Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
Welcome to February in Morgantown, where the weather is unpredictable. One day it’s spring, the next feels like summer, and suddenly we are back to winter. But we soldier on — no matter what’s in the forecast.
The following includes reminders and more detailed updates about:
- Managing a budget shortfall
- Academic Transformation initiatives for year three
- Outcome of the “Procedures” document vote
- Preparing for spring awards season
As you know, the University is currently managing a budget shortfall caused by a number of factors. This has resulted in the need to reduce spending this academic year. While reducing operating expenses is necessary, the biggest savings will come from a reduction in hiring and, in some cases, not filling vacant positions.
Our administration is working with college leaders to determine which positions are most critical – meaning they are necessary to fulfill our teaching mission, focus on enrollment growth or retention, or contribute significantly to research and grant production. We need to pause on all other hiring for the immediate future. This measure will be re-evaluated in April by the University.
I know that many of you are already working with limited resources. Please know that the University’s leadership is working to develop a plan for long-term sustainability and growth that will enable us to weather future challenges.
With that in mind, we will need your help retaining our students to the University. Student success will remain a top priority this year under Academic Transformation, an initiative sparked by President Gee’s charge to the University in December 2020 to transform its academic programming and practices in a challenging higher education environment. In January, we began our third year of the transformation effort.
The Provost’s Office and campus partners are currently leading several key projects focused on improving freshmen retention, persistence and graduation rates. These include a completion grants program designed for graduating seniors with acute financial challenges; a new program that will provide wrap-around support for our most vulnerable students, including Pell grant-eligible and first-generation students; and a new collaborative effort in the Eberly College focused on improving undergraduate student outcomes in their introductory STEM courses.
This year, we will also focus on improving the success outcomes of our graduates by ensuring that students have access to and receive credit for experiential learning opportunities that supplement their classroom learning. We will also look to enhance our career readiness programs across campus to ensure that all students have access to quality and relevant career counseling.
We are continuing to review and recommend changes to the University’s academic program portfolio. Our primary work this spring is focused on the University’s graduate programs — both master’s and doctoral degree programs. As was the case with our review of undergraduate programs, we conducted a deep dive into the data for each graduate program, looking at such areas as enrollment trends and time to graduate, as well as each program’s contribution to the University’s research and land-grant missions.
We also met multiple times with college leaders, along with the Research Office, to gather additional information and context. Based on all the information gathered, we are very close to sharing our preliminary recommendations with the colleges, which will trigger the formal Board of Governors Program Review process, ending with our final recommendations to the Board.
“Procedures” Document Update
Last month, a gathering of the Faculty Assembly voted in opposition to the revised draft of the University Procedures for Faculty Appointment, Annual Evaluation, Promotion, and Tenure document. Obviously, I am disappointed with the outcome.
I sincerely believe this document provided many benefits to faculty, in addition to adding rigor to the evaluation process and transparency about our current accountability practices. And I am proud of the work done over the past two years by members of my team, a faculty committee, and others to share the document, seek input and engage the campus through multiple venues.
Given the outcome of the vote and the low level of faculty participation in the voting process, the administration has decided not to force the issue. This means that the current 2014 Procedures document will remain in effect and continue to guide the University’s promotion, tenure and annual evaluation processes.
Colleges, departments and other academic units are free to adopt language from the revised document in their own faculty evaluation documents, and the Faculty Senate may choose to recommend changes to the revised document and put it forward for our review. We will certainly work with those who have passion for the work.
Faculty Awards and Recognition
As always, I remain convinced that both the faculty and administration care deeply about our students and share a commitment to excellence. And regardless of the weather, spring is the season in which we celebrate that excellence among our best and brightest.
A faculty committee is currently reviewing applications and nominations for the University’s top faculty awards in teaching, research and service, and we will begin to make those announcements next month.
Also in April, the Provost’s Office will host the annual Benedum Distinguished Scholars Showcase in which the winners of last’ year’s Benedum Awards will present “lightning” talks highlighting their research, their methods and their motivation. The event will be held on April 12 at 7 p.m. at the Creative Arts Center, and I encourage all of you to attend if you’re available. It is a showcase of our brilliant scholars, and it’s always entertaining and inspiring.
And once again, we will partner with the Academic Advising Council to host Academic Adviser Appreciation Day on April 25! Several “appreciation stations” will be located around campus where students can write notes of thanks to their advisers. We’ll also honor this year’s Nicholas Evans Advising Award recipients. At a time when student success and retention are key to our future, we can’t say thank you enough to these team members who make a difference in students’ lives each and every day.
Finally, times may be tough, but we have certainly weathered worse than this. If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we can overcome any challenge, no matter how great, when we focus on the problem at hand and work together to find solutions. At the end of the day, we all want to be part of a university that is mission-driven and that cares about its people.
Thank you for doing your part by continuing to work hard, putting students first, and staying positive.