CLAS Acts, August 2017

Monthly newsletter of the TT Faculty of the College



Frederick J. Antczak


The start of August always focuses the mind on the academic year to come, but before we project forward, I wanted to thank all of you who came out to wish Shaily Menon well as she moves on to St. Joseph’s University to become dean.  I know she was delighted to have the opportunity to say goodbye and was very appreciative of all the messages she received.

Opportunity for one often cascades to bring new opportunities for others, too. I’m delighted that Merritt DeLano-Taylor will bring his previous experience as an interim assistant dean back to cover the “space and stuff” portfolio for us during the fall while we run a regular search during the academic year. 

In July, we welcomed as our new Provost our long-time colleague Maria Cimitile.  She has announced town hall meetings in mid- September, and she will visit us at our start up meeting on Thursday, August 24.  The addition and renovation of Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for the Performing Arts should be about done by then so we can look forward to seeing some new space full of creative potential.

In a couple weeks our annual report on scholarly and creative achievements over the last year will be available.  And I hope that you visit our homepage from time to time to see all the news and new videos.  But to get the scoop on how we manage our funding, all you have to do is read on. 

As we do each year, we take a moment to lay out for the college the scope of what our office manages and the principles that guide this work.  Over the years, departmental budgets have also become increasingly transparent.  Though few of us are called upon to delve into much accounting, it is worthwhile to take an interest and gain an appreciation for the sober task of resource allocation and good stewardship when what we work with comes from students and their families, taxpayers, and donors.

I look forward to seeing you as the new academic year makes campus new again. 

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.”   

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has an Annual Budget in FY 2017-18 of $76,920,571, of which 94.5% 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 1.38% of the budget. The Operating Budget is 3.47% 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 5.51% that most discretionary decisions are made. "Personnel" in CLAS means the 694.88 fiscal year equivalent (FYE) regular faculty, APs and PSSs (2017-18) in our college. There were another 8.38 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, a change in Federal or state policy, or 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 notes that "we were allocated $308,559 for 2017-18. 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 special trainings for student workers, lab safety equipment improvements, and the Perugian faculty exchange.   

And for the last nine 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.  

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 and Assistant Deans have seats at the table where such priorities are set. They provide information that makes its way to legislators, Trustees, donors, and the President's cabinet 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 donations and gifts-in-kind play a larger role each year. To illustrate, in FY 2004, indirects (costs not directly attributable to the grant project itself, such as administration and some overhead costs) accounted for only $12,804 and now they are over $149,000 this year. The indirect cost policy has changed so that PI’s and departments receive 12.5% and 7.5% of the indirects collected on their projects. This used to come to the college. You might want to discuss this, since it is an incentive for departments and faculty to engage in sponsored projects.    

Five years ago CLAS established a fund for a CLAS scholarship, through fundraising such as the CLAS on the Green golf outing surpassed endowment level, and will soon begin making awards to our students.  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.