Teach Together

CLAS Acts September 2018


Monthly newsletter of the CLAS TT faculty

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Frederick J. Antczak, Dean


Education is the single most important job of the human race.

~George Lucas

For most of you, this column will serve as a second welcome back or welcome to GVSU.  I enjoyed the chance to see you at the new faculty social and the start up event.   If you were not able to squeeze into Louis Armstrong Theatre, my opening remarks are available on the CLAS website.

Now that we are back in the classroom, I wanted to thank you for your attention to the new syllabus requirements.  Over the last year or more you have given a great deal of attention to the syllabi of record, to honing learning objectives and generally double-checking that our house is in order.  We’ll be ready to open our house to the Higher Learning Commission accreditation visitor team on November 5 and 6 when it will be all hands on deck.  And November 6 is also election day; that may aid your planning.  For any of you new to Michigan who have yet to register, you will find that we have a lively registration campaign on campus.

I wanted to remind everyone that tutoring services (previously housed in 200 STU) are now located in 201 Kleiner Commons.  To access the 2nd floor of Kleiner Commons, use the east entrance to the building.  See www.gvsu.edu/tc for additional tutoring information.   Also  our Regional Math and Science Center is now ensconced in North C 183.  That’s near Kleiner Commons on the campus map (coordinates E2).  The space they vacated on the ground floor of Mackinac Hall will be well used by the CLAS Academic Advising Center, with its expanded responsibilities.

In addition to directing traffic to as yet unfamiliar places for our new students (and breaking some of our own auto-pilot habits), at this time of year you have a special and critically important duty of care for our students.  National statistics show—and, measurably, we are not immune--that the first six weeks or so of the new academic year are a vulnerable time for students in ways that are physical, social, and emotional as well as academic.  As I mentioned in a newsletter that we send to our adjunct, affiliate and visiting faculty, though college does not have a “homeroom”, we all play a critical role in supporting the early success of new students whether first year or transfer.  They need some extra help learning about resources, making connections, and having the lingo decoded.

And we might as well face it, everyone can use a little boost in making connections.  You heard at our start up meeting about the Teaching Together initiative that our Faculty Council has launched.  Their work will assist you to make some connections that will nourish your teaching in ways that are beneficial for students and fulfilling for you.  I hope you check it out.

And before you get overcommitted, make sure you reserve some time for great events that come but once a year.  

  • It is the 25th anniversary of our Shakespeare Festival and the mainstage production is none other than King Lear (starts Sept. 28).  There will also be the debut of a new play by an alumnus—catch Defy the Stars October 3 and 7.
  • The 8th Annual James W. Carey Memorial Lecture is September 26, 7:00-8:00 pm in the Loosemore Auditorium on the Pew (downtown) Campus: “Fighting the Politics of Illusion: Technology, Democracy and the Public Good” will be presented by Professor Ed Tywoniak, Communication and Media Studies, Saint Mary’s College of California.
  • And we begin the Fall Arts Celebration with an Art Gallery Exhibit reception on September 13, 5-7pm on the topic Mars: Astronomy and Culture.  That is just the start of this major fall series.  Particularly note that the FAC Lecture by William Deresiewicz on “What is Art in the 21st Century?” might sneak up on you because it is on October 1.


Wishing you particularly avid students and all the riches of fall at GVSU. Let’s have a great year—we are doing singularly important work.

How CLAS Prioritizes the Budget and Resources 


Each year, 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 2018-19 of $78,798,348, of which 94.2% 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 1.93% of the budget. The Operating Budget is 3.24% of the Annual Budget for consumables, supplies, services, and maintenance (CSSM). The final 0.63% is earmarked for equipment.

It is only with this last less than 5.8% that most discretionary decisions are made.

"Personnel" in CLAS means the 698 fiscal year equivalent (FYE) regular faculty, APs and PSSs (2018-19) in our college. There are another 11.62 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, 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 $35,562 for 2018-19, which is 88% less than last fiscal year.” Each year, the 27 units in CLAS have the opportunity each year to submit working budget requests for consideration.  Twenty-one units submitted a total of 97 working budget requests for fiscal year 2018-19. Due to university fiscal constraints, only 6 of those requests were funded.  The amount allocated each year is quite variable. The working budget allocations for the current year will fund special projects and one-time costs such as the Vivarium Lab in Kindschi Hall, student support for smaller CLAS units with minimal administrative support, and program re-accreditation fees.

As the university grapples with fewer high school graduates and the resulting decrease in enrollments, budgets this fiscal year were cut across the university. In CLAS, department’s CSSM budgets were reduced by 3.5% and the college budget was cut even more significantly. To reduce the impact to departmental operations, the college absorbed cuts that would have been applied to faculty development budgets so that faculty can continue to engage in scholarship opportunities that support exceptional teaching. As Dean Antczak notes in his message to unit heads about the budget cuts, “for the College to protect what units can do for themselves will, of course, palpably reduce what we can offer for support of things like conferences, supplementary startup, co-sponsorship of festivals, special events and projects, and so on.” To put that another way, a dollar saved by good stewardship is a dollar more that can be put to better use by the department.

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, 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 when the college began, indirects (costs not directly attributable to the grant project itself, such as administration and some overhead costs) accounted for only $12,804. With the new indirect cost policy distribution change that went into effect last fiscal year, PI’s and departments now receive 12.5% and 7.5% of the indirects collected on their projects. The college supports this change in policy which rewards faculty actively engaged in externally-funded research and scholarship, as well as the departments that cultivate faculty scholarship. In fiscal year 2017 the college received over $149,000 in indirect cost recovery dollars, compared to last fiscal year when the college received slightly more than $52,000. With fewer indirect cost recovery resources, the college will be very careful about ensuring that projects supported with scarce resources are in line with strategic priorities.  

Five years ago CLAS established a fund for a CLAS Endowed 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.