Chancellor Emails Faculty Who Spoke or Wrote Comments, Questions Feb 25

———- Forwarded message ———

From: Chancellor Everts <chancellor@appstate.edu>

Date: Wed, Mar 6, 2019, 11:46 PM

Subject: Responses to your questions from the Feb. 25 Faculty Senate meeting

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to thank you for the time you took to share your questions, perspectives and personal stories with me, as well as with your other colleagues assembled for the special Faculty Senate meeting on Feb. 25.

Below I have compiled answers to your questions, some of which are informed by Appalachian’s Board of Governors liaison Philip Byers, Provost Darrell Kruger and Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte. (Please note, for those who posed questions to Provost Kruger during the second half of the meeting which have yet to be answered, he will share his responses separately.)

There were several follow-up questions to my comments related to my priority of providing merit raises to faculty. The central theme of these questions is around the difference between merit and equity raises and why my priority is focused on merit, rather than equity raises. Related comments and questions pertain to a discussion of the raise process, whether related to equity or merit – not being fair or meaningful – and a question about whether we have options other than the Delaware Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity upon which to base faculty salaries. I was also asked to promise to use enrollment funds to provide minimal merit pay increases, and asked whether the amount of promotion and tenure raises could be increased.

In response to these questions, I would like to reiterate a key message from my remarks on Feb. 25: My priorities and advocacy at the state level, since arriving on this campus, have been focused on changing the funding model for Appalachian, which will fundamentally and dramatically change our campus and what it will be like to work and learn here. When this happens – and I believe this will happen soon – my top priority will be merit increases for faculty and staff. (Academic facilities and support appropriate for a campus of our size are my second and third priorities.) I focus on merit increases because the university has a solid system in place for staff, and this is an area in which faculty in particular have the ability to influence a principled and reasonable application of standards of merit. I appreciate your sharing your concerns regarding merit pay. Based on the questions and concerns you raise, I believe it will be important to undertake a merit pay study, so we can explore how different the merit process is across colleges, discuss parity between non-tenure track and tenure track salaries, and determine whether Appalachian should reform the merit process. I have asked Provost Kruger to work with Faculty Senate to get this underway.

Regarding the questions about the Delaware Study and the request to promise to use enrollment funds to provide minimal merit pay increases instead of providing new positions or other academic needs in the future, these questions raise a very important point: faculty have a voice in university budgeting. The budgeting process begins at the faculty and staff level, so voicing your requests to your Chair and Dean is critical. Next month, Deans will be presenting their budget requests in an open meeting. I encourage you to voice your concerns and requests now and attend the budget presentations on April 12 as well – it is an important opportunity to be heard, and to be part of the budgeting process as it is taking place.

For clarification, Academic Affairs uses College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) data as a point of departure for comparing faculty salaries by academic discipline, and the Delaware Study to determine the number of faculty positions required based on enrollment growth. In addition to the upcoming budget presentations, I also encourage you to meet with Academic Affairs leadership and/or to attend an upcoming “Office Hours with the Provost” session so you can ask more questions and share further share the concerns you have raised. As Provost Kruger moves forward in working with Faculty Senate, your thoughts and perspective will be valuable.

Regarding faculty promotion increases, the last time we increased the amount awarded to those who earn tenure and promotion was in July 2015. Provost Kruger allocated $283,000 to support 58 faculty promotions this year – 30 to full professor and 28 to associate professor. He and I agree we need to increase the amounts awarded to faculty who are promoted, as this amount has not changed in nearly four years. This will be an important consideration during the budget discussions for next year, and we thank you for bringing up this matter.

Another theme that emerged is related to benefits – health care benefits in particular. I heard your stories of struggling to manage the burden of serious illnesses. As a two-time cancer survivor, I understand the tremendous strain a critical illness has on individuals and their families. To a family already burdened with catastrophic health events, managing added financial stress is incredibly difficult. While the negotiations for the state health care plan are not controlled at the university level, Governor Byers and I will share the stories you told us on Feb. 25, as well as the many other stories we know, with the Board of Governors, UNC System staff and legislators. I will also continue to relate the advantage of a competitive benefits package in recruiting and retaining talented faculty and staff – an important point also brought up by more than one person.

Several of you raised questions related to full-time professors and a national trend in rising numbers of non-tenure track, three-quarter time, adjunct faculty and lecturers. We have been moving in the right direction in this regard. Since 2015, we have added 75 full-time faculty, increasing the number of full-time faculty to 1,005 (72% of our total) faculty. Of our full-time faculty, 737 (73%) are on the tenure track. While we are performing better than most of our peer institutions on this measure, our student-faculty ratio is one of which we are very proud, and has remained steady for the last several years. In the 2017-18 academic year, Academic Affairs authorized Deans and Department Chairs to extend multi-year contracts to adjunct faculty with solid performance histories in departments with student credit hour (SCH) demand. Appalachian employees may choose to engage in employment beyond their work at the university, but this should be a preference, rather than arising from a need to compensate for salaries not keeping pace with the cost of living.

There were a few questions regarding my choices to fund construction projects and coaches’ contracts during a year in which faculty did not receive raises. The answer to these questions comes down to funding sources. Appalachian cannot reallocate the money for these expenses to pay faculty salaries. That said, Director of Athletics Doug Gillin is working to change Athletics funding so a larger proportion is funded by revenue sources (such as gate receipts and donations), with student fees supporting a smaller percentage of athletics expenses.

There was one question about why the message to campus on Sept. 26 came from Human Resources rather than the Provost or me. In response to this, I apologize on behalf of Provost Kruger and myself. We realize the way you received this message came across as insensitive and this was not our intention.

There were two questions regarding the specifics of how our funding model would change, and how this change would result in an increase of more than $20 million for Appalachian. The model under which we are currently funded is based upon projected credit hours. Under the current model, our appropriation is calculated as the difference between expenses and tuition receipts. Under the proposed funding model, we would receive funding based on a credit completion formula (CCF). Under the proposed CCF model, we would be funded based on actual credit hours completed, including summer hours (which have not previously been considered in our funding allocation). Under this model, tuition and nonresidents would be excluded. These changes, once implemented, will result in an increase of Appalachian’s state appropriation of approximately $22 million over time.

Governor Byers and I were asked why we feel we can get this model changed when past Chancellors were not successful in doing so. I understand the skepticism of those of you who have been here many years longer than I have, and I would likely feel doubtful had I experienced the same. Governor Byers addressed the changes in the makeup of the Board of Governors and the fact that we have an Appalachian alumnus and Trustee helping us advocate for change. From my perspective, I can tell you that when I arrived at Appalachian I immediately recognized the single, most significant impact I can make here – far above and beyond the physical infrastructure changes underway – will be to achieve this change in the funding model. Doing so will create lasting improvements in the quality of life and work for our faculty and staff, and will launch our institution into the future with a strength and capacity we have not yet seen. I am wholeheartedly dedicated to making this happen. I have been working toward this goal since day one, and I advocate for it in Raleigh, in Chapel Hill and in Boone every single day. I believe it is in our near future.

Finally, through your frustration, nearly everyone who shared their perspectives and asked questions also expressed passion for teaching our students and for our university. Appalachian students, faculty and staff are fortunate to be members of this community. It is well past time our university is recognized and rewarded for the achievements of our accomplished faculty, our innovative staff and our passionate students.

I remain dedicated to making this happen.

Very sincerely,

Sheri

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.