The purpose of this memo is to update the University community on the anticipated path forward on faculty workload. What follows are the current plans for the Cross-Functional Taskforce first outlined by President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., in her Feb. 13 email. As the process continues to unfold, we will provide further updates.
Since being named task-force co-chairs Feb. 16, we have reviewed all documents, presentations and recordings pertaining to the workload issue, including but not limited to: Faculty Senate Welfare Committee reports, presentations and climate surveys; Faculty Senate Taskforce presentations; the most recent Faculty Senate Taskforce statement with primary recommendations, the final faculty-workload white paper and the summary of feedback from faculty members; additional data and ideas shared on the recent Faculty Senate Taskforce SharePoint site that were not added to the official report or white paper; all Faculty Senate resolutions and accompanying minutes from the past calendar year; all MSFF memos, resolutions and town-hall recordings related to the workload issue; the recording of the Council of Chairs and Directors meeting Feb. 1, all memos from outgoing Provost Alfred Tatum, Ph.D., and President Davidson regarding the workload issue; the Jan. 26 Board of Trustees Academic and Student Affairs Committee recording; and information from the Board of Trustees.
We held about 20 hours of meetings from the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 22, through the task-force kickoff meeting Friday, Feb. 24. Those meetings included the external consultant as well as faculty and senior leaders who have been involved in the workload issue since the 2020-21 academic year.
The kickoff meeting was set by President Davidson in the Feb. 16 email announcing the creation of the task force. It was information only. We as co-chairs met again Monday, Feb. 27, to articulate more detailed goals, structure and timeline for the Cross-Functional Taskforce.
The primary goal of the Cross-Functional Taskforce is to identify solutions leading to a sustainable, student-centered workload implementation that aligns with our University’s strategic plan. As we mentioned at the President’s Spring Update on March 2, we wish to emphasize that the work of the current Cross-Functional Taskforce will not be starting from scratch but instead will build from the tremendous wealth of existing information mentioned above. Specifically, the task force will build from the work already completed by the Faculty Senate, Tatum and other senior leaders. We will make every effort to expedite the timeline to review by President Davidson and the Board of Trustees.
To accomplish this primary goal, the task force will also examine processes and practices that impact transparency, communication and collaboration across campus. Our hope is that by improving these three key areas, our University community becomes more efficient, productive, engaged and well-informed. We also believe this will help improve overall faculty and staff satisfaction and quality of life.
The Cross-Functional Taskforce has two co-chairs: interim Provost Marie Mora and Faculty Trustee Meredith Jeffers. The co-chairs will serve as primary leads for the work of the Taskforce Steering Committee and Working Teams.
The Steering Committee comprises 10 members: the co-chairs and eight additional representatives of stakeholder groups. The Steering Committee is primarily responsible for soliciting feedback/input from the stakeholders they represent, providing guidance to the Working Teams and discussing next steps. Individuals were chosen to represent a broad base of constituents across campus. As the original Faculty Senate task-force recommendations and white paper make clear, any changes to faculty workload will impact the full University. It is thus necessary to include representatives who are positioned to inform and guide the work of the various teams through their respective lenses and to serve as the main conduits of information to and from their respective units.
Marie T. Mora, Ph.D., interim provost
Meredith L. Jeffers, Ph.D., faculty trustee and associate professor
Members representing key stakeholder groups (alphabetical by group)
Administration Division — Larry Sampler, VP for Finance and Administration and COO
Council of Chairs and Directors — Elizabeth “Buffy” Ribble, Ph.D., president
Deans Council — John Masserini, DMA, College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, dean
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — Michael Benitez, Ph.D., VP in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Faculty Affairs — Sam Jay, Ph.D., acting AVP of Faculty Affairs*
Faculty Senate — Liz Goodnick, Ph.D., Faculty Senate president
MSFF — Sheila Rucki, Ph.D., MSFF president and professor
Student Affairs — Will Simpkins, Ed.D., VP of Student Affairs
*The new AVP of Faculty Affairs, Catherine Kleier, Ph.D., starts in April.
Teams are the heart of the task-force work. Each Working Team will be charged with tackling current questions from the Board of Trustees, senior leadership and faculty leaders. In essence, each Working Team is centered on a recurring theme and should assume increased autonomy. As their work progresses, the teams will share findings with other Working Teams and with the Steering Committee. They will also generate and/or respond to questions that arise.
The Working Teams will consist of faculty and staff members, administrators and, where appropriate, students, who are able to fully commit to the goals and work at hand. The current Working Teams themes are based on our in-depth review of primary documents and ancillary materials pertaining to the workload issue, as well as on conversations with faculty members, senior leaders and trustees directly involved with the workload issue since the 2019-20 academic year. New teams may be formed by the Steering Committee if needed; the Steering Committee and Working Teams may also form ad hoc committees. To get started, the co-chairs have appointed initial team co-leaders, identified specific preliminary questions and topics to examine and collated existing data and information on which to build. Once in place, the Steering Committee in consultation with the Working Team co-leaders will determine how best to structure their remaining members. The task-force co-chairs will update the campus community on Working Team participation at that time.
Current Working Teams (alphabetically ordered), with initial co-leaders
Budget — Gregory Clifton, J.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Accounting; Kristina Kesselring, MPAcc, CPA, lecturer and chair of the Faculty Senate Budget Committee; Jim Carpenter, interim chief financial officer.
Data — Sean Petranovich, Ph.D., director of Data and Analytics; Andrew Bonham, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Kristy Lyons, Ph.D., professor of Psychological Sciences.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Faculty Lifecycle — Chalane Lechuga, Ph.D., associate professor and director of Faculty Diversity Research and Development; Samuel Jay, Ph.D., acting AVP of Faculty Affairs.
Processes and Governance — Jessica Weiss, Ph.D., associate professor and Faculty Senate vice president; Leone Dick, chief of staff to the VP of Administration; David Fine, J.D., general counsel and secretary to the Board of Trustees.
Strategic Communication — Katia Campbell, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Communication Studies and director of the Dialogues Program; Andrea Smith, AVP of Strategic Communication.
Student Success — Barbara Decker, MSW, lecturer and chair of the Faculty Senate Student Affairs Committee; Elizabeth Parmelee, Ph.D., AVP of Undergraduate Studies; Student Government: The Student Advocacy Council student representative TBD
Basic description of Working Teams
Each Working Team will assume increased autonomy. These initial descriptions are intended to provide the University community with ideas of “big-ticket items” that the Working Teams will explore. The task-force co-chairs will provide more detailed questions and topics to the Working Teams to get started.
The budget team will examine the financial viability of options that impact existing compensation, workload models and significant changes in faculty and staff personnel at the University. To begin, using an equity lens, they will examine current faculty compensation at the University relative to local competitor institutions and increased cost of living in metro Denver. They will communicate relevant updates from the University Planning and Budget Advisory Committee that inform long-term budget modeling.
The data team will serve as the engine room for the other Working Teams, providing information to support the generation and evaluation of ideas brought forth. They will also gather data into presentable formats for input and decision-making.
DEI and Faculty Lifecycle:
It is imperative to note that DEI should be embedded in all the Working Teams. The task-force co-chairs felt it was important to foreground DEI alongside Faculty Lifecycle to respond to repeated DEI concerns present in documents and conversations surrounding the faculty-workload issue. To get started, this group will build off previous work completed by the Faculty Welfare Committee, Human Resources and the original Faculty Senate workload task force. Members will be expected to read through existing relevant documents prior to starting. They will generate and evaluate ideas on how to improve faculty quality of life from recruitment to retirement. They will also generate and evaluate ideas related to faculty retention. (*Note: It is likely this Working Team will need to break into smaller ad hoc groups.)
Processes and Governance:
The processes-and-governance team will explore the breakdown in process that led to the current pause in workload-implementation plans. They will examine existing policies, procedures and practices, including the role of shared governance, for “how a bill becomes a law” at MSU Denver. They will review and assess the intersection of budget, policy and decision-making processes that relate to workload. They will generate and evaluate concrete ideas for improving the processes and practices that affect workload and how it is tracked.
As stated previously, one of the fundamental concerns expressed by faculty and staff members, students and senior leaders is a need for improved cross-campus communication. This team will begin by generating and evaluating ideas to form the basis of the task force’s communication plan. They will also address broader concerns of trust and suspicion across campus and ensure that the work of the task force is communicated to the full campus community via multiple channels.
Any change to faculty workload directly impacts students. The student-success team will start by examining Pillars I and II of the 2030 Strategic Plan. It will build off information we already have to respond to in-depth qualitative and quantitative questions, with the immediate goal of identifying how to create a sustainable and equitable workload that will benefit our top priority: students.
Note: It is likely that the Working Teams will intersect on certain topics. Working Teams will share information with the Steering Committee and the other Working Teams throughout the duration of the task force.
March 6: Initial Steering Committee meeting (hybrid option)
Week of March 7-10: Working Teams co-leaders meetings (hybrid option)
March 16: Board of Trustees, Academic and Student Affairs Committee Meeting
The purpose of this update is informational only. Task-force co-chairs will present the goals, structure and timeline of the Cross-Functional Taskforce to the trustees, framing the issue, pain points and plan. They will answer the existing questions from the Board of Trustees to the best of their ability based on current data. Following the meeting, the task-force co-chairs will bring questions from the trustees back to the Steering Committee and Working Teams. The task-force co-chairs will communicate next steps to the full University community.
March to late April: campus-community updates
Working Teams will share progress reports with the full Cross-Functional Taskforce (i.e., the Steering Committee and all other teams). The task-force co-chairs will determine how to share reports once specific dates are determined (e.g., SharePoint, synchronous Teams/hybrid meeting, etc.).
The Steering Committee will continue to meet as a committee and report to and from their constituent groups to inform their discussion of next steps. They will communicate recommendations for next steps to the Working Teams.
The task-force co-chairs intend to organize open forums and straw polls (or similar) to gather feedback from faculty and staff members, students and administrators. These events will be announced with advance notice. Hybrid options will be provided for any in-person events, and recordings will be shared through our University communication channels.
Steering Committee members and the Working Teams are expected to continue to solicit feedback/input from their constituents and report back on how this feedback/input is being used.
President Davidson will also participate in examination of the Cross-Functional Taskforce’s progress to provide additional feedback and guidance on next steps.
June 2: Board of Trustees, full board meeting
The purpose of this update will be informational, unless the task force has developed ideas that (a) require action by the Board of Trustees; (b) have been vetted by faculty and senior leaders through appropriate channels of elected representation; and (c) are ready to be presented in full by the co-chairs, designated members of the Steering Committee and/or Working Teams.
If the update is informational only, the task-force co-chairs will outline progress and answer questions to the best of their ability. Following the full board meeting, the task-force co-chairs will bring questions from the trustees back to the Steering Committee and Working Teams. The task-force co-chairs will communicate next steps to the full University community.
Please know that as your co-chairs, we are willing and available to answer questions. We acknowledge it is impossible to capture the depth and breadth of conversations held in the past two weeks in the space of one memo. We realize this memo is likely too short for some and too long for others. We hope colleagues across campus recognize our effort and commitment to build the pathway forward based on the original work and recommendations of the faculty-workload task force and implementation plan and that we all commit to proceeding in good faith. As the original Faculty Senate task force stated throughout their work, any path forward to create and implement a truly sustainable workload will take time and may require significant financial investment on the part of the University. And as they noted last spring, “Ultimately decisions regarding the adoption and implementation of any ideas rest with the Provost, President, and, if appropriate, the Board of Trustees.” The cross-functional nature of the current task force allows us to pull together the required stakeholders to develop a plan informed by our ongoing budget-modeling updates and the feedback of faculty and staff members and senior leaders. To that end, we encourage faculty members, in particular, to continue using existing channels of peer-elected representation to communicate questions and concerns. Doing so will help promote transparency, avoid “silo-ing” information and empower all representatives to bring informed perspectives to the task-force discussions.