and adding student publications to the site, and we can also announce that the CUNY Academic Commons is working on integrating a braille plugin. Additionally, on December 7th, the Commons is also releasing Social Paper, a socialized writing environment for networking in-progress writing that may be of interest to students in dissertation writing groups or who teach writing composition.

—-During the ESA meeting, Erin gave a fantastic demonstration of the current Social Paper (in progress), to unanimous enthusiasm of those present.

Executive: (Paul, Jason, Esther, Meira)

Executive Committee Meeting: F, 10/30/15:

Book Display: Nancy Silverman reported that the display case by elevators has been updated with new faculty books. In six months, it will be updated to feature new books by students and alumni.

CUNY Budget Shortfall: All GC programs must find ways to reduce costs, including possible reduction of courses offered in the immediate academic year. The English program must cut 3 courses in the spring 2016 semester: Hildegaard Hoeller’s course has been moved to MALS (Nancy’s email: English students encouraged to take them through MALS), & Mark McBeth’s class has been cancelled. The decision on a third course to be cut is deferred until January and may depend on enrollment numbers.

  • One-credit Independent Studies may be more difficult to fund going forward. Based on enrollment numbers, there may be other ways to fund these.
  • Faculty may be asked to submit one or two course proposals further ahead, for fall 2016 and spring 2017, to help the program plan further ahead in terms of field coverage distribution.
  • Discussion extended to longer vision for the Graduate Center by CUNY Central: more dependence on central line faculty and fewer faculty with dual appointments to senior colleges.
  • Faculty raised the question about what the program or the GC would look like with fewer faculty from senior colleges: Who would serve on committees that keep programs running? How do the many centers or institutes at the GC function without necessary faculty involvement? What is the relationship between students and faculty they hope to work with on committees or as dissertation directors if the GC is increasingly dependent on central line faculty?

“Top Up” replacing MAGNET Fellowships – an additional $10,000 beyond the incoming fellowship offered. There will be 18 Top Up fellowships offered and these will be highly competitive. The English Program seems likely to be able to get one or two of these

Admission Offers: Based on statistics from previous years on the number who accept first round offers, the program will now be able to make offers to 30 candidates, with the understanding that the program will still admit 22.

MLA: Mario reported that he is going to MLA in Austin this year. The program will have a suite. Mention made of suite in past years and it being very underused or empty.

  • Discussion about what the point of suite is and the role of program and faculty at MLA in terms of support – what kinds of support perceived as needed or wanted by students, what’s useful to students, and so on.
  • Mention made about faculty, alumni, or students volunteering to sign up for a few hours, and possibilities for meeting or networking between students, alumni, or others at MLA. More information or communication needed or plans ongoing.  

Editorial Committee (Elissa, Michael, Colin, Madison)

The members of the Editorial Committee are actually meeting together for the first time after the ESA meeting today. We will be discussing our plans afterward, and then will be in touch with a report or outline of our plan going forward.

–During the ESA meeting, suggestions were voiced by a few present that it would be very helpful to current students if there were links &/or information/lists of currently-available grants, fellowships, or other funding options; perhaps this is something the Editorial Committee could work to compile and add to the website?  Suggestions were also made that the Editorial Committee collaborate with the Placement Committee and individuals/resources Charlotte suggested below regarding such a resource list; suggestions were made that the Editorial Committee collaborate with the Website Committee in general.

Conference Committee (Roya, Joseph, Lindsay, Michael, Erin)

We are making steady progress. We are collaborating with the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn and we’ll be hosting an opening panel and reception there on Thursday, April 7. We’re planning a full day of panels at the GC on Friday, April 8, with morning and evening keynotes by Drew Daniels and Dominic Pettman, as well as performance and visual art. We have reviewed proposals and will send notifications in the coming weeks.

Curriculum Committee (Sean, Erin)

As of now, we are waiting for Mario to announce and circulate a new plan for comps, which will allow for a new round of email comments.  We expect he will do so shortly.

Diversity Committee (Hilarie, Iemanja, Leilani, Becky, Marcos, Frances)

We’ve got lots in the works, and had a great meeting in September. We helped with the recruitment event and are going to continue working with that committee and with MFFC (which several of us are also on).


Discussion items (continued from Agenda list):

  1. Revels: Discuss themes & ideas for Revels – and volunteers!!!

–Esther & Meira will send around a Googlesheet – please volunteer to help with Revels!  

  1. In previous ESA meetings, a repeating idea was that the ESA hold more frequent, casual gatherings – whether to discuss specific issues, foster a strong sense of community, or for additional purposes. One option we have is to use some money from Revels towards funding for such informal gatherings (e.g. for food/drinks). We will discuss budget possibilities for this idea, and vote if relevant.

–no vote necessary at this stage; however, the room was unanimous that if this is possible (to minimize Revels spending – e.g. via potluck for food – while keeping a good amount of alcohol at Revels of course) then additional, informal ESA meetings – with small, inexpensive amounts of snack/drinks – would be a welcome idea.  Esther & Meira will report back after crunching budget numbers; we should have more of a final sense after seeing the total fall/winter Revels cost.


Other Business:

Updates from Charlotte re. administrative resources & Strategic Task Force:

If it’s of interest to you, I thought I’d tell you about two administrative resources, in case they might be of interest to the ESA.

  • I know the department has grants workshops, but do those workshops ever involve Edith Gonzalez, director of research and sponsored programs? She walks students through the grant process step by step, and when I’ve talked to her she’s seemed very accessible and willing to help students out in approaching this tricky process. It might be good to get students in touch with her/get her on board for workshops for her expertise.
  • The Wellness Center says, on its website, “We are also available to individual departments, to participate in workshops on topics such as dissertation completion.” I’m not sure if the ESA would want to take advantage of this resource or not, but I thought it would be good to pass on, because I only realized that they even offer this support through perusing their site more closely. I know the director of the WC, Bob Hatcher, is particularly interested in how to develop faculty mentorship (because while the WC addresses issues like the “imposter syndrome,” these workshops may at times imply that it’s students’ jobs to “fix” issues without addressing overarching structural issues that would, say, make a student feel like an imposter).

Another thing: I am on the Strategic Task Force for Research for the Strategic Planning Committee for GC 2016-2022, and would be happy to send you some updates on that Task Force, and to see if I can get feedback from the program on issues of research (where research should be encouraged, how research should be encouraged early, structures to support research at early/late stages, where funding should be funneled). It seems like the ESA would have some thoughtful and important things to say about this! I know something mentioned in the first meeting was the role of the first exam in developing research skills and projects early on, and what various programs are doing in their exams, which connects with what the Curriculum Committee is doing this year.

The task force has met twice and I think after this Thursday’s meeting, we are going to be deciding “tasks” for different people to do in terms of “researching research”: figuring out what’s going on at the program level, getting student feedback, etc.


Announcement from Amanda Licastro re. running for MLA Executive Council:

It is with great pleasure that I announce the MLA elections are now open. I am writing to ask for your help in spreading the word. There are many changes represented in this vote, including the fact that all of the nominees for Vice President are members of CCCC/NCTE, which is a huge step toward bridging the gap between literary studies and writing studies within the MLA. Additionally, this election includes five graduate student nominations for Executive Council in order to better represent the future of the profession on the governing body of the MLA. And, if you will excuse the self promotion, I am on the ballot for as a nominee for the Executive Council, which is an incredible honor. I have written more about my nomination on my CUNY Commons site cuny.is/mlaexecutivecouncil.

Here is the complete list of nominees: http://www.mla.org/pdf/elec15.pdf

MLA members can vote now, and graduate student can join for just $25. To me, this presents an unique opportunity to participate in our field at an international level and work toward the change we believe is essential to progress in our profession.

Here is the ballot: https://www.mla.org/ballot_main

Thank you for your time and consideration,