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Feb. 13, 2023
Dear Roadrunner Faculty and Staff,
I am writing to provide an update on our plans to address the faculty workload issue.
I know many of you are disappointed by the pause the trustees have directed. Know that the trustees and I have heard your concerns and that we are committed to resolving this issue as swiftly, transparently and inclusively as possible. Also, please know that the Board did not approve or reject the proposal; they asked us to pause implementation of the workload shift to better understand the intersecting challenges and to allow us time to perform more analysis on our options, including multi-year budget modeling, to inform their decision on a way forward.
I have spoken with Board Chair Noles and Vice Chair Hultquist, and they are open to having discussions on the topic as early as their next meetings, which are March 16-17. Depending on the quality of the analysis and the options brought forward, it is possible that proposals relating to this issue could be integrated into the FY23/24 budget cycle, which will be approved by the Board at their June 2023 meeting. Meeting such a tight timeline will require that we begin our analytical decision-framing process ASAP.
Way Forward: I am pleased to share that last week, through a series of meetings with our budget team, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs (including all the deans and the leaders of Faculty Senate and the Council of Chairs), trustees and some outside consultants, we are coming to agreement on the way forward. All agreed that this issue has raised a number of intersecting challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed simultaneously and in context with the issue of workload. Among these are compensation, diversity, retention of faculty, staff and students, and our cross-functional university processes and expectations for ensuring student success.
Meanwhile, our recent drops in enrollment, our perennial under-resourcing from the state, and the current macroeconomic environment all add additional challenges to our efforts. Although we have made progress in the past few years, there is still work ongoing to address deferred technology and infrastructure upgrades, budget process improvements and salary pressures, all of which need to be addressed in an integrated and strategic way if we are to get to a “new normal.” It is important to appreciate that the investment the state made in our IT upgrades – Wi-Fi improvements and Workday – will result in our working smarter, not harder, once they are fully online. Any workload assessment needs to account for these challenges and the changes this new technology will afford, and any plans developed must be thoughtfully sequenced with these ongoing efforts.
Organizing for Success: With this backdrop in mind, we will be standing up an inclusive cross-functional task force that will build on the work already completed to clarify the issues for the trustees and our own community and provide options for the way forward. My two guiding principles as we develop and assess options are (1) that no one at MSU Denver – faculty or staff – should have an unsustainable workload and (2) whatever solutions we pursue must center student success as our No. 1 mission.
The cross-functional task force will craft an aggressive timeline, aiming to describe and quantify the issues to be addressed along with clarifying data at the March Board of Trustees meeting. This will be followed by options development and detailed budget modeling, which will be prepared for the June Board meeting, along with any additional requests for information or analysis. We will announce a more detailed plan of action, including ways in which faculty, staff, or students can participate, by the end of this week.
I know all Roadrunners go above and beyond to serve our students. When we say we pride ourselves on meeting our students where they are, I know there are faculty on the front lines and in the classrooms working passionately and collaboratively with staff and students. Thank you for your continued commitment to our mission and your efforts to make MSU Denver an even better place.
Thank you also to Dr. Marie Mora for stepping up to serve as interim provost. We are lucky to have such a talented educator and economist here to support Academic Affairs and to serve as a senior leader at this key inflection point.
Finally, I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Faculty Leadership Team, including Dr. Meredith L. Jeffers, associate professor and faculty trustee; Dr. Liz Goodnick, associate professor and president of Faculty Senate; Dr. Elizabeth Ribble, professor and president of the Council of Chairs and Directors; and Dr. Sheila Rucki, professor and president of the Metropolitan State Faculty Federation. These leaders came together last week to craft a joint statement highlighting the work faculty had done on the workload proposal and confirming their support for a collaborative way forward. I share their commitment to shared governance and their optimism that “the work we do together now will result in outcomes that, looking back, demonstrate that this pause resulted in progress and ongoing positive change for MSU Denver, our faculty, and, most importantly, our students.”
Janine Davidson, Ph.D.
President, MSU Denver