Go to the U of M home page

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Shared governance activities 2015-16

In addition to their ongoing responsibilities, CLA’s governance bodies have been exploring a range of significant issues this year. As mentioned in a previous Monthly Memo, the Curriculum, Instruction, and Advising Committee is examining the Major Project requirement and how this is implemented across the college. The Budget Advisory Committee is reviewing and making recommendations on how the college supports and reviews centers. The Council of Chairs has provided feedback on a variety of issues, such as salary equity processes. In the fall, the CLA Assembly discussed the length of the CLA tenure clock, in which faculty currently, on the standard timeline, come up for promotion review in their sixth year. The Assembly was asked to consider whether CLA should, as some of our peer institutions have done, consider a lengthening of the tenure clock to compensate for grant funding challenges, difficulties at university presses, and other developments. The Assembly discussion concluded there was insufficient reason to adjust the clock at this time and some good reasons not to do so.

Enhancing transparency

Two of my goals to improve operations in the college are enhancing our shared governance and improving our data and informational transparency. One simple step to advance both is to make it easier to find information about CLA governance online. We’ve developed a new governance page on our intranet that pulls together agendas and other materials for our governance committees and the Assembly. This new page is a work in progress and will become more robust in the weeks and months ahead. Please let me know at cladean@umn.edu if you have suggestions for what should appear on the page. If you are involved with a CLA governance or representative group that has a web presence, please let Ellen Miller know and we will add the link to the page. Ellen is new to the Dean’s Office, joining us recently as Executive Assistant to the Dean and Chief of Staff, the position formerly held by Kelsey Cook. Ellen provides administrative support for the Assembly and governance generally.

Another move toward improved transparency is making it easier to view data about the college. We have launched a new data portal called CLARA, for CLA Reporting and Analytics. The site pulls together data concerning budgets, enrollments, staffing, SERU survey results, and so on. Currently chairs, administrators, and select administrative staff have access to the site. We will soon be rolling out college-wide access.

Understanding the university’s FY 2017 budget compact process

Last year I wrote a long blog post explaining how the university’s annual compact process works. Words such as “stirring,” “riveting,” and “deeply moving” were uttered by readers near and far. Because I was not sure I could capture that poetic lightning in a bottle twice, this year I penned a shorter post that provides the key facts facing CLA for the fiscal year 2017 compact process. Since that post, CLA has had our compact meeting with our friends in central. In the contribution side of the reallocation pools -- refer to the links above to understand these terms of art -- by far the largest line item we submitted was faculty attrition due to resignations and retirements. On the investment side, we focused on requests to support our CLA Roadmap goals. In the standard reallocation pool, we requested funds to invest in graduate support; hire faculty; and increase support for our research office to improve and expand our services for faculty, staff, and graduate students. We requested funds to promote our Roadmap goal of student readiness and curricular innovation through investment to develop of an online suite of Liberal Education courses. In the strategic plan reallocation pool, we requested support for a Social Science Methods Commons; Minnesota Humanities Engagement Hub; human rights research and programming joint with the Humphrey School; and Islamic studies (two faculty positions and programming support). We will learn the outcome of our Compact requests sometime in May.

Three-year departmental planning and budgeting

In my departmental visits in the fall, I discussed the college’s move to a new planning practice where we will have three-year planning arrangements with departments. These are intended to provide the basis for a collaborative and partnering relationship with departments, to reduce us versus them perceptions and tone, and to reduce uncertainty. Our goal is to have conversations about substance and academic merits first, and the discussion about budget and finances second. The former, not the latter, drives what we want to do, but the latter obviously provides some parameters around how we can achieve the former. Each of the next three years (including this spring), one-third of our departments will have their three-year planning meetings. You can see the list of questions/topics departments are asked to address and the year in which departments will be having their three-year planning meeting.

The three-year planning process differs from academic program reviews. If you are curious when your department will be part of the academic program review process, which includes external reviews, the schedule has been posted.

A shared responsibility to transform lives

The transformation of lives that emerges from the liberal arts is a shared and collective responsibility and privilege. Our CLA Roadmap goals are motivated by these transformative effects. In the college administrative offices, my goal is for us to build an environment and provide the resources that best position faculty and staff to thrive as you pursue your important work. We’ve made progress but still have more to improve.

My thinking about the Roadmap and what we do in the college offices and throughout the college is driven by considering whether what we are doing is pursuing (yes, relentlessly) the highest level of research and creative excellence, providing outstanding opportunity for our students, and delivering tremendous service internally as well as to our alumni, stakeholder, and communities.

What do we do in the liberal arts?

A couple of weeks ago, while desperately awaiting my bag of 5 pretzels on a flight, I got to thinking about the idea that in the liberal arts and in this college we transform lives. I have used that expression myself many, many times. Whether within the college, in discussions with folks in other parts of the university, or with alums, donors, friends, regents, and others, I have conveyed that message many times. I deeply believe it to be true.