Open Meeting Minutes (6/19/20)

PIO Open Meeting

June 19, 2020

Special Guests

Provost Jen Bott

Nancy Mansberger, Academic Labor Relations

John Ware, AFT Michigan

From Nancy Mansberger:

  • Several conversations with AAUP reps: we are all concerned about transparency
  • There really is no playbook, but we are trying to communicate as openly as frequently as we know how
  • Very concerned about a safe return – safe for faculty and students
  • All about dialogue – some feel they aren’t getting that dialogue and are being shut down and can sometimes get reactive. 
    • Know that we’re working on it. We don’t have all of the answers but we are working toward the “big questions” that need to be answered by September. 
    • We understand the need for answers and are working on it. 
    • Your patience has been really appreciated, and your willingness to reach out and communicate has been really helpful. 
    • I hope we can continue with frequent conversations so we can feel comfortable that we all know where we’re going and we’re going there together!

Q&A – Please note questions and responses are paraphrased for sake of time

Q: Timeline – can we jump ahead and work back a little thinking-wise? What I hope to avoid is that in the middle of August we’re scheduled for a class that’s supposed to be on campus and suddenly it’s online. Do you have a sense of when we’ll have some final decisions about what fall will look like?

A (Provost Bott): Spring was difficult, we tried to help as much as possible but it’s still not ideal. To be honest I do anticipate something like that again in the fall. We will discuss at the Academic Town Hall on Monday 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Fall Contingency Group has created an instructional mix that is being released now to departments. Based on pedagogy and health, what makes the most sense for our instruction?

Some of what we heard from shared gov was a desire to hold off on making Summer II decision to preserve possibility of in-person. This mixed option is intended to allow more flexibility.

It could very well be that we have an option figured out, but then we end up online. One recommendation that task force has made is that the class is built in a hybrid way so that it can be easily transitioned from in-person to online within 48 hours.

The other question is “who’s teaching” and we don’t really know when we’ll have those answers. Enrollment is about 8-9% down. A lot of this will depend on disease progression but we may not know what enrollment looks like until later than usual. Orientation registrations are only down 108, retention is up from fall to spring. 

Trying to present options, realizing that it’s different for each course.

Q: A number of us are at KVCC and WMU, and one message that seems to be going to faculty at KVCC is if you can continue to do things online for the fall semester, go ahead and do that. English is planning for most departments to be online, math is going to be mostly online. Is that something that we would be encouraged to do even now? If I could do my class online, maybe I should pursue that?

A (Provost Bott): It’s really about pedagogy. I know that from KVCC, they’re looking at an 80/20 split (online/on-campus). I’ve been asked what we should target and I struggle with that because I don’t know that that honors pedagogy or the way our faculty believe their instruction is the most effective. The first concern should be pedagogy, how do I believe as a faculty semester that this is maximally effective for our students. I would encourage hybrid. We will also be re-rooming classes once we get this instructional mix spreadsheet back, the Registrar’s office is going to repopulate the classroom scheduling software. Once we know the actual demand for how frequently someone will need a classroom, we can rearrange where things can be taught in order to allow for social distancing. Smaller classes can be accommodated but sometimes lecture classes won’t be possible as they’ve been done in the past. Fixed seating in lecture halls presents problems with where people can sit because of how closely the chairs are arranged. 

Q: Should we retain appropriate enrollment/retention for fall, student numbers stay and everything settles down, is there any reasonable expectation of part-timers being reassigned classes for spring? 

A (Provost Bott): I think there’s so much fluidity. Once we get to census, we can apply some manner of forecasting that allows us to see what we can expect in spring. Forecasts are also used for budgets, and they’re wildly accurate. Last year was off by .4%. I’m answering for all of next year, and as we get closer to fall and we see what the disease is doing, if we’re able to be open…national data would indicate that if all classes are online, students’ experiences were highly variable for spring. That wasn’t a true online experience – it was triage online. Much data says that if universities decide to go fully online, data says as many as 25% of students will take a gap year. I’ve reached out to people who have done current and prospective student services. One institution shared their survey with me, and we will be sharing with our students to create our own local data and that will help. I believe this year will be very turbulent, for all of us and especially for you. I wish there were ways I could reward with certainty if nothing less, the impact you’ve had and the commitment you’ve made to the university. In lieu of certainty I have gratitude but I realize gratitude is only worth so much. I’m hoping we have a decent picture in the coming months with the faculty retirement incentive program. Goal is to make budget cuts without layoffs, to trim workforce in a way that was ultimately humane and recognized years of service. Eligibility window closes at the end of the month. 

Q: What is our trigger point for if we were by chance on campus in the fall and had to take 48 hours to move online? Would it be the governor stating another shelter-in-place, cases rising in Kalamazoo County?

A (Provost Bott): We have an active pandemic plan on campus, last used for H1NI. Our pandemic plan at that point called for a predetermined number of active cases on campus. I do believe that the governor and health agencies will shut us down before we get to the point that we would shut down. We have specific dorms for quarantine. What happens if a faculty member falls ill? Substitutions? We haven’t revisited the “number of active” active cases on campus policy, but that was kind of our decision-making guide in the spring. I really believe that watching the other states seeing huge increases that our governor would be faster to close. It probably won’t be our choice.

Q: I’m worried about some of our students. I’ve been watching info come out about dorms and what happens if things close. It’s been clear that international students will get to stay in dorms, does that include over breaks? Can students self-report a need to stay? I’m worried that housing insecure students will have to leave the dorms, leaving them homeless in the middle of the semester.

A (Provost Bott): There is an active exception request process and those who need to have stayed. We’ve homed about 200 students. This includes international students, SEITA scholars, other students who don’t have a reliable home to stay home. We did consolidate them into a smaller number of dorms. Meal plans stayed open as unlimited. As another point of info, we had another 800 students who stayed in our apartments. Students always had the option to stay there and many stayed there. 

Follow-up: Make sure housing insecure students are included in the list by name so that students feel invited to request accommodations.

Q: Will any of these town halls be offered in the evening for those of us who have day jobs?

A (Provost Bott): That’s a great point! We will make the July one an evening one. 

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Q: If you do lose a class, is there supposed to be a communication process for this? I found out by checking enrollment and the class was no longer under my list of classes and then I saw someone else was bumped into the class. 

A (Doug): I don’t think the contract speaks to how you’re supposed to learn things. It’s clear that it works on a department by department basis.

Q: Because we’re contractual, are we still eligible for things like Miller discounts, faculty training, bookstore discounts, etc.

A: Ian will follow up.