An Update on True Commitment

Updated as of 5:40 p.m., Oct. 3, 2019.

On Sept. 19, Provost Levit introduced an offer to the Faculty Senate from the Board: an alternative path to True Commitment. The Faculty Senate and their assorted committees would be given 30 days to provide a substitute plan and prevent True Commitment from taking effect. In order to be considered, this new plan must provide budgetary savings similar to True Commitment.

In her remarks introducing this option, Provost Levit offered an apology for True Commitment’s tumultuous rollout as well as context for the new offer.

Introduction by Student Writer Lindsey Prather

Note: The Collegian did not edit any of the material in the letter.

As we know, words matter. I drafted the following so I could share my thoughts without the risk of missing anything.

Over the course of the summer, I talked with many, many faculty – the messages have been clear and consistent, and we have heard you — I have heard you. And I continue to hear you.

Please accept our apologies, my apology.

As always, we were and are operating from a place of good intentions and from what we believed and believe to be in the best interest of the whole. My objective when I became Provost was simple – to bridge the distance between faculty and administration while navigating a precarious accreditation and fiscal moment. Regrettably, we clearly missed the mark and deepened the chasm. Again, I am so sorry.

We now need to mend to bring our campus together.

There are many who have been working toward this in two significant ways: First, we have earnestly been listening and responding to feedback from you by changing the plan. From teaching loads to direct admission to master programs, a variety of changes and clarifications are already incorporated into the plan. The conversations that have had the most significant impact in these course corrections have been my weekly conversations with the faculty senate leadership, Scott and Jennifer, who passionately and effectively voiced the concerns of our faculty with a focus on bringing us together.

Thank you, Scott and Jennifer, for your tireless involvement deftly navigating a critical time at our university.

At the same time, work continued on another front involving many conversations, with the board, to allow greater flexibility on our path forward. This culminated in a pivotal moment earlier this week when the Board went into executive session following a tense but meaningful exchange among board members, students, staff, and faculty – including four faculty from this body – Scott, Jennifer, Ram, and Lars.

During that executive session, the Board considered several resolutions that had been circulating, including those that would have closed paths for alternatives. Gerry and I argued strongly – as we did in open session — that the best path forward for the institution was to open the door for alternative solutions to the challenges which lay ahead. As a result, the Board passed this resolution:

RESOLVED, the Board welcomes and will carefully consider recommendations of the University’s established Task Forces for implementation of the True Commitment recommended to it by the administration if received on or before January 1, 2020. To this end, the board has also heard you.

This is a pivotal moment for all faculty. Through this resolution – and some earlier board conversations that I referenced in my last e-mail — question of “if” — not merely “how” — to implement some of the structural changes announced is in the faculty’s hands. This doesn’t relinquish responsibility, and accountability, for the necessary outcomes. The Board’s decision in May to release $11 million of quasi endowment – in addition to the approximately 5% income of the endowment — to partially fill a budget gap was in great part a response to their confidence this plan would positively impact student recruitment, retention and efficiencies all of which would positively impact our bottom line.

Our enemy is not each other — our enemy is an uncertain future. The outlook for TU is stronger than many private four-year universities, but the challenges we face are very real and very significant. I believe that the faculty who sat through this week’s board meeting can and should shed light on the nature and depth of these challenges. As I reflected during the board meeting, we have been too protective of the information which would help all of you understand these challenges better, and I am committed to sharing it.

These last five months – actually these past 17 months — have been very difficult for all of us. And with this apology — and with the added flexibility we—collectively–have unlocked, I will pivot my time and my energy to where it belongs, focusing, with you – the faculty senate — on our future, on mending our campus to better and proactively respond to the challenges which lie ahead, and on finding meaningful ways to grow and elevate the institution. The most energizing moments over the past few months have been in one-on-one conversations with faculty about creative alternatives to the status quo. Together, let’s harness the energy that his moment sparked to create together our future.

So, on to the details – where does flexibility exist, and how should the input be provided. Three areas that were part of the academic restructuring will be open for modification and alternative ideas as follows:

1. Divisions in A&S – The faculty Faculty Senate leadership has endorsed the A&S task force on divisions that was elected at the request of a delegation of debt chairs from A&S. We have already given the goals and objectives of the original recommendation to Scott and Jennifer and will meet with Diane Beals to do the same.

2. Divisions in ENS – Faculty Senate requested that a committee be elected in ENS, mirroring A&S, to report on a division structure for the college. Again, Jennifer and Scott have the goals and objectives of the original recommendation, and Jim and I will meet with the committee chair once elected.

3. Professional College Consortium – The faculty senate has endorsed the work of the Professional College Task Force and Graduate School task force already formed. Faculty senate leadership received the goals and objectives, and the work of these task forces are already under way.

University-wide policies

1. Teaching loads – in response to feedback I received from many of you, we have simplified the policy and returned more autonomy and accountability to the hands of department chairs and deans. I understand that the faculty affairs committee will be looking at this as well, and their report, which I believe is due on December 1, will be
fully considered in contemplating further adjustments to the policy. Program priorities – two paths for change – the first has been available since June, the second became a real possibility in August following my meeting with the HLC liaison

1. Reconsideration of program decisions: Programs which are not satisfied with the decision of the PPRC relating to program closure may request reconsideration of the decision. The PPRC released all the data it used in reaching its decisions in June. The deans council met the past two weeks to discuss how these requests for reconsideration would be assessed.

Reconsideration is limited to errors of fact or correction of incorrect data. The burden of proof is on the person/program making the request. Thus it is incumbent on the program to provide credible evidence to substantiate its claim of errors or incorrect data. For programs that have already submitted, there will be no prejudice if that program wants to resubmit or submit an addendum. I have received four requests so far, and there is no deadline. There has been some confusion over whether these requests flow through the deans offices or come directly to me – I would like the dean’s assessment in evaluating the request. Following a discussion of each request in deans council, I will write a decision that will then be submitted to the president and the faculty senate for consideration prior to sending to the board.

2. New Programs: Faculty members can also propose redesigned programs related to sun-setting programs through the college curriculum committees and then either the University Curriculum Committee (undergraduate) or Graduate Council (graduate). The UCC developed a form for new undergraduate program proposals early last fall, and it is on the academic policy and form library on sharepoint. All new program proposals will have to be approved by the deans’ council, the president, the board and, for the time being, the HLC.

Additionally, this week, during the Board of Trustees meetings, the board confirmed its support of the TC plan as presented, but also recognizes the inability of university to implement the strategic plan without the buy-in of faculty. In response to an open exchange between faculty senate leaders and members of the board, the board opened an avenue for Faculty Senate to bring changes to the overall TC plan in a window of 30 days, which backs up to the November board meeting where our HLC representative will be in attendance. But for any proposal to warrant serious consideration, it needs to demonstrate an alternative path to several million in annual savings from academic expenses on a timeline at least as aggressive as True Commitment.

Thank you very much.

Post Author: tucollegian