Wilkes University AAUP Newsletter May 2015
Meet the Faculty: Jon Liebetrau, Performing Arts What’s your favorite part of your working environment? As with most teachers, the opportunity to work with students in and outside the classroom is the favorite part of my job. But at Wilkes I have the added luxury to work in the Darte Center and collaborate with a fantastically creative group of teaching artists in the Department Of Performing Arts. In addition, the building is alive with artistic activity. Each time I walk out of my office, I wander past practice rooms, which “share” the sounds of piano, flute, guitar, and various other instruments. A few steps further I see poised, balanced dancers practicing ballet and still others gliding through modern dance pieces. As I end up at my usual destination, the theater, I find students practicing modern and classical monologues, scenes, and musical numbers for the stage. To quote the Gershwin song, it’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It!” Research interests/successes/ challenges? I love the opportunity during the summer to work on professional projects, strengthening my craft and enhancing my skills as a teacher. I spent this past summer in Upstate New York at Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake. I played the heartwarming, yet challenging, role of Elwood P. Dowd in the classic American play Harvey by Mary Chase. I found it a test to create and also interact with Elwood’s best friend, an invisible 6 1/2
foot white rabbit that accompanies Elwood throughout the play. But the biggest challenge of the adventure was spending two months away from my family in a small apartment in the Adirondacks. What are your teaching interests? Having spent the last 30 years as a professional actor, teaching the craft is understandably a main interest. Currently I am working on a teaching certificate from Kent State University’s Great Lakes Michael Chekov Consortium, which is a three-year teaching program focusing on a physical derivation of the Stanislavski technique (Constantine Stanislavski being the “father” of modern acting). I also take immense pleasure directing theater productions; there I help my students apply the lessons of the classroom to the stage.
How do you think you best serve the Wilkes community? Theater is an ancient tradition, whose function is to hold the mirror to the individual and to culture as a whole. My hope for the Wilkes theater major and non-major in my classroom is that they will gain perspective and understanding of human character, both good and evil, not to judge, but rather to gain perspective from all directions. Additionally, it is essential for Wilkes students as they look to enter an increasingly competitive job market to foster their ability to create and communicate, especially as employers seek more innovative individuals to give them a competitive edge. I truly believe the theater classroom is an excellent partner in that pursuit. How has your campus experience been so far? It has been a very rich first year. I have felt very welcome here at Wilkes. The DPA faculty and staff have been accepting and incredibly helpful. The theater students continue to have open ears and eager hearts. Aside from my normal class load and directing a mainstage musical production, I have been to two theater conferences, one in Boston and another in Chattanooga; I traveled to Philadelphia and Harrisburg on recruiting missions; I have been asked to join a university task force; And lately, I have been elected to a university committee. Full steam ahead!
Wilkes University AAUP Resolution & Rationale Resolution: The Wilkes AAUP Chapter proposes that the university create and fill a half-time ombuds position on campus. This individual, a senior faculty member elected to the position by full faculty, would participate annually in the International Ombuds Association training. Such a person could serve all campus constituencies: faculty, staff, and students, offering advice and appropriate channels for aggrieved parties. Rationale: We are concerned about the lack of an informal process for voicing and working through workplace conflict. In June 2009, a group of faculty reported to FAC that an ombuds position, which they had researched together, was not appropriate for Wilkes at that time. Instead, FAC recommended, and soon after created with the help of full faculty input during an August Faculty Retreat, the Faculty Grievance Committee (Faculty Handbook 4.3.11.d). HR and others in the administration (along with some faculty members) claimed such a committee would protect those hearing any complaint. The earlier four advocate positions, they argued, left faculty open to forced legal testimony, should any conflicts
rise to that level. The intention was to create a more formal procedure for faculty bringing workplace complaints beyond those appropriate for the Faculty Appeals Committee. We believe that the Grievance Committee is a good idea. However, under its current charge, it does not allow for an informal step. An informal step could help solve workplace problems before they rise to formal complaint status thus better facilitating fairness, harmony on campus, good working conditions, trust and satisfaction among the university’s constituents. While we considered proposing that an informal step be built into the Faculty Grievance Committee’s charge, we have come to believe, after careful consideration, that this would not work as well as having an ombudsperson. On the model that expands the Faculty Grievance Committee’s options, the Committee would first try to mediate informally, making decisions based on the grievant’s narrative of a complaint. The Committee could schedule joint meetings with concerned parties in attempts to resolve the conflict. If this informal process failed, then the Committee chair would move into the formal process, currently
outlined in our Faculty Handbook. We see this as a less satisfactory option for a number of reasons. While the concern that the committee only addresses faculty problems, not those of staff or students, could presumably be fixed, other concerns are more recalcitrant. The committee consists of four people; addressing four people will be off-putting to some and intimidating to others. Furthermore, there are situations in which individuals need advice, someone to listen to their concerns and indicate whether those concerns ought to be pursued formally or whether more low profile ways exist for addressing those particular issues. For this, a four-person committee is not suitable. In addition, people are regularly elected to this committee (as with all other committees) and there are no requirements that individuals have training in conflict resolution or anything else relevant to addressing the kinds of problems likely to arise. Such a position could only help our University’s atmosphere of trust and would help promote a positive working environment. Meetings with the ombudsperson would be confidential, and Pennsylvania state law on record-keeping allows for such a position on college campuses.
Wilkes University AAUP Chapter Wilkes University AAUP Officers: • President: Mischelle Annthony (English) • Vice-President: Kyle L. Kreider (Political Science) • Treasurer: Brian Whitman (Earth and Environmental Science) • Secretary: Morgan Clevenger (Business) • Members at Large: Philip Simon (Performing Arts), Diane Polachek (Education) • Faculty Editor: Patrician Heaman (English, emeritus)
Wilkes University 84 West South Street Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766 Phone: 570-408-4529 Email: email@example.com
Newsletter Production: James Jaskolka, Communication Studies, ‘16
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Our Spring 2015 newsletter