Fall Update - September 12, 2019 - The University of Tulsa

Fall Update – September 12, 2019

Dear colleagues,

Welcome back. I hope your summer was both productive and rejuvenating. I spent my summer listening – listening to faculty from across campus, with almost daily meetings to hear their thoughts and feelings about our past and future. These conversations reinforced my deep affection for TU; dedication to finding a sustainable trajectory; desire to contribute meaningfully to building TU’s future; and hope for more opportunity to provide input at all phases of the decision-making process.

I have heard you, and I am sorry that the changes announced last spring caused a range of reactions. We were and are operating from a place of good intentions and from what we believe to be in the best interest of the whole while navigating a precarious accreditation, fiscal and demographic situation.

To this end, I shared an important message with the Deans’ Council and Faculty Senate Steering Committee last week, offering the Faculty Senate the opportunity to provide an alternative plan with respect to divisions in Arts & Sciences, Engineering & Natural Sciences and reorganization of our professional colleges. This offer came with my commitment to support that plan and champion it to the board.

In lieu of a separate process, the Steering Committee has endorsed the task force processes in place. A&S has elected a task force to study academic reorganization, and the Steering Committee has requested that ENS elect a similar task force. The A&S, ENS, professional colleges and Graduate School task forces will present their reports to me and Faculty Senate by Feb. 20.

We are and will continue to make changes – some big and some small – to the plan, all of which can be viewed here and are highlighted below. These modifications are a direct response to questions, concerns and suggestions many of you have raised. During the April 11 town hall and in subsequent forums, I asked for your help shaping this plan. To those of you who have done so, I am grateful. Each contribution is a positive step.

Teaching loads
The most recent and significant update is a greatly simplified version of the university-wide teaching loads. Based on this modified formula, I have asked all deans to apprise faculty of their teaching loads for the 2020-21 academic year by Oct. 15, 2019. This change is now included in the plan and, like all the changes, documented on our website.

Availability of data
In June, the data used for the program reviews was shared with department chairs across campus at their request. Departments were invited to submit written responses to deans and then my office after reviewing this information, and to date I have received three responses. The Deans’ Council is now discussing the criteria by which to review and assess these responses in a consistent manner. In consultation with the deans, I will draft responses to submit to the president. I have offered to share these responses with Faculty Senate as well. I also meet regularly with faculty members from other departments who are preparing proposals for new and innovative programs, and these proposals will progress from their respective college curriculum committees to the university curriculum committee or graduate council and ultimately to the Board of Trustees.

Greater Faculty Senate involvement
Throughout the summer, I had productive weekly meetings with Faculty Senate leaders, and I am pleased that the Faculty Senate president and vice president will again join the Board of Trustees as non-voting members. Some of the highlights of our collaborative summer work include: appointments to the Program Review Committee and University Council; input on the charges to task forces and other avenues for meaningful faculty input; review of the financial information that the Board’s Resources, Efficiencies and Finance Committee acted upon in May; and productive discourse around online graduate degree programs. Yesterday, the Deans’ Council and Faculty Senate steering committee had a constructive conversation about additional ways to enhance Faculty Senate input.

The results of our work are apparent. I am pleased to reiterate that the current fiscal year’s budget includes a 2% raise for all faculty and staff, beginning Jan. 1, as well as a restoration of travel and entertainment lines within operating budgets. We have lifted the hold on tenure track hiring, and this summer administrators, deans and department chairs successfully advocated for board approval for 16 tenure track lines, including positions in every college. I look forward to early October, when I will meet individually with department chairs and their deans to reflect upon the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats that face each department and schedule my annual “field trip” to the department to visit a class, lab, clinic, studio session and/or meeting.

Education update
As I conclude this note, I reflect upon the glowing feedback we received as part of this week’s accreditation visit from the Oklahoma Education Department (Office of Educational Quality & Accountability) to the TU Department of Education and our speech pathology program. The journey that our teacher education programs have made in the past few years is remarkable and serves as a microcosm of what is possible.

I am keenly aware that the climate on campus during recent months has been tense and, at times, heated. My day-to-day reality is one of sincere and authentic efforts by many – faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni – to work together and to pivot toward a brighter future.

I continue to welcome ideas that improve upon our past, capitalize on the myriad of resources we have today and secure our tomorrow.

All the best,