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From the Dean's Desk

A letter from Interim Dean Basu

September 9, 2016

Dear faculty and staff,

Welcome back to yet another fall semester. I start this semester in a new role as your Interim Dean. I am very excited about serving the College in this capacity and I will try to do the best that I can for the College this year. I know that it will be a challenging experience for me and I ask for your patience and your support as we work together to give all our students the best education that we can, given the constraints within which we operate. My heart and mind are open to hearing anything you care to share with me so please feel free to contact me directly with your concerns and your successes. I am also happy to come visit with you and your department if you wish. Advice from those of you who have been around a while and from those of you who are new will be much appreciated. I might not always make decisions that you agree with but I promise you that I will always try to make sure that you know why I made them.

I would like to thank Bob Rider for his excellent stewardship of the College over the last several months and I would like to thank the Associate Deans and the staff in the Dean’s Office for keeping us afloat and moving forward despite all the transitions and uncertainties. During my first week I learned that the three most urgent issues I needed to attend to were the budget allocations, new tenure track faculty searches for the coming year, and support for new majors. Here is an update on each of these items:

Budget: As you probably know, our FTES (full-time equivalent students) target for 2016-17 was reduced by 3.8 percent as compared to last year which means that our budget allocation was reduced accordingly. This meant course reductions across the College for Fall 2016, and there will be additional cuts to instruction in Spring 2017. However, the bulk of the College’s budget lies in the form of salaries of permanent faculty and staff, which cannot be reduced. This means we have to reduce spending in other categories, in addition to the instructional cuts.  I believe it is imperative that we not cut our already limited faculty and staff professional development funding, but this leaves very few options for places left to cut. Thus, we will reduce the College’s overall lab funding by 3.8 percent and the funding for operating budgets (“OE&E funds”) by five percent. I know that there are many parts of those budgets that do not necessarily change with the number of students we serve, but again, the options are limited. We will discuss these cuts in more detail with department chairs and the governance committees over the next few weeks.

New tenure track and staff hiring: We have been authorized to launch four new tenure track faculty searches by the Provost. We have to use one of those lines to fund the retreat of our last permanent Dean to the ranks of faculty which means we are left with three new tenure track lines. I plan to follow the HAPC recommendations from last year and meet over the next week with the chairs of those departments whose proposals were ranked highly by HAPC. I will announce the three new tenure track searches shortly after that. Additionally, we have already launched a search for a new (part-time) Administrative Support Assistant (ASA) to support the Child & Adolescent Development major and Psychology Department. Unfortunately, we anticipate no additional staff hires during this Academic Year.

Support for new majors: We have many new majors in the pipeline at various stages of curriculum review. Last year, Bob Rider called for a moratorium on new P form submissions in order to give us time to figure out how we were going to launch and support these new programs. He made a lot of progress in that area by developing models for reallocating growth and existing FTES generated by GE courses to new programs in order to grow these programs while maintaining existing ones. I plan to continue his work by having a conversation about this issue and sharing his work with the department chairs and the governance committees through the fall semester. We hope that by the end of the semester we will have a plan in place which will allow us to support programs that are already in the pipeline and provide guidance to proposers of new programs. Because we want you to have full information before doing the hard work of proposing new majors, I would also ask that you wait before submitting any A forms. I hope to lift the moratorium early in the spring semester.

On another note entirely, as some of you might know I have been part of a group of faculty who have been working on infusing mindfulness and, more recently, compassion into the classroom and I would like to continue to facilitate that conversation at the college level in my new role as Interim Dean. I would like us to explore how we might introduce/continue to use mindfulness and compassion in our lives as faculty and staff. More specifically, I would like us all to take a moment and reflect on the following questions:

  1. What does the concept of compassion mean to me? What does it mean from the perspective of each of our disciplines?
  2. How might we do things differently in the college if our actions were motivated by principles of mindfulness and compassion?

I look forward to continuing this conversation through the semester. I will talk more about this at the first all-college meeting later this month. Please feel free to share your ideas with each other and with me as we move forward this year.

I hope that we are all able to do and be everything we want and can be this year.

Dr. Ranjeeta Basu

Interim Dean, College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral & Social Sciences.