Update: Cross-Functional Taskforce on Faculty Workload
As promised, we head into the final week of classes with another update on the Cross-Functional Taskforce on Faculty Workload. We encourage each of you reading this update to continue to contact the Co-Chairs, Steering Committee members, or Working Team Co-Leaders with questions, concerns, ideas, or observations. This helps ensure all voices are heard in a way that best suits them. Please also visit the Faculty Workload webpage, which is serving as a one-stop shop for information on the Taskforce’s past updates and upcoming events and activities.
I. Open Forum
To begin we thank everyone who participated in the open forum on Faculty Workload this past Tuesday, April 25th. The event was developed by the Strategic Communications Working Team in collaboration with the MSU Denver Dialogues Program and moderated by Dr. Katia Campbell. We had over 25 people attend in person and approximately 40 people attend remotely. In addition to providing updates, much of the time was spent in Q&A and discussion. Highlights included:
- Iterating that a one-size-fits-all model would not be efficient or equitable across the university.
- Identifying potential low risk/high yield solutions as immediate first steps toward a phased, multi-year implementation approach to alleviating workload.
- Among the short-term possible solutions brought forward by attendees were:
- Developing equitable guidelines to count additional faculty activities into teaching loads (e.g., instructional activities such as supervising internships, independent studies, master’s student theses, etc.) and to make them a visible piece of RTP/PTR processes.
- Reducing the number of preps faculty have, where it makes sense to do so (e.g., consolidating smaller classes; expanding class sizes in hybrid, hyflex, or online courses; examining course rotations across the academic year to account for faculty who regularly have more preps than others, etc.).
- Increasing use of teaching assistants to assist with large classes and administrative work, while counting supervision of those teaching assistants toward the faculty member’s instructional activities.
- Banking release time and equivalencies allocated at the Department or College/School level.
- Concerns brought forward by attendees included:
- An increase in class sizes for classes already considered large. It was also noted that increasing class size (numerically) in some cases may decrease teaching load overall (i.e. adding a few students to one section rather than preparing and delivering a second section of the same class). Ultimately, it was noted that uniform class size solutions may not work as each department and program has different instructional needs.
- Flexibility vs. policy (calls for flexibility raises concerns that policy and decision-making practices will not be clearly developed). To alleviate this, well-articulated guidelines with guardrails at the university and/or college/school are needed but should not be overly prescriptive.
- Process breakdown: The process workgroup is recommending adoption of a change model and has already suggested sixteen specific associated actions (details to be announced at next Steering Committee meeting 5/1).
- Questions around budget were focused on process and transparency.
- The newly-formed University Planning and Budget Advisory Committee (UPBAC) has representatives from across campus whose responsibilities include updating constituents on the process and progress of the budget planning process.
- CFO Jim Carpenter also answered questions about the process.
- Trust, Transparency, and Information Flow:
- Concerns around compromised trust due to prior disconnect with messaging and actions. Attendees expressed a need for actions in addition to communication; it was noted that the Taskforce is currently working to address this point.
- Frustrations around introducing new initiatives without providing resources.
- The importance of processes or practices that maximize the opportunities for input/participation of all constituents in discussions, idea sharing, and input to the decision-making processes that serve to guide institutional policies.
- Attendees expressed appreciation for the cross-functional, realistic, and inclusive approach by the Cross-Functional Taskforce, as well as the centrality of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
II. Upcoming Taskforce Work and Events
On Monday, May 1st, 2023, we will hold the next Steering Committee meeting. The purpose of this meeting is for our Working Teams to provide progress updates, as well as recommendations ready for discussion and stakeholder input. As a reminder, the Steering Committee members are intended to serve as conduits, not as decision makers. Their role and responsibility are to share information with their respective stakeholder groups and to share feedback from those groups with the Co-Chairs, Steering Committee, and relevant Working Teams Co-Leaders. The Taskforce members have been transparently communicating and collaborating through our Teams channels.
Other upcoming Taskforce activities and checkpoints in May include:
- Regular check-in meetings between President Davidson and the Co-Chairs;
- Ongoing communication with the Deans, who have been sharing data and responding to Co-Chair questions related to the work of the Taskforce;
- A meeting with Human Resources and our university’s finance team to discuss improving compensation in the near term;
- A “run-through” of the June 2023 Board of Trustees meetings, with President Davidson, faculty leaders, and senior leadership, that will include an update by the Taskforce Co-Chairs;
- A full Cross-Functional Taskforce meeting, with all members (date TBD; aiming for the week after graduation). Note that as Co-Chairs we recognize this is a busy time for faculty, staff, and administrators and we also recognize and greatly appreciate the time and energy put into the Taskforce that constitutes additional, voluntary work.
- A virtual forum, intended as another opportunity to hear from stakeholders across campus and to close feedback loops (date TBD; aiming for the week of May 15th or May 22nd)
Please know we hear your calls for action. We are working tirelessly to ensure we will provide both short- and long-term ways forward that will safeguard a sustainable workload as well as the long-term success of this University and our students. Thank you for your active engagement throughout this process and please continue to do your best to serve our students and one another.
We commit to sending our next biweekly update the week after graduation. In that update, we will provide an end-of-semester progress recap as well as a preview of what will be presented at the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting.
Until then, we wish everyone the best of luck heading into finals week!
Marie T. Mora, Ph.D., Taskforce Co-Chair
Provost Ad Interim; and
Meredith L. Jeffers, Ph.D., Taskforce Co-Chair
Faculty Trustee and Associate Professor