Welcome back to the Briefing Room!
Good news! Glad to have you back. Bad news. Launching this blog again because we have re-entered the Budget Vortex. Just when we thought we were out....it keeps pulling us back in.
Here's the deal. The university put together a "long-term" budget plan--Jim G calls it a "Flight Plan." It assumes continued erosion of state support -- we got that part right. But it also assumed the legislature would hold to House Bill 1795, a new state law from 2011 that granted some tuition-setting authority to universities. The legislature approved that and then changed its collective mind, and froze tuition for two years, last year and this year.
This puts us in a $6.5-million bind.
Again, good news bad news.
Good news. The president predicted this generally constrained environment several years ago when he began talking crazy talk like "entrepreneurial" and "innovative." He expected the continued disinvestment by the state and the need for all of us to assume responsibility for our futures. We began a new way of managing--responsibility centered management--as a way to empower us to do that.
Bad news. He was right.
We kicked the new management approach into high gear in January, with each of the deans poring over credit hour databases, debating the most advantageous approach to distributing tuition revenue (minors? credit hours? degree completion?). The system is largely in place and in pilot mode now. Discussions with the chairs and their discussions with faculty have yielded excellent feedback. Clearly - people are engaged and getting that times have changed.
Yesterday Jim G. sent out the following long list of responses to questions from faculty about how RCM works. Grab a cup of coffee or strong tea, settle into your favorite chair, and start reading. Here's what the letter said
June 9, 2014
Dr. Eric Cheney
Chair, Faculty Senate
Dear Professor Cheney,
Thank you for the opportunity to address questions raised by members of the CWU faculty regarding the changes to management and budgeting at CWU.
The questions present clear expressions of fear resulting from perceived tensions between academic values and the university’s financial sustainability.
I do not share those concerns. I believe academic values are deeply held by all faculty and administrators. I do not believe that our faculty or our administrators would allow a budget model to override their commitment to academic quality and rigor. Nor do I believe we would lessen the value we have traditionally placed on the liberal arts.
Before providing responses to the questions, I want to address three comments made in your letter. First, you state that, “It appears that with fewer decisions to be made at higher levels, there would also be less need for multiple levels of upper administration…” Traditional levels of authority--deans, chairs, and the provost--are needed for a variety of responsibilities and will remain in place.
You also state that “faculty must be involved with the value judgments governing decision-making at both the university and college levels.” I agree and believe in the core principles of shared governance. In fact, my experience suggests that the new management model will enhance the amount of cooperation between the levels of authority.
Finally, you also ask that I help establish the shared governance systems needed to implement and maintain RCM. I assure you that I have been and will remain committed to doing so.
I was delighted to receive the questions you provided from faculty. These questions tell me that many are thinking and asking questions about the important changes in our university. I have provided short answers to the questions that were posed. But because of the level of interest in this subject I have asked Chief of Staff Linda Schactler to provide more information on her blog, the Briefing Room. We established that blog four years ago to explicate state budget matters and give people a way to ask questions and track rapid change. Both will be more important over the summer because most faculty will disengage with the university at a time when we must continue our budget work.
Here are responses to the questions you forwarded from members of the faculty.
Q1. Has a compelling case been made for a rapid transition to the RCM model and its tuition revenue-based resource distribution plan?
Economic and political pressures demand a more decentralized management structure, greater faculty engagement, and a more thoughtful consideration of revenue sources and expenditures.
The transition has been far from rapid. I have discussed the need for change repeatedly over the five years I have served here. Two years ago, I visited all departments to discuss the planned changes and to provide a timeline for the transitions. I also met with the Senate, ADCO, Provost Council, and deans. I have made myself available to open meetings of the faculty and students.
I have expressed my belief that faculty-shared governance at CWU is not sufficiently engaged or empowered in key decisions. I have also argued that our deans have not been sufficiently empowered to properly lead their units in this financial environment. The change in management structure is designed to strengthen both.
Q2. Does the evolution in the composition of the university's income stream logically dictate the nature of the resource distribution plan used to support the academic side?
Yes. Until 2009, CWU received a significant portion of its base operating budget from the state. Those funds now represent only about 13 percent of our total operating budget; the majority comes from students (e.g., tuition and fees, housing, and dining). I believe that for the foreseeable future, Central’s fiscal health will be based on its ability to attract and retain students.
We all know that students attend CWU because of our academic and student-life programs. Those essential programs and the values they represent are not only central to our mission, they comprise the keys to our financial health.
Our new approach to budgeting places academic activities at the center of the university; administrative and other support functions are funded in so far as they support that core. Additionally, because the non-academic functions of the university are not as sensitive to changes in student credit hours as are the activities of Academic and Student Life (ASL), our academic units benefit directly and immediately from increases in enrollment.
Q3. Just what is the connection between income source and resource distribution that mandates or justifies the move to a tuition revenue-based resource distribution plan?
Students are the source of funds, regardless of the distribution plan we use. By reducing funding to CWU, the state has moved us to a tuition-revenue-based model. For all intents and purposes, these are the funds we have to distribute.
The new plan ties the core activities (i.e., ASL) to the revenue they generate. This connection enables the university to 1) enhance the authority and responsibility of deans, chairs, and faculty, 2) provide a clear connection between the costs and the primary funding sources (e.g., tuition and fees), 3) motivate increases in recruitment of new students, 4) motivate efforts to retain student and promote graduation, 5) reduce administrative spending as a percent of total budget, and 5) provide a framework for planning and transparency.
Q4. Why are we moving toward RCM when most other Washington public universities are not?
The University of Washington implemented Activity Based Budgeting (ABB) last year. This approach is very similar to Responsibility Centered Management.
If RCM is used to denote a stronger sense of shared governance and decentralized leadership, I would suggest that some of Washington’s other public universities are ahead of us.
The key point—irrespective of whether or not others are responding as we are—is that Central faces significant competition for enrollment, particularly from the research universities and their branch campuses. The community colleges are also increasing the number of BAS degrees, and many are formally dropping the term “community” from their names in order to enhance their academic brand.
To be successful in this new environment, we must all have a sense of urgency and must forge greater cooperation among units like enrollment management, student success, and academic departments. We must also move the initiative for innovation from central administrative ranks to colleges and departments. Our new management and budget approach supports both of these initiatives.
Q5. What, exactly, is wrong with our current budgetary model?
It is an allocation model designed to distribute state funds—now just 13 percent of our total budget. We need a model that distributes tuition and auxiliary funds, our primary fund sources.
The current model encourages university citizens to believe nothing has changed and that state funding is still the most abundant and stable support, when the opposite is true.
It is centralized and not transparent. It creates distrust, encourages silos, and results in protection of resources and distributions that no longer serve units or the university.
It honors the past over the future and is slow to react to changes in the internal and external environments. It does not motivate the behaviors necessary to flourish in a highly competitive environment.
Our current model does not relate revenue to costs and provides insufficient resources to those units that offer service and general education courses.
It can be unfairly influenced by political or social pressures. Those influences may be used to the advantage of administrative units and the disadvantage of academic units.
It does not motivate or reward recruitment or retention. It discourages curricular and pedagogical innovation by requiring layers of approval.
Q6. Since our faculty operate under a collective bargaining agreement, how will we insure that RCM does not interfere with salaries, work conditions, and workload plans?
The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is unaffected by the new budget model. Should the United Faculty of Central believe that the university is not fulfilling its obligations under the CBA for any reason, it has a variety of methods available to address its concerns.
Q7. Because more teaching is incentivized, how will we protect faculty research and service?
More teaching is not necessarily incentivized. A dean is able to reduce teaching assignments in favor of beneficial time spent on research, creative, grant, or service projects. At Central, the annual workload assignments for tenured and tenure track faculty result from a negotiation that involves several levels of review, but that starts with a proposal by the individual faculty member. That process will not change under the new budget model.
Q8. Do we have data about RCM at other unionized universities?
I do not know what type of data is being referred to in this question. RCM does exist at other unionized universities, and much has been published on the model. While I cannot guarantee that the literature review has been exhaustive, it has certainly been thorough.
Q9. We are being asked to find ways to become more "profitable," but it appears that profitability is to support a growing administrative bureaucracy that itself generates no profits. What is the administration doing directly to generate profits and/or cut costs?
This question contains some assumptions that are not accurate. The goals of the new model are listed in Q3, and “profitability” is not one of them.
The motivation for the change to RCM is to develop a balanced budget in an era of increasing dependence on tuition and fees. Those two sources of revenues are now the primary method of funding the university. For the period July 2014 – June 2015, the operations of the university are projected to cost about $6.5 million more than will be received in tuition and state support. Unless the legislature changes its priorities and unless we enroll more students, that deficit will grow to about $20 million over the next biennium.
The administration is taking action to produce revenues through marketing that enhances enrollment, fundraising, and outreach activities. New coordination among administrative units is producing partnerships designed to create internships, research and service opportunities, gifts, and to enhance enrollment and the university’s brand.
The administration is also releasing reserves. Recent refinancing of bonds reduced overhead costs by millions. Early payment of bonds this year will save the university $450,000 per year, funding which will be used to support academic programs. We have also taken action to reduce overhead costs in current programs (e.g., summer school), and we are delaying discretionary capital projects.
Beginning in 2009, CWU reduced overhead (i.e., administrative costs) by cutting more than 100 non-academic FTE. Beginning in 2012, CWU initiated a multi-year effort to improve its communication and marketing programs and to enhance its fundraising and alumni programs. All are producing positive results. Beginning in 2013, Central initiated the iCAT project to further streamline administrative processes and to improve administrative services.
I believe that it is misleading and counterproductive to draw such a stark demarcation between faculty and administration. Administrative functions exist to support the academic mission, and they enhance the ability for the academic sector to generate tuition and fee revenue. For example,
• Would we have full enrollment if we did not have a division of enrollment management?
• Would our enrollment even be stable if we did not have communication and marketing staff?
• Would we have received funding for the Science II project without a Public Affairs staff?
• Would students come to Central (and would faculty remain here) if we did not have a Facilities Management Division?
• Would the 450 student-athletes be attending classes here if it were not for the sports programs we offer?
• Would you remain working here without a payroll department?
Q10. Is the creation of new positions in administration profitable to CWU?
Again, profit is not the operative goal. A significant advantage of RCM is that it encourages greater accountability in administrative performance.
Positions are created as they are needed to manage finances, promote enrollment, ensure state support, and grow private investment. They are also reduced when they do not serve the needs of the university.
Q11. Why is only the academic side of the University following RCM?
All divisions are engaged in the RCM model. Revenue generated by auxiliaries is helping support academic programs and the facilities upon which they rely. Non-academic units provide the support services necessary for student success and use a self-support model focused on revenue and expense management.
Q12. How can we protect the classes and education style that have become CWU's brand while also growing online and alternative delivery methods?
This question appears to cast online as an alternative delivery method; our students might be less likely to view it so. Online should complement CWU's education style, not replace it. Online is simply another education delivery tool or technology to be incorporated in what we do. Many of you already have done so with tremendous success. Some programs lend themselves to online education more easily than others. If our students can find news, social connections, music and entertainment, and conduct commerce online, we can teach there, too.
Alternative styles of delivery primarily serve students who cannot or choose not to access a residential campus experience. CWU has reached out to those students for decades by offering coursework and degree programs at University Centers. They were a radical "alternative delivery method" when initiated in the '70s. They have been successful for two primary reasons. First, we implemented them using the core values we hold to at our Ellensburg campus. Second, we targeted different segments of the population whose needs were best served by the Centers.
An example might be useful. We do not provide University Center students with the full range of curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular support as offered to the Ellensburg students. The size of University Centers and the resources available to CWU simply do not allow a replication of a moderately sized residential campus. Many of our University Center programs are, instead, cohort-based. That model provides key advantages in social and academic support as compared to the scheduling system used in Ellensburg.
Each is different, but each works well for the community being served. Our task is to extend our values to other students as well and to expand our use of enhanced delivery for all students.
Q13. The Strategic Plan targets an increase in the student population of Latino, first-generation college students, and to make ourselves a "veteran-friendly" university. How will we fund support services for such students?
This is a very perceptive question, which gets directly to one of the core benefits of the new model. It is also a question that can be asked in relation to the services we provide to all of our students.
The short answer is that we are and will continue to fund these programs through a combination of tuition, fees (e.g., Student Activities), grants (TRIO, CAMP), and gifts (CWU Foundation).
The question not asked is what would happen to CWU if we were unable to fund (and thereby attract) veterans and students of color. The answer is that we will diminish in terms of size and quality.
Q14. The tuition revenue-based resource distribution model encourages colleges to think of themselves as economically independent and competitive entities. But this strategy strongly encourages a competition model over a cooperation model, to the potential detriment of the university's mission. What will prevent such competition?
This question embeds two assumptions which I do not believe are valid. The first is that competition between academic units does not currently exist. It does because annual operating budgets are viewed from a fixed pie perspective; funding that goes to one college does not go to another. The same is true at the department level.
The second assumption is that our funding needs to be fixed with the prime concern being the size of the slice of the pie. Such a zero-sum-game is not sustainable, not at least in the current economic and policy climates.
My experience (and much of the research literature) suggests that cooperation is enhanced if the goal becomes increasing the size of the pie. RCM encourages colleges and departments to examine their current and prospective students. When they do, they will find that 1) many current students in their classes are majors in other colleges, 2) many of the student credit hours generated derive from general education and service courses, and 3) there are prospective students that could be served.
The value of cooperation is a key assumption within RCM. It might be useful to provide an example from business that only makes sense in the context of mutual benefit.
I have used an iPad for several years—mostly for email, web browsing, and reading books. When it came time for an upgrade, I considered buying a Windows tablet instead so I could also use it to write while away from the office. The iPad didn’t work for me because there was no option for MSWord nor did I have easy access to my favorite cloud storage service. As I was considering the change, Microsoft produced a version of MSOffice for the iPad that integrates with the cloud storage service I use. I bought an iPad Air, loaded it with MS Office, and purchased a Logitech keyboard.
The decision for Microsoft to develop an OS version of Office and for Apple to authorize it makes no sense if the two companies were only interested in carving up a fixed market. To this user, the goals seem to be the sale of more iPads, of more subscriptions to Office 365, and more keyboards.
Unfortunately, fear of change may spawn a reflexive competitive reaction by some at CWU. I am confident, however, that deans, chairs, and faculties will reach the conclusion that a protectionist approach will not work in the long term. I also do not believe that the Faculty Senate, its Curriculum Committee, or its General Education Committee will bow to economic pressures and allow for curriculum changes that promote competition among programs.
Q15. The budget planning activity grid that departments are engaged in now first solicits ideas for new programs, minors, certificates, and courses. Each new program adds the expense of more administration to handle greater complexity, yet the attraction of new students to CWU to cover the added expenses is a gamble. Again, the top priority of the faculty is maintaining our academic integrity. Is there any protection for the financial health of existing programs?
While I have not seen the activity grid referenced in the introduction of this question, the issue raised is key to understanding the motivation for the implementation of RCM. We are in a very different financial situation than we enjoyed just five years ago. Then, state funding provided a significant level of protection for existing programs and reduced the risks associated with starting new ones.
With the withdrawal of state support and the increased reliance on tuition and fees, risk becomes an inherent element in our existing and planned operations. There is no escaping that fact.
Risk to existing programs is why we are implementing RCM. It would be far easier to maintain a highly centralized budget model. Such an approach would, however, ignore important factors such as centrality, quality, interdependence, social significance, and other value propositions.
RCM provides opportunities to moderate the more calculating quality of a centralized budget model. The consideration of academic qualities and values are better exercised by faculties and administrators within ASL. Each level of responsibility—from provost to the department faculties—can decide to alter the calculations of the budget model.
The result is often called “subvention” and involves the movement of funds generated by one program to another. Typically, a subsidy or subvention between colleges is made by the Provost. Subvention between departments within a college is made by a dean. Departments make allocations between programs within their units.
Q16. At the heart of RCM is a resource distribution plan that ties colleges' (and potentially department) budgets directly to the tuition revenue they generate as well as the numbers of majors or minors in the departments. The fundamental flaw in a tuition revenue-based resource distribution plan is that it overlooks, or at least grossly oversimplifies, the complexity of the central academic component of the university. Programs and courses managed by one department in one college make up essential elements of programs managed by other departments and other colleges. For a variety of reasons, some programs are far more expensive to offer than others, but they may be strongly tied to the mission of the university. Isn't it widely accepted that programs and departments generating high tuition revenue with low costs help subsidize more expensive programs crucial to the success of the university as a whole? How will the RCM model be applied to insure that this sense of common purpose continues?
The statement that, “At the heart of RCM is a resource distribution plan that ties … budgets directly to the tuition revenue ... as well as the numbers of majors or minors ...” may suggest a misunderstanding of the implementation. The new budget model uses student credit hours (SCH) as the primary resource allocation factor. Most of the net revenue associated with the SCH accrues to the college offering the course. Colleges holding the major to which the student seeks a degree receive a smaller portion of the revenue as well. Minors are not considered as factors in the proposed budget model.
This method has two key advantages over our traditional budgeting model. First, it recognizes the interdependencies among departments and colleges and rewards those offering Gen Ed and service courses, as well as those attracting and serving majors. Second, it focuses attention on holistic planning that will support rather than undercut our academic mission.
Q17. The short-term mechanism for disaster prevention that has been mentioned in the proposed implementation of RCM is the "principle of subvention," which means top administration will be making final adjustments to the revenue-based budgets of the colleges to address the inadequacy of the new resource distribution plan. Another approach to reconciling revenue-based budgets lies in the cause of the need for subvention-the distribution of departments in the colleges. Why not restructure colleges instead of implementing subvention? When (or why) will the need for this "subvention" disappear?
Initially, inter-college subvention will be the responsibility of the Provost in consultation with deans. When colleges have had time to adapt to RCM, deans will assume much of that responsibility, after consultation with departments. Inevitably, deans will choose to support some low-enrollment programs because of their centrality, high quality, or uniqueness. Others will be supported because they provide a fundamental service to students. For this reason, subvention will likely always be an important part of RCM--and performed primarily at the decanal level.
There are two reasons for not engaging in a major reorganization of colleges. First, we do not have the time needed to consider the changes, react to suggestions for modification of reorganizational plans, and then reiterate the review.
More important, reorganization for the purpose of eliminating subvention simply would be moving the departments around to better allocate existing revenues. As I stated above, existing revenues are inadequate to support current operations.
Q18. If RCM rewards some combination of student credit hours (SCH) and number of majors and minors, will this encourage programs to drag out the time to degree?
Lengthening the time to degree would not raise revenue unless it involved an increase in the student credit hours required for the major. Needlessly increasing required SCH would conflict with our student success goals. I trust that neither the faculty nor the deans would allow such behavior by a department for the purpose of gaining revenue.
It is also important to note that minors are not included in the current model.
Q19. Will RCM reward programs that serve the needs of businesses and industry?
The model is primarily based on the offering of student credit hours. As such, the most notable impacts on the budget result from general education courses. Those are rarely designed specifically for business or industry, although they are of value to those sectors.
Ultimately, RCM rewards programs that respond to demand. Students are increasingly seeking employment, but not necessarily in sectors commonly described as business and industry. For example, I would point to the current growth in enrollment in music and theatre and the decline in enrollments in accounting to support this claim.
Q20. How will CWU implement RCM to reward programs that can be maintained over an academic life cycle (50 years) rather than a business cycle (10 years)?
I do not fully understand this question and am perhaps being distracted by the assertion of a 50-year cycle for an academic program--or that a business cycle is 10 years. I will assume the question draws a distinction between traditional academic disciplines and those intended to serve a more finite professional or social need.
Again, the answer rests in the combination of decanal and faculty leadership. It does not make sense under any budget model to create new programs to meet short-lived demand. Developing a tenured faculty, for example, to meet 10 years of industrial demand would be foolish. With that said, traditional academic disciplines can be used to meet short-term business or social demands.
I will give an example using my field. The origins of Communication Studies are commonly traced to texts on rhetoric dating to ancient Greece and the importance they gave to the Trivium in political and social life.
In recent years, many Communication departments have developed information design programs in response to the growth of complex data systems and the need for improved user interfaces. Typically, those programs involve an interdisciplinary faculty from Information Science, Communication, Visual Design, Psychology, and Computer Science. It is not clear to me how long the information design courses will be desired. If it is short-lived, those tenured faculty will return to traditional subjects. If it proves to be an enduring need, I think the academy will begin to produce faculty specifically trained in the field and will then create new tenured lines.
I created such a program when I served as a dean. A transparent and predictable budgeting model similar to what we are implementing greatly facilitated the necessary interdisciplinary approach by providing a ready calculus for the sharing of costs and revenues among several departments and colleges.
Q21. How will CWU deal with transfer credits (particularly study abroad credits), Running Start credits, and other externally awarded SCH? Isn't there a financial incentive to deny or discourage study abroad or the use of transfer credits, particularly those transfer credits not governed by existing agreements with community colleges (i.e. transfers from 4-year schools)? Disciplines that send students on study abroad programs will lose SCH, and will thus be penalized by virtue of their discipline. That holds true for departments with many sections of General Education classes taught in the University in the High Schools program. These departments are adversely affected. Will departments be compensated for SCHs that they "lose" by having students study abroad or in College in the High School? Or will those transfer credits count as SCHs when they are transferred in? How will the university maintain interdisciplinary programs, essential to the mission of the university?
As a general rule, Central does not receive any revenue for credits a student transfers from another institution. To my knowledge, it never has, so the implementation of a new budget model does not represent a change in revenue generation or allocation for most transferred credits.
A relatively small number of credit hours are produced in programs such as College in the High School, and such courses do generate revenue to the University. While still small in size, these programs are expected to grow. RCM will help us determine the appropriate level of participation in these efforts and will provide a logic for allocating the resulting revenues. Departments earn state funding for serving Running Start students and generate private (student) revenue for College in the High School.
I believe that I have answered the question concerning interdisciplinary programs in my response to the previous question. My experience suggests that a main obstacle in creating and maintaining an interdisciplinary program, once the need for the program is established, is allocation of costs and distribution of revenues. That is often because the departments see the programs as adding costs not covered by current budgets.
Disciplines that send students on study abroad programs will lose SCH, but may be subsidized by their college if the study abroad is considered a valuable and important part of the program.
Q22. How will RCM deal with faculty hiring costs? Under RCM, any department would have a strong financial incentive to hire the cheapest American citizen possible for every open position: visas and other immigration processes are expensive, as are hires with previous experience. Doesn't this cut across the university's stated commitment to diversity, equity, and academic excellence?
RCM doesn’t change the incentives for hiring high quality faculty.
The key assumption that seems to be embedded in the question is that faculty are primarily a cost and that reducing the price tag of a faculty member would increase net revenues. While it is true that faculty wages and benefits comprise the major component of the ASL budget, I doubt any dean, department chair, or search committee would subscribe to the notion that “cheaper is better.”
Earlier it was stated in a question (Q12) that Central’s brand was focused on “classes and education style.” I don’t think that is a fully accurate depiction. I think our brand is based on quality faculty, student-faculty interaction, and pedagogies that place an emphasis on discovery and research. Finding the lowest possible cost for faculty is simply in no one’s best interest because the short-term cost reduction would offset by long-term loss of enrollment.
Central is committed to increasing diversity of the faculty (and staff) and to increasing the international options for our students. RCM will not change that. In fact, as we all realize the importance of strong enrollments, the significance of demographic changes, and the value of multiculturalism, diversity and international programs will receive a higher priority at all levels of the University.
Q23. Where can the departments and colleges acquire reliable data to make financial decisions, whether alumni lists, majors and minors, or other essential information? Further, while we realize that there is no "blueprint" for this transition, some initial and essential data about RCM is necessary. How will state appropriations be initially allocated to the colleges? What if we receive higher state appropriations? How will indirect costs be apportioned among the colleges and the departments? What formulas will be used? What will be the ratio of majors/minors, time to degree, student credit hours? Will departments and colleges have any control over non-academic overhead?
With the exception of alumni lists, all of the information listed above exists within the Office of Organizational Effectiveness and has been given to the deans. Deans can obtain lists of alumni by departments from University Advancement, which assigns each college a development officer who also has access to alumni records.
Colleges will not have direct control over non-academic overhead, but they will have influence. That voice is provided via the shared governance system of committees (e.g., the Budget Finance Committee) and by revisions to the Faculty Code being developed by the Senate. Deans have influence via the Provost Council.
RCM apportions most of the factors included in this question. Your dean has detailed information on these aspects of RCM. The state is projecting a budget deficit entering the 2015-2017 biennium. It is very unlikely that higher education will receive significant additional general support; higher education exists in the unfortunate 1/3 of the state budget that legislatures are not required to fund. If funds are forthcoming, they likely will be tied to specific outcomes, and not general support.
Q24. We pride ourselves on mentoring undergraduate and graduate research at CWU, but this is time consuming and thus expensive. Some disciplines require small classes or even individual tutorials. STEM education is also quite costly, especially in the laboratory sciences. How will we assign these important tasks value under RCM?
I would extend this question to include creative expression (e.g. music, art, and theatre). Those types of programs also have time-intensive instructional requirements and costly equipment.
When one writes or speaks of “RCM," it references decisions made by faculty, chairs, deans, the Provost, and the President. I am confident the people filling those positions place a high value on service, research, and creative activities. RCM simply provides the flexibility to accommodate those activities via a transparent and collaborative model.
The key to successful implementation is balancing the small sections with larger (not necessarily large) sections. That balance is primarily set at the department level by the faculty. That is also where the values underlying the curriculum and pedagogical models are the strongest and most influential.
It is true that one-on-one studio instruction or a small lab project in the sciences probably does not pay for itself. If we allowed the budget model to drive itself down to the section level, we’d have to change our pedagogy. But, we won’t have to put the budget model on autopilot. The ensemble and the introductory science section will generate more revenue than they cost. Chairs and deans will choose to subvent the one-on-one tutorials of significant programmatic value or with revenue generated by larger sections.
Q25. How far will financial responsibility and authority go? What support services will remain centralized? How will faculty manage functions related to RCM for which they are not trained, such as marketing, accounting, or reporting?
The financial authority and responsibility within the Colleges will be decentralized to the Deans. That delegation will include the authority to operationalize it within their colleges as they feel appropriate.
Most support services will remain centralized for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is economy of scale. It would not be effective or efficient to have 30 different versions of Canvas or PeopleSoft. Nor does it make sense to have faculty members assume primary responsibility for marketing and government relations, though I do hope they continue to be engaged in such efforts. These services exist and are funded to support student success and the academic mission.
We also have unionized employees and bargained contracts, as well as state labor laws that limit worker displacement. Deconstructing those centralized services would not be to the advantage of the university.
Q26. Perhaps most worrying of all, how will we protect academic quality and integrity under RCM? What will prevent rampant grade inflation and pandering to students? How will we protect essential, if not always popular, courses and programs?
I reject what appears to be the premise of the question – that students prefer easy courses, undemanding professors, and undeserved rewards. A research-based discussion of standards and student satisfaction (and success) demonstrates a direct correlation between student persistence and academic quality, rigor, and integrity.
My experience supports the research literature. I believe that most people take pride in hard work and only receive honor from honest evaluation. I also believe that even the somewhat less motivated student will rise to standards if properly encouraged and supported.
Anyone who believes that programs with high standards drive away students need only to examine our Music and Theatre programs.
Anyone who believes that students respect low standards need to talk with a graduate of our Accounting program who took classes from Professors O'Shaughnessy or Heesacker. You will immediately hear tales of the difficulty of the courses, the impossibility of the standards, and the legendary toughness of the evaluations. Those stories will be told with pride in accomplishment, recognition of the value of the experiences, and a love for the professors and the role they played in the alumni successes.
In the final analysis, I trust the faculty to protect the integrity of our academic programs and processes. My confidence in the faculty has always been strong, but has become even more so. Over the past year I have invited a different group of faculty member to my residence, twice a month, for dinner and talk. The conversations have been free-flowing and off-the-record. I asked for and received honesty and candor. Not once did I receive a hint of a desire to lower quality or standards.
I am heartened that faculty are engaged in how our budget environment has and is changing. Our challenge is urgent and immediate. But, we can overcome the challenges by working in concert. I encourage you to continue thinking about how to ensure our remarkable academic environment flourishes in the years ahead.
James L. Gaudino, President