FAQ on 2022 Summer Seminars

22 Feb FAQ on 2022 Summer Seminars

In response to the recent article written by Dr. Vincent Lloyd, Telluride Association has received a number of questions about the 2022 Telluride Association Summer Seminar discussed in his article. We’ve reviewed our records and endeavored to answer these questions to the extent possible, without exposing individual students to any additional scrutiny. If you have any other questions, please contact Amina Omari at executive.director@tellurideassociation.org

Was Dr. Lloyd’s article accurate?

Much of Dr. Lloyd’s article describes his personal perspectives and opinions. We take his concerns seriously, though we do not agree with all of his interpretations.

We believe the article includes some substantial mischaracterizations and inaccuracies, including but not limited to his characterization of the program’s factotum team and his description of the dismissal of two students. We note that have not received any request from Dr. Lloyd, his article’s publisher, or any other publishers who have picked up the story to fact-check or comment on the article at any point to date.

How and why were students dismissed from the program?

We believe that the privacy of our students is of the utmost importance, therefore we don’t release details on student dismissals. However, we can share information about our general policies. In the rare event that dismissals become necessary, they are carried out in accordance with our policy on disciplinary action and dismissals; students are dismissed only for serious and substantial reasons. Dismissal decisions are not made by students, but by multiple levels of staff and Board, and only after a thorough review process.

What is the faculty role in Telluride Association Summer Seminars? 

We deeply appreciate and value the expertise and experience that our faculty bring to creating and facilitating college-level seminars for our programs. Faculty are responsible for crafting syllabi that challenge our intellectually curious students. We also strive to create a student-centered learning environment. As such, faculty are also responsible for adapting their syllabi to engage students from a wide range of backgrounds. While we encourage open communication among faculty, students, and factotums, decisions about the seminar are made by the faculty.

What is the factotum role in Telluride Association Summer Seminars? 

Every seminar has two factotums, who serve as residential advisors and teaching assistants. They work as a team to supervise and guide students in aspects of community life outside of the seminar. In addition to ensuring student safety and assisting faculty with administrative tasks, Telluride Association asks its factotums to…

  • tutor and support students with the reading and writing assigned by faculty in seminar.
  • plan student activities such as field trips, guest lectures, extracurricular activities, and a student public speaking program.
  • facilitate students’ self-governance, democratic, and community processes.
  • share student feedback and requests about the seminar with faculty. 

Did factotums carry out their responsibilities appropriately at the 2022 program discussed in the article?

The factotum team at the 2022 program worked in accordance with Telluride training and policy. They met with faculty regularly, ordered books and supplies, scheduled field trips and guest lectures, and planned extracurricular activities. They also shared student feedback and requests with the professors, as they were trained to do. 

In this case, it appears that student feedback led to strong disagreement between the faculty and factotums about how best to meet students’ needs. While spirited debate, discussion, and respectful disagreement are a central feature of Telluride summer programs, the degree and nature of this conflict, especially between faculty and factotums, was not typical of or appropriate for our summer programs. While we encourage open communication among faculty, students, and factotums, decisions about the seminar are made by the faculty.

Telluride Association is committed to more effective and active supervisory involvement in supporting faculty, factotums, and students to prevent such conflict in the future.

How did Telluride Association respond to the situation? 

Board and supervisory staff were not aware of the seriousness of disagreements between faculty and factotums until late in the seminar, which we regret. Once notified, the Board promptly held discussions with faculty and factotums and suggested various ways to mediate the issue. In response to Board suggestions, faculty decided to discontinue the seminar and instead offered students individual and small-group academic opportunities and a field trip for the last portion of the summer. These were presented as optional and were not utilized by most students. Faculty were paid for the full summer of work.

What will Telluride Association do differently in future?

This was a challenging and unusual situation with unique features that we believe are unlikely to be replicated in the future. Nevertheless, we will use this experience to learn and improve our future programming. 

We believe that this situation could have been resolved more constructively if it had been identified and addressed earlier, with more support from supervisory staff and Board. We also believe we could have done a better job of clarifying expectations and offering support to both faculty and factotums. Long before this article was published, Telluride Association was already putting additional supervisory staff, trainings, and procedures in place to improve our support structure for future programs. We will continue to review and improve our procedures, especially with regards to identifying potential faculty/factotum conflicts earlier so they can be addressed effectively and constructively.

What about Dr. Lloyd’s objections to certain anti-racism content in the program?

Telluride Association stands behind its commitment to anti-racism. We believe our commitment to anti-racism supports and enriches the educational and democratic mission of our programming.

We do not believe this summer’s conflict arose from a contradiction between anti-racism-related content and seminar-based pedagogy. There were five other seminars that ran this past summer, founded on the same learning objectives and mission, that had no such conflict. 

Telluride Association also respects the academic freedom of our faculty, staff and students. We deeply value learning environments that support open discussion, differing opinions, and productive debate. Our programs are designed to support students’ intellectual curiosity and democratic self-governance. 

This past summer was the first year of our rechartered TASS program. As we do every year, we will examine and work to improve our programs over time. We are committed to constructive dialogue about our programming, including different pedagogical approaches to anti-racism; we welcome discussion and feedback from our community, including our wider circle of associates and alumni.

We want to hear from you.

For questions and comments, please email Amina Omari at executive.director@tellurideassociation.org

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