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December 4, 2014

Faculty Assembly discusses higher ed challenges

Breaking down silos. Fostering collaboration with other institutions and with business partners. Making wise use of technology. Preparing students for jobs while providing broader-based skills. Articulating the value of a University education.

Faculty Assembly members weighed in on the challenges and opportunities they see ahead as University leaders plan for the current fiscal year and beyond.

In a break from the typical meeting format, Senate President Michael Spring cleared the Assembly’s Dec. 2 agenda to allow time for small-group discussion and individual comments.

In advance of the meeting, Assembly members were provided links to four brief video overviews of areas where higher education is facing challenges and opportunities: public and government; students; technology and information, and partners and employers. The password-protected videos, originally produced by the Office of the Provost to spark conversation at the Board of Trustees’ fall retreat, have since been more widely distributed among University constituencies, including deans, student leaders and school planning and budgeting committees, as University leaders seek input from internal and external constituent groups, said David DeJong, vice provost for academic planning and resources management.

“The goal is to really prioritize so that when we move forward with planning we can address those issues and be sure that we’re on the right track,” said DeJong. He offered no timetable for the planning process, telling faculty: “I can’t give you a definitive answer on that. It’s certainly not going to be an overnight type of thing. We’re taking a lot of time right now in listening mode and I expect that process to continue for a good while.”

Following an hour-long discussion, Spring summed up faculty comments, noting that most concerns were student-centered. “Our focus has been on students, on reducing their debt, on providing meaningful bang for the buck,” rather than on focusing on challenges to the research environment, he said.

He encouraged faculty to contribute additional comments via the Senate office to be forwarded collectively to the Office of the Provost, adding that the planning process is an ongoing endeavor. “There are going to be some judgments made this year, but the ones that aren’t made this year are going to be made next year and the year after that and the year after that. … Long-range planning is an ongoing process that occurs every year.”

DeJong thanked the faculty for their input. “I really do appreciate this opportunity to hear from you all,” he said. “When I was a faculty member full time I always felt some of the more rewarding experiences were the times I could get out of my own department and into forums like this to hear all kinds of different viewpoints. This lived up to my expectations today.”


In other business:

• Admissions and student aid committee chair Robin Kear reported on the committee’s recent activities.

In the last spring term, the committee received overviews of the freshman class, transfer students and Student Affairs’ retention programs, she said.

Meetings this year covered a report on the freshman class (see Sept. 25 University Times), a report from new financial aid director Randall L. McCready (Oct. 23 University Times), and upcoming changes in the SAT test (see related story, this issue). Kear said the committee’s Jan. 20 meeting will focus on international student recruitment and admissions.

In his report, Spring noted:

• In response to the Senate plenary session on research data management, Mark Redfern, vice provost for research, has formed a group to discuss short-term, medium-term and long-range goals for moving forward on the issue.

• The Senate executive committee has continued discussion of possible realignments of Senate standing committees to better meet shared governance responsibilities. Spring expressed support for the efforts.

• To allow time for the discussion of University challenges and opportunities, an expected update from the Senate ad hoc committee that is analyzing University policies and procedures related to non-tenure-stream faculty has been delayed until January.

• A second ad hoc committee that was formed to address current guidelines for performance evaluation and salary reduction of tenured faculty has begun meeting. Details on the ad hoc committees can be found at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 47 Issue 8