Dean Marty Hershock, Associate Deans Gabriella Scarlatta and Mike Lachance, Administrative Director Rita Gordon, and Retention and Outreach Manager Morgan Yuncker held a virtual Town Hall for CASL faculty and staff on Monday, July 20, 2020.

Topics included:

  • CASL Finances/Budget
  • Fall Semester Plans
  • Fall Enrollment Updates

There was also a question and answer session at the conclusion of the presentations.

Below is the video recording of the Town Hall and answers to the questions submitted prior to and during the event.

Questions and Answers

Budget

With large projected declines in graduate enrollment and international student enrollment, which may impact College of Engineering more, will the central admin allocate more budget from that unit to CASL?

It is highly unlikely that CASL will see any increase in budget resulting from such a decline. First, it is unclear what our own enrollments will look like. To even justify such a redistribution the college would have to see an increase in its fall enrollments. Additionally, the engineering curriculum is very expensive to offer and it has always been the case (to some degree) that CASL programs help to fund this curriculum.

The official, approved budget for CASL shows a 4.64% cut compared with the previous fiscal year. Could you please explain what is going to happen to the difference between 4.64 and 5.2% that is the official percentage of cuts?

The 4.64% cut in the approved Regental budget captures the university’s contribution of promotion and contractual raises funded by the university and added to our budget after the college made its mandatory 5.2% cut to its base.

Where are the major losses occurring that have led to this budget shortfall? Is it the uncertainty of state appropriations and enrollments, or other issues?

There are a number of factors contributing to this overall shortfall:

  1. The costs associated with the transition to remote learning (equipment purchases, software, overloads to replace faculty who either took sick or who were unwilling to make the transition, increased costs for building cleaning/sanitization, the loss of auxiliary revenues, etc.).
  2. The need to increase financial aid to assist students struggling with job loss, changes in family finances, etc.
  3. Tuition revenue loss as students dropped classes.
  4. CASL’s enrollments continue to fall,  down 15% from their high in 2014.
What will happen to existing pdf funds? Are these at risk?

The funds are currently frozen (as directed by the university--we were asked to freeze all carryforward funds). It is the college’s intention to allow the funds to be used once the freeze is lifted. It is, however, as is the case with all of the college’s funds, possible that, should the need arise, these funds could be taken by the university to meet financial needs.

How will you engage faculty in the decision-making process regarding possible future cuts in the college?

The college did what it could to include multiple perspectives in making its decisions relative to the current round of budget cuts. Given the timeframe in which we were operating my office worked closely with the department chairs to discuss possible financial strategies to meet our requested financial obligation to the campus.

Going forward, the college will continue to work with the department chairs and, when possible, the college’s Executive Committee, to determine where to make future cuts. Final decisions regarding the college’s budget reside with the dean working in consultation with the provost and other senior officers of the university.

Personnel cuts

Can Marty please talk about what cuts have already been made and what are planned?

In crafting the 2020/2021 AY budget the college looked to make all possible cuts before turning to personnel. On this count, the college did not provide any PDF for faculty this year, we cut almost all student labor, photocopying, supplies, construction projects, and reallocated virtually all funds from the college’s strategic priorities and any discretionary money existing in the dean’s office.

On the personnel front, given the confidential nature of these decisions I cannot reveal specifics. What I can say is that the college has reduced its LEO workforce slightly and has released three staff members (one in the Dean’s office) along with reducing the appointment levels of a handful of staff and LEO faculty. The college will also be cutting one Associate Dean position after Mike Lachance’s term ends in 2021.

What will be cut?

Everything is on the table but the focus will always be on preserving positions if possible while ensuring that the needs of our students are paramount.

When will people find out whether they are affected by personnel cuts?

Staff impacted by Reduction in Force and Involuntary Workload Reductions are in the process of being notified. We are working with Human Resources to provide information to assist them with finding other work within the university. As personnel matters are confidential, we are not sharing information about specific people impacted. 

Is CASL cutting entire programs? Laying off people in a variety of programs?

Over the last seven years, the college has consistently examined the sustainability/viability of its academic programs. In light of these reviews CASL eliminated its MALS program, placed a moratorium on the American Studies program, eliminated both the BGS and Liberal Studies programs and integrated elements of each of them into a new Integrated Studies degree program, froze admission into the MPP program (this led to a reconstitution of it along with our existing MPA program in the form of our new MPAP program).

Most recently, the college placed German on moratorium with a two-year time frame established to end the minor. In the face of recent budget cuts the college is moving forward with an evaluation of its course offerings in the area of applied art and applied music. Data recently shared at the campus level also suggests increased scrutiny of course fill rates and individual faculty load. In short, it behooves the college to be proactive in examining its current curriculum and to identify ways to reinvigorate it.

How has CASL been working with the LEO union to protect benefits and incomes of LEO I and II who are most vulnerable to course cuts?

The university has worked closely with the LEO union as it considers its varied responses to the COVID crisis. The union is kept abreast of all personnel/workload/compensation changes under consideration by the college. The college does its best to not impact our employees in making its budget decisions. In the end, however, it is impossible to make the required cut to our base without cutting salaries and benefits for some employees.

Program/college dissolution/merger

Is CASL going to merge with CEHHS?

There are many conversations afoot at the campus level designed to garner greater efficiencies and to reduce costs. Everything is on the table.

Has there been discussion of reducing the number of programs the college offers or integrating programs to reduce costs?

As I indicated in the town hall, we have to operate with everything on the table. In my time as Dean the college has, on multiple occasions, looked at the sustainability/efficiency of programs.

As a result, the college eliminated its MALS program, imposed a moratorium on the MPP program and saw it later integrated into a new MPAP program, imposed a moratorium on American Studies, integrated our stand-alone BGS and Liberal Studies degrees into a new Integrative Study degree program. Most recently, the college determined to impose a moratorium on the German minor and to phase it out in two years.

It is imperative that the college engage in a serious consideration of its current scope and whether the things that we are currently allocating resources on might best be phased out or reimagined in new and exciting ways. Increasingly, there are conversations taking place on campus about the core mission of the campus and about the numbers of students enrolling in particular areas of study. We need to be prepared to defend what we do (with data) or to proactively reimagine our curriculum.

What is happening with College-Wide Programs?

The CWP administrative office is closing, but its programs are moving to existing departments in order to continue to receive excellent administrative support and as a means of reducing overall costs within the college.

What is the status of the Writing Classroom project in light of the budget issues?

Unfortunately, all campus building projects were put on hold for the time being. In the meantime, Composition will continue to have access to the 2nd floor CB spaces that it currently utilizes.

Can we sell the CASL building?

Are you in the market?

Course caps

What are the online caps for General Chemistry Courses? For LEO’s the caps should be no more than 20.

Course Caps are a workload/effort issue and are, when change is being considered, subject to impact bargaining between the university and the LEO union.

If courses are already capped at a number such as 24 or 22 due to the nature of the course, will they be held to 20/15 enrollment floors, or will they be considered at 60%, with multiple sections combined to reach 100% fill rates?

The latter. Courses capped at say 24 would have a proportional enrollment floor (of 9) applied to them. In the case of multi-section lower capped courses, the college already considered the 60% median fill rate in determining the number of sections to schedule. Unless a course does not meet its minimum threshold (and assuming no more mandatory budget cuts) courses will be allowed to run in multi-section courses even if they do not reach the 60% threshold.

How do the financial grounds of holding to the 20/15 minimum enrollment thresholds work for courses in which the cap is maxed at 22 or 24,and where the instructor is paid by the number of enrollments, vs per course?

See above for the first part of your question. As to the second part of your question...the college is interested in moving away from this model as the areas to which it applies may need to be consolidated, refocused, or reconsidered.

One-time $10M

Will the planning for the use of one-time $10 M from Ann Arbor be done in time for implementation (and publicity for recruitment) for Fall term?

It has yet to be firmly established that the money coming from Ann Arbor will be split evenly between the Flint and Dearborn campuses. The distribution could slant one way or the other depending on what criteria are employed in determining its division.  An announcement seeking Requests for Proposals for usage of the funds to promote student success will be forthcoming from the Chancellor’s Office soon. Decisions as to how to employ the funds will then be made in a timely manner. The money is not available to backfill budget cuts.

How will the money be distributed that Ann Arbor has committed to sending to Dearborn?

See above.

How will the approximately $10 million windfall ($20M split between Dearborn and Flint) affect decisions about class cancellations, layoffs, etc., in CASL?

As stated above, the funds will not be used to backfill existing budget cuts.

Tuition

Is there any discussion on allowing students to use summer courses as part of their block courses? This may lead to better student success and reduce the burden of the recently announced fee increase. In addition, our students will graduate on time.

I am happy to share this idea. At the moment the university is looking to provide financial aid to students who have traditionally taken fewer than 12 credit hours (the block credit hour tuition minimum) to offset the financial burden associated with the shift to block tuition to enable them to take advantage of the program. Likewise, financial aid is being increased to assist students with financial need with their educational expenses.

Students are frequently commenting that they want/expect a tuition reduction, because they feel online learning isn't the same as in-person. I think we need some better communication with them about this.

I have heard the argument as well. I will bring this to Senior Officers and Deans to see what the campus might do regarding messaging on this issue.

COVID-19 policies

Do we have any policy in place for what will happen should an instructor get sick and be rendered unable to continue teaching their course?

 The college, sadly, has experience with this. All departments are able, once notified of faculty illness or incapacitation, to deal with the situation at hand. Courses are covered by other instructors as possible or, if absolutely necessary, cancelled with a refund given the impacted students.

Assume that there is a positive COVID-19 test from a student or faculty member involved with an in-person instructional activity on campus. Can you discuss the policies that will be in place for the Fall?

Planning for such possibilities is taking place at the campus level. I will push for information regarding such scenarios to be shared with the campus community as soon as possible. The college must abide by campus policy in this area.

Who will be the point-people for solving problems that arise during fall?

Any problems that arise should be directed to your department Chair or program Head. They will, working with the Dean’s office, triage the problem and refer individuals to an appropriate campus resource.

On-campus access

If you are on campus to teach, will you have access to your office?

No. The Chancellor has been very clear in saying that anyone who can work remotely must continue to do so and that trips to campus, even if one is teaching on campus, should be limited in duration. He does not want faculty/staff using campus facilities unnecessarily. The Provost is exploring the possibility of establishing swing space for faculty to access on campus.

Why can't faculty work in their offices at all? Couldn't a safe way be created? Some faculty do not have office space at home.

The answer has a number of elements:

  1. For the safety of both the faculty member and staff/students on campus, limiting the number of people coming to and leaving from campus is imperative.
  2. Not every building will be open and the university is looking to curb utility expenses by not operating heating/cooling/electricity/water in dormant buildings. Likewise, not all parts of open buildings will be accessible or fully operational (the water system, for example, must be flushed before an area is deemed usable).
  3. Usage of spaces such as faculty offices requires a thorough cleaning after each visit. Faculty spreading out throughout a building and/or making regular usage of office space requires additional cleaning and staff hours.
  4. Open building access encourages, rather than discourages, casual use. This is not something that the university condones and it makes it more difficult for the university to calculate, and abide by, standards set for population densities in any given space.
When we will have access to offices and printers for research-related issues? What will fall look like in terms of campus opening/closing?

There is a research ramp up process in place. Faculty who have demonstrable needs for regular access to research facilities should apply for UMOR/campus approval.

For more limited access (one time/occasional) a different process is in place requiring supervisor and university approval. Access under these conditions is closely monitored to ensure thorough cleaning of high touch/shared surfaces. The campus will have limited access for the fall semester. You will not simply be able to show up and access your office at will. Prior permission will have to be granted and you will have to follow university protocols.

Have Fall semester plans changed now that the federal government is requiring international students to attend in-person classes or be denied their visas to stay in the country? Will there be more students in buildings because of this change?

This issue was recently resolved due to a change in federal policy.

What is the plan for staff returning to work? Can we continue to work from home if we don’t feel safe coming to campus?

The Chancellor has been clear that if you can do your work from home you should continue to do so.

 

Fall schedule and enrollments

What is something that administrative staff can do to positively impact enrollment, or support positive enrollment on the department side between now and September?

The best thing is to keep everything you can as up to date as possible. Having your websites up to date with contact information, ways students can be in touch with your offices, faculty, learning centers, SI, tutoring, etc. Most of the time that is the information students and their families are looking for when they are coming to departments. Also, being able to respond to student questions quickly can make a huge difference.

When will the decisions be made to cut/cancel sections for low enrollment?

By August 20 we should have all of those decisions made.

How will students who have not registered be notified that a class will be offered online, and how long will the college wait for enrollment numbers to finalize before making decisions about cancellations?

See above.

Can we talk about some "back-up" plans for the next year if enrollments fall heavily? What are our contingency plans going forward?

This will be a topic taken up both by CASL Executive Committee and CASL Administrative Council. Everything would be on the table--shifting tenure track teaching into introductory level courses that might be more robustly enrolled, considering lowered caps in certain areas of study, putting more courses on reserve and waiting to assign them until full, shifting teaching into summer to spread the schedule out more broadly, the use of one time funds to offset costs (if allowed), additional class cancellations or faculty/staff reductions accompanied by campus-level conversations (it is unlikely that declines would only be seen in CASL), among other things.

Are we hurting our enrollments by offering online-only courses while many students prefer in-person classes?

Though there are some schools in the state offering on-campus courses, I do not feel like we are hurting ourselves. I think instead of looking at having a majority of online classes as a negative, we need to look at it as a great opportunity for our students.

We have talked so long about offering courses that better meet our students schedules with work, families, etc. This is our chance to do it. Plus, if we do it well, many students will welcome future online courses in “normal times” and can be a great tool toward recruiting new students looking for that flexibility. We have also received a great many emails/messages (often from parents) thanking the university for its thoughtful approach to reopening.

Will capstone courses that serve as the only capstone offering for a major in F20 be canceled if enrollment is below 10 students?

No, capstone courses (assuming there are not multiple sections) and/or other upper level offerings essential for degree completion, will be allowed to run with enrollments below the enrollment threshold.

Winter schedule and beyond

What is the plan for Winter?

Plans are still under discussion at the campus level but short of a miraculous change in circumstances, I would anticipate that Winter 2021 will look very similar to Fall 2020. There is some discussion about the possibility of allowing some faculty to opt to shift their winter teaching (or a portion of it) to summer 2021 in recognition of the fact that this might alleviate some of the pressures associated with homeschooling/childcare.

Is planning for winter semester mostly online (due to confluence of flu season and resurgence of COVID-19)?

Yes, see prior question.

Some public health experts say the pandemic will last two years. Should we anticipate continuing with remote learning for the next two years?

Given the Chancellor’s cautious approach to the pandemic I would expect that the campus continue to rely on remote learning modalities until public health officials signal that the pandemic is over and person-to-person teaching is safe.

The Provost just sent an email to all faculty and staff to solicit feedback on the planning for the winter semester. As mentioned at the Conversation yesterday, you are encouraged to provide your feedback so that we can all contribute to a healthy and productive winter semester.

Faculty/staff support

Are there any suggestions/plans for faculty and staff with small children or other dependent care responsibilities this fall?

[entire submitted question]: Are there any suggestions/plans for faculty and staff with small children or other dependent care responsibilities this fall? Given the uncertainty over public schools and lack of data on the long term impact of COVID-19 on children, it's really hard to know what is best to do. If schools and day cares end up closing, our ability to maintain high quality online offerings will be highly questionable (e.g. my 8 year old can occupy himself for stretches of time but my 4 year old cannot; this summer is the least research/writing I've ever done). This must be especially stressful for families with a single adult in the household, multiple caregiving responsibilities, health issues, etc. The idea that the chair can jump in and we would ad hoc cover other people's courses in a pinch is not enough. I understand the resource constraints and want to make the best experience possible for students, and everyone will do the best they can but some contingency planning would be helpful/reassuring. 

(See recent research: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-020-0921-y "Unequal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on scientists")

 

This is a subject that is very much at the center of the conversation among senior campus leaders (a number of whom would fall into this same category). Everyone recognizes that this is a very real concern for many faculty, staff, and students.

Among the measures being taken:

  1. The push for asynchronous teaching to enable those with family care responsibilities to attend to their teaching at more convenient times.
  2. Supervisors, chairs, deans and faculty have (and will continue to be) encouraged to be as flexible as possible in accommodating staff/faculty/students facing these circumstances.
  3. The Provost is working to identify space on campus that can be opened to faculty/staff who might need a quiet place to work on an occasional basis.
  4. While less than ideal, the expanded wireless reach in the Fairlane Center parking lot, allows for individuals to work in their cars.
  5. The recent Winter term survey sent out by the Provost’s office included a question regarding the willingness of faculty to shift teaching loads from the Winter semester into the Summer as a means of freeing up time during the K-12 school year.
  6. HR always stands ready to assist those who may need to access Family leave or who may need some sort of accommodation.

Further discussion is underway.

Will service expectations for faculty temporarily be reduced because faculty are spending far more time building online courses?

This will be on the CASL Executive Committee agenda this fall. Conversations will also take place at the university level.

Communication

How are we communicating Fall plans to incoming students (both registered and not-yet-registered)?

Communication with students is being coordinated centrally through the office of Enrollment Management so as to prevent email oversaturation. This communication is being reinforced by weekly contact being made by the Dean of Students. At the college level, our Retention Manager and Communications team have been messaging current students with information about available support and to keep connected.

How are we communicating fall plans to students (especially FTIACs and transfers)? We can adjust as we go, but I think students and families need some guidance now and resources for getting updated information going forward.

See previous question.

Why does it appear that all "full-time" faculty already know that the Fall 20 semester will be held online, and the LEO I, II, IIIs have not been told about it yet?

The fall schedule was communicated to discipline reps, who were asked to communicate it to ALL faculty members, including LEOs.

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