The Open Door: U Hall takes good advice to heart
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)
During her annual State of the University Address in March, President Samarasekera challenged all of us to tackle the question of how we can continue to advance our learning, discovery and citizenship missions in uncertain economic times. Her only caveat was this: “The answer can no longer be that we have to work harder. We have to work differently. How can we organize our work differently and spend our funds effectively?”
We subsequently launched a website to submit ideas for our initiative to reinvigorate, rethink and reimagine the university. The site closes April 30, so I want to thank everyone who took the time to share his or her thoughts on the different ways that the university might make the most of its resources of time and money.
While being asked to take a hard look at the way we do things and find fundamental, sustainable solutions to the challenges we face is a significant undertaking to be sure, I am struck by the honesty, thoughtfulness and ingenuity contained in many of the nearly 350 suggestions received thus far.
I am inspired by the heartfelt comments found in the suggestions and the passion that so many of you have expressed for your university.
As noted in an earlier post on our university blog, Colloquy, there are some themes that have emerged. In no particular order, the following areas have garnered the most suggestions:
- technology to reduce paper (e.g., electronic time sheets, committee materials, syllabi)
- flex-time options for staff
- pay freezes and pay cuts, mostly for senior administrators, with suggestions for scaled cuts based on salary, and pay caps for full professors since mandatory retirement is gone
- teaching-focused options for professors
- online teaching elements, including online courses and online lectures
- shared and/or centralized positions
- optimization of existing technology (e.g., broader use of PeopleSoft modules, more and better staff training, streamlined financial processes)
- fix the FEC process: Does it need to be annual? Is it required for a single increment?
- RSO process streamlining, especially setting up research accounts
- switch from defined benefit to defined contribution plan
- opt-out options on health benefits, especially when spouses both work here
We will share suggestions with the community soon, in a way that protects the identity of those who submitted them with the expectation of confidentiality. Some steps will be taken immediately and other options will be longer-range; we expect to have a report and some go-forward plans by this fall.
Any suggestions that fall under the purview of NASA or AASUA collective agreements that warrant closer examination will follow along the appropriate process. NASA and AASUA are the sole and exclusive representatives of their respective groups in these discussions and the two presidents sit on the umbrella committee. Comments that deal with elements covered by either agreement, once discussed by the umbrella committee, likely will go directly to discussions with the relevant employee group.
I hope to share any immediate steps prior to the onset of my administrative leave July 1. We already have been asked to extend the umbrella committee process. I will discuss this with the committee when next we meet, and with Martin Ferguson-Pell, who will be acting provost in my absence.
So again, thank you to everyone who took the time to submit a suggestion. On behalf of the umbrella committee and the working committees, I appreciate your creativity, candour and passion.