August 2014 CLAS Acts

Start Up


Welcome to campus, New Faculty!   August 2014
Vol. 8, issue 1 The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a student-centered and diverse learning community that engages in critical inquiry extending knowledge to enrich and enliven individual and public life.

FROM THE DEAN'S DESK Frederick J. Antczak, Dean

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.  ~John Dewey

With August our attention begins to turn to the new academic year with all its promise, and its rituals of welcoming our new students and new faculty.  This is what we do-and that rising feeling is one of beginning a new chapter not only in our students' lives, but in our own.  As the month goes on we'll be reacquainting ourselves with some of the reasons why we are lucky to do what we do. For those of you who have not been on campus this summer, you should know that some prodigious work has been done by our advising and orientation colleagues in welcoming a record class.   The Summer Scholars Showcase on July 29 was also full of reasons to be proud of CLAS-all of the mentors named in the event booklet were from our college.  Thanks to all of you for what you've done so successfully this summer for our students. The news last month was fun-" Michael Bublé gave 100 tickets to his July 25 concert in Grand Rapids to residents of the Clark Retirement Community and the Grand Valley State University graduates who worked on a LipDub to his hit song, "Feeling Good." And Chemistry Chair George McBane helped some area kids with setting up their research involving the John Ball Zoo-and the kids went on to win a prize from Google. As I write, the BCCE conference is underway here at GVSU-the fruition of years of preparation by our chemistry education faculty to bring a great number of their national colleagues to our campus.  This has been a huge effort, and our colleagues are playing on a national stage; I hope that we all will see many benefits from the raised profile of our program and the connections you are making. This month our office welcomes a new staffer.  Cindy Driesenga will be joining the CLAS Dean's office at the front desk during the week of August 18th.  She is returning to GVSU after working in other colleges here some time ago.  Please join us in welcoming her to CLAS. Now on to some of the nuts and bolts-start up, syllabi, and resources.  This issue of the newsletter is dedicated to bringing you assistance with the flurry of activity that starts the year.  You will find some links to help you prepare the sort of syllabus that helps your students to do well and heads off potential trouble.  You will find reminders of the CLAS Faculty and Staff Meeting and picnic, Convocation and related events.  You will find links to information about the status of the building projects on campus.  You will also find our every-year-or-so article on how the CLAS budget is allocated.  Not to belabor the old metaphor about all being in the same boat, but as I see it, we're all partners in keeping the ship not only afloat but also in fine trim, sailing through whatever will come our way.  

Syllabus resources At this time of year it can be handy to have some suggestions about creating a great syllabus.  The potential for misunderstandings between faculty and students can be best addressed by having an effective syllabus. And while you are prepping your classes, we invite you to participate in the Fall Breather you heard proposed last year.  As Dean Antczak explains, "I invite faculty, as they are laying out their fall 2014 syllabi, to plan to give no reading, no assignments, no homework for the weekend before the drop deadline (October 24), that is October 18 and 19.  I am not suggesting that you take any time away from class, nor even that you decrease by an iota the amount of work in the fall course.  I'm simply asking you to redistribute it, so that for that weekend across as many courses as possible, there's no assigned work.  I'm asking for a specific weekend because distributing it on different weekends would dilute its effect."      



How CLAS Prioritizes the Budget and Resources

Each year or so, CLAS provides the faculty with an overview of how budget priorities are assigned and with information about the scale and general landscape of the CLAS budget.

"Budgets are a way of expressing over time a community's values and aspirations within the limits of resources," says Dean Antczak. "So it's appropriate that the CLAS community know how our resources get distributed.  This is increasingly important as we adapt to the 1.5% budget cuts of 2013/14 and 2014/15.”

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has an Annual Budget in FY 2013-2014 of $66,384,460, of which 93.95% is dedicated to personnel expenses (big ticket benefits such as health for CLAS faculty and staff are included in the personnel allocation). Student wages represented roughly 1.31% of the budget. The Operating Budget is 4% of the Annual Budget for consumables, supplies, services, and maintenance (now you know what "CSSM" abbreviates). The final .73% is earmarked for equipment. It's only with this last 6% that most discretionary decisions are made.

“Personnel” in CLAS means the 664.79 fiscal year equivalent (FYE) regular faculty, APs and COTs (2013-2014) in our college. There were another 9.62 FYE positions funded from designated or restricted funds, which are a separate budget.  In addition, from the personnel allocation comes what is known as the Adjunct Overload Budget. In simple terms, any money available from vacant positions and from sabbatical and other leave is used to fund adjunct and visiting instructors. This is a constantly moving target; this figure is difficult to determine at a given moment because of sudden decisions to retire, faculty members giving short notice of a leave or departure, intended full-year sabbaticals not receiving anticipated grant funding which suddenly become half-year sabbaticals, the salary level of faculty covering summer courses, and other unavoidable fluctuations in who is available to teach at any given time and the exact amount of funding needed to provide that coverage. To complicate matters, even a sudden drop in the stock market can change the pattern of anticipated faculty retirements in a given year. "Since we can only squeeze our budget to the maximum for the College each year if we plan on such patterns," says the Dean, "such a change in the outside world can present us with conditions to which we must adapt on the run."

In addition to the Annual Budget is a small, annually variable Working Budget. Assistant Dean Pat Haynes notes that “we were allocated $61,525 for 2013-14. The amount allocated each year is very variable.” From this working budget the College office squeezes funding for one-time spending requests such as special events and one-time purchases. Examples of this type of funding include support for Speech Lab tutors, Homerathon, the International Year of Statistics, ETS major field tests for Psychology, and student wages to provide more BIO 120 seats.

And for the last five years, the College has been fortunate to have, through the support of private donors’ (including many faculty; thank you!), the CLAS Fund for Excellence from which the Dean can assist several projects annually. The Fund for Excellence supports College programs for faculty and students which are exemplars of our mission. Director for Communications and Advancement Monica Johnstone worked with University Development to establish this fund. “I wanted Fred to be able to say yes to more of the many worthy student and faculty initiatives,” Johnstone said. “We also do what we can to suggest germane sponsors to match our funding when that is appropriate so that we can do as much good as possible with the fund.”

Within these constraints, the Mission Statement of the College and the CLAS Strategic Plan are used as guiding principles for decision making. In general terms, this means maximizing the benefit to students, selecting to fund high-(and wide-) impact projects, and helping the faculty and staff to do their jobs increasingly well and efficiently.

In some cases, there is an added layer of urgency associated with a specific request to support compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or safety standards. These can be seen as part of our commitment to an inclusive, healthy, and sustainable environment for the faculty, students, staff and all visitors to our college facilities.

While many mundane or mechanical matters are dealt with independently by the College Office, those most directly relevant to the teaching mission are conducted in close consultation with the Unit Heads and faculty governance. For instance, to prioritize a limited number of faculty lines that the University can sanction in a given year, such consultation is critical. Units are provided with enrollment and staffing statistics for prior years to help them set their internal priorities based on a firm foundation. Units then submit a prioritized list of new or replacement faculty positions (including affiliate positions) requested for coming year, with justifications. The CLAS Associate Deans and your elected CLAS Faculty Council independently review and prioritize position requests and both submit these prioritized lists to the Dean. The Dean reviews all of this input and sends the Provost a final prioritized list of all CLAS faculty position requests for the coming year. All of the participants in this winnowing process base their prioritizing on enrollment and staffing trends; areas of highest student demand; curricular, accreditation, and certification requirements; impact on liberal education; retirements and resignations; availability of adjuncts; and efficient use of the existing staff. For obvious reasons, a clearly articulated and compelling rationale for each requested position is vital to its success.

For those interested in seeing how this process plays out over the year and in each of the several separate processes, a calendar of CLAS’s prioritizing process for budget and resources is available online (here).

While a dean cannot by individual fiat approve new personnel or erect buildings or reconfigure classrooms shared by all of the academic units in the university, the Dean and Associate Deans have seats at the table where such priorities are set. They provide information that makes its way to legislators, Trustees, donors, and the senior management team of GVSU. In short, they become the voice of CLAS in the larger planning and resourcing processes of the university as a whole.

Of course, funding from the college and the university is only part of what it takes to fuel our values and aspirations. External grants, private donation and gifts-in-kind play a larger role each year. For example, three years ago CLAS established a fund for a CLAS scholarship and through fundraising such as the CLAS on the Green golf outing is close to endowment level.  Elbow grease never shows up on the CSSM spreadsheet, the dedicated hard work of students and faculty isn’t easy to quantify in the bottom line, our increasing credibility with the general public that can be detected in newspaper articles and anecdotally from our neighbors is impossible to assign a dollar value, but all of this goes into the equation the sum of which brings us more and better students, a greater impact on our community and a trajectory towards the future we have planned.