CLAS Acts August 2016

Have You Moved over the Summer?

In addition to giving your address to Human Resources, we would appreciate having it for Heidi Nicholson to update the CLAS database.


Were You Recently Promoted?

If you have recently achieved a new rank, congratulations are in order—and a bit of housekeeping.  It is in your interest to update your rank on your faculty online profile because this is a trusted information source for those working on documents, news stories, etc.

Regalia Repair Clinic


Our office has initiated a small way in which we can also take care of you.  The Regalia Repair Clinic on August 16 near our office (B-4-243 MAK, noon-2pm) will have the supplies on hand to add the missing buttons or cords or even pockets that your robes may be missing.  Just let us know about the repair you want


Frederick J. Antczak, Founding Dean College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Even here in America, people are fighting for civil rights 45 years after the civil rights movement. 
~Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also. 
~Marcus Aurelius


Often in August I write to you about the upcoming new beginnings of the academic year and the promise that holds.  After recent events at home and abroad, anxiety is far from hidden on the faces of the people I meet—faculty, staff, and a significant number of students—and all this lends a different sort of context to this new year’s start.  

A couple of decades ago I edited a volume about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address from a wide variety of perspectives, so I’ve spent some energy considering his words there.  He was confronted with a national fabric that was shredded, as shredded as the bodies buried there.  And yet, he found it within himself to say, 

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

We can take a role in making sure that all these wrenching recent events and especially deaths are not in vain.  As educators, it is important that we support each other and our students in such times.  

At campus events a couple weeks ago week, our colleagues and our students told us they need to be heard, that a more accessible space must be made to discuss race and to listen to their experiences and fears—and to their irrepressible hope.  Young people are asking us to join with them in reconfiguring the world so that it is more just—and so that every one of our students, and every one of our faculty and staff colleagues can realize their talents, reach for their dreams, and dream bigger.  That is to say, this is a normal and natural part of our work, and it is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.  To that work, at the beginning of an academic year surrounded by these events, let us be rededicated.

That sort of work will get off to an immediate start with the FTLC Conference on the theme of Engaging Difference.  You can sign up on  I imagine that we will continue to learn and strengthen our pedagogy toward greater social justice in our CLAS Teaching Roundtables and the Teach In.  Inclusion & Equity will hold workshops.  Those are the big institutional sorts of supports, but we will need to make room for the more spontaneous opportunities, too.  I for one will be listening hard to what our students want to accomplish with us, and what barriers they are encountering. We can be game changers.

As you come back on contract on August 6, you will be joined by the new faculty.  As the saying goes, let us begin with them the way we mean to go on.  Let the success of the new faculty be among your priorities.

Over the summer, the College Office was very thankful for your help supplying us with wonderful photographs and stories and accomplishments that have made their way onto our website (the CMS 4 conversion is largely done) and into the Quadrennial Report that will be available to you during start up week and contains highlights of the great work done by our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, work that unmistakably makes a difference.

A couple weeks ago, news rolled in that the Modern Languages study abroad group was safe in Nice, despite having been harrowingly close to the tragedy there.  GVSU provided them with resources via Skype and other means, but I remain deeply grateful that our students and colleagues escaped, however narrowly. 

So much was going on this summer that was so sobering, it feels odd to transition to more ordinary news.  But I didn’t want you to miss news of our shared achievement, and it was easy to miss that Grand Valley made some recent top 600 type lists, using metrics including affordability and alumni success.  Mundane as considerations of affordability may seem, they have for many students a tangible bearing on the possibility of social justice, so I am very grateful for your work to be cost effective and to develop scholarships and to mentor students.  

There’s other news.  As you probably heard, our Provost has announced that she will retire next year, and doubtless we will hear more about that search, which is being led by Teri Losey and our colleague Jon Jellema.  Student recruitment has gone well, and we may once again be greeting a larger incoming class—the numbers are not yet reliable, but we’ll have firmer ones in September.  My deepest thanks to the unflappable unit heads who have adapted to all the changing needs over the summer.  We are also gearing up for accreditation.  I suspect it will be a year of thinking about where we want to be in the future and laying the foundations for that future, about attending to even the smallest things, so that we may make the most game changing contributions.

Before it all begins, though, I did want to just say that you are the colleagues—with both your expertise and your compassionate commitment—with whom any dean might hope to collaborate on the great work, always unfinished, that we have before us.  

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. 

As you may recall, over the last couple years we adapted to budget cuts.  This year we did not have to cut the college budget and departments received a permanent increase to their budgets of about $53,000 total so that we could add needed lab sections and give student workers a cost of living increase—in other words, the benefit of the increase went directly to student needs.   

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences had an Annual Budget in FY 2016-2017 of $72,659,860, of which 94.38% 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 1.41% of the budget. The Operating Budget is 3.65% of the Annual Budget for consumables, supplies, services, and maintenance (CSSM). The final 0.65% is earmarked for equipment. It's only with this last less than 6% that most discretionary decisions are made. "Personnel" in CLAS means the 693.46 fiscal year equivalent (FYE) regular faculty, APs and PSSs (2016-2017) in our college. There were another 8.7 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 or rise 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 assigned to us by the Provost. Assistant Dean Michelle McCloud (pictured above) notes that "we were allocated $174,980 for 2016-17. 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 the special trainings for student workers, lab safety equipment improvements, and the Perugian faculty exchange. 

And for the last eight years, the College has been fortunate to have, through the support of private donors (including many faculty; thank you!), the CLAS Innovation Fund (formerly called the CLAS Fund for Excellence) from which the Dean can assist several projects annually. The Fund 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.   

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.