Provost addresses faculty concerns about ONEWSU

Senators bring up departmental budget crises due to pandemic, establish necessity for feedback



Challenges students face with the current system set-up are too great to be ignored, WSU Provost Elizabeth Chilton said.

MADYSEN MCLAIN, Evergreen roots editor

Faculty Senate members presented constituent concerns and questions about ONEWSU to WSU Provost Elizabeth Chilton during a senate meeting Thursday afternoon.

ONEWSU, an initiative led by the WSU president and provost, will examine university structures to determine changes that will promote efficiency and support for students, Chilton said. Two white papers were released outlining the goals and timeline for the project.

“The administration got out over their skis with the white papers,” Faculty Senate Chair-Elect Doug Call said. “People think that decisions have already been made. This is simply not the case; no decisions have been made.” 

Chilton said she started referring to the white papers as ‘think papers’ to show the documents are meant to spark discussion rather than inform the public about decisions.

Senator Leslie New said she feared the timing of making system-wide changes during a pandemic would not allow faculty members to fully engage in the feedback process. 

“It’s definitely made people feel that this is being pushed upon the faculty in a way that is designed to not give people the chance to reply,” New said.

The pandemic forced WSU to change the way they offer classes across campuses. Departmental meetings are now held on Zoom so more people can attend, she said.

Chilton said everyone at WSU was still adapting to the new reality of the pandemic in the fall, but now the challenges students face with the current system set-up are too great to be ignored.

On average, 17 undergraduate students enroll in dual programs offered through different campuses each semester, including the Global Campus. This semester, about 44 students are dually enrolled. 

“We eliminated some of the barriers this fall because we were mostly teaching remotely,” Chilton said. “I would love to see that hundreds of students take advantage of dual registering across the system but there are financial barriers.”

Senator Alan Goodman raised concerns about ONEWSU impacting the university budget as departments already are facing budget crises due to the pandemic.

Chilton said a new team will not be hired to implement ONEWSU. However, positions may be created if needed.

The goal for ONEWSU is to make the most of the staff and faculty members already in the system rather than laying off employees. This can be done by rearranging job descriptions, she said. 

Senator Matthew Carroll said the interim dean for the WSU College of Arts and Sciences sent an email this week warning faculty members to prepare for budget cuts in teaching assistant allocations. 

“I wanted to point out a juxtaposition,” Carroll said. “There’s a proposal from the administration to spend up to $3 million a year of non-appropriated university funds to help retire the athletic deficit. I’m led to ask the question, ‘How many TA [positions] would $3 million fund?’”

Chilton said WSU had to cut 10 percent of its funding across the board because of the pandemic. Another factor in budget cuts included student enrollment declining about 20 percent for fall 2020.

Department cuts are not a result of taking on athletic debt, she said. 

Kristina Peterson-Wilson, Office of the Provost chief of staff, said information will be presented to faculty members, staff and students in a slower manner to adequately receive feedback. 

A website will be dedicated to ONEWSU in mid-March with FAQs and background information, she said.

One senator suggested hosting town halls with the WSU president in the spring for further discussion. Others called for clearer deadlines for when to provide feedback.