Spring Faculty Meeting 2021

 

January 28, 2021 - President Livingstone and Provost Brickhouse were joined by Chief Business Officer Brett Dalton, 2020 Cherry Award Recipient Jennifer Cognard-Black, Faculty Senate Chair Matthew Cordon, Chairs of the COACHE Task Force Jason McGregor and Lenore Wright, and additional members of the President's Council for the 2021 Virtual Spring Faculty Meeting.

 

Spring 2021 Faculty Meeting Q&As

Read submitted questions and answers via Zoom Q-and-A function during the meeting:

Course Modality

Are you ready to tell us what percentage of students/classes are online vs. in class this semester?

Both the President and Provost communicated at the beginning of the semester that this spring the University is offering approximately 56 percent of classes in either an in-person or hybrid format.

Have we made decisions yet about expected instructional modalities for the summer and fall? Do we have set percentages online vs. face-to-face?

The University has initiated early conversations regarding instructional modalities for the summer and fall semesters. Our plans for future semesters will take into account the current situation regarding COVID-19 and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for the general population. Given these uncertainties, we do not have set plans for face-to-face vs. online instruction; however, we will continue to prioritize face-to-face instruction at the request of students.

Could you address course modality projections for the summer and fall? Only spring was mentioned in the Provost’s answer.

The University has initiated early conversations regarding instructional modalities for the summer and fall semesters. Our plans for future semesters will take into account the current situation regarding COVID-19 and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for the general population. Given these uncertainties, we do not have set plans for face-to-face vs. online instruction; however, we will continue to prioritize face-to-face instruction at the request of students.

Over the past few years, there has been a significant presence of fully online learning opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  What are Baylor's plans to develop in-house instructional support (i.e. instructional design, media/video production services, course development, etc.) specifically teaching in fully online and hybrid environments?

One of the academic developments arising from COVID-19 has been the growth and greater acceptance of online courses among students. We anticipate this trend will continue post-pandemic. The President’s Council has begun strategic conversations as to how the University can better support faculty and overall instructional delivery for students via technology. We anticipate engaging the broader University community in these discussions in the near future.

Compensation/Raises/Hiring

It was very deflating to hear the recent decision about faculty raises. I, and many faculty members I know, are not feeling appreciated by the administration during this time of great sacrifice on our part. Aside from verbal thank you's, how does Baylor plan to more holistically care for (and compensate) faculty during this stressful time?

While the University understands this news may have been disappointing, Baylor’s current financial circumstances and ongoing uncertainties related to COVID-19 preclude the funding of merit compensation increases in the current fiscal year (through May 31, 2021). The President’s Council surveyed higher education institutions across the country, and very few provided merit raises this year – and those that did most likely will not be able to do so in the coming fiscal year. Be assured that the ongoing words of appreciation and encouragement are sincere. Baylor’s approach to COVID-19 has been that of grace and understanding, and the University has provided a host of support services through Human Resources for faculty and staff during these stressful times. As noted during the discussion, Baylor is making merit raises a priority in the budgetary planning for FY 21-22. Several surveys of other higher education institutions, meanwhile, have indicated that most universities will not be providing compensation increases in the upcoming fiscal year.

Are any of those "modest new investments" going to be in your people? It would be really helpful to your people to have the cost-of-living raises and retirement contributions back. It would also be really helpful to be able to hire enough faculty and student workers to keep the academic programs running.

The President, Provost and Chief Business Officer have communicated their goal is to incorporate a merit compensation program at some level for the coming fiscal year as part of the current budget preparations. The University has indicated to the Faculty Senate that it will review the decision related to retirement contributions in 2022. Additionally, the Provost has signaled that she anticipates strategic faculty hiring will resume in the upcoming fiscal year. All of these decisions demonstrate Baylor’s strong commitment to people – faculty and staff – during a time in which many universities are eliminating positions, cutting programs and not planning for compensation increases.

With the pandemic making most research travel impossible, I am curious if it is possible to reallocate the funds saved from the lack of travel to support items such as merit increases. If not, why not?

As Chief Business Officer Brett Dalton explained, many of the University’s revenue streams have slowed due to COVID-19 and pandemic-related expenditures continue to run higher than initially projected, thus accounting for any additional revenues. Any savings in research-related travel would not have been enough to fund a merit compensation program for faculty and staff. It is also important to recognize that savings from reduced travel and operating expenses are simply one-time savings. Compensation increases, however, are recurring expenses. The one-time savings from travel reductions and operating savings are helping to offset losses in other revenue categories, as well as helping to fund the very large COVID-related costs.

Why would we financially prioritize new faculty positions if we cannot retain the new R1 level faculty we’ve already recruited due to (a) lack of competitive salary raises and (b) persistent equity issues?

Retention, compensation and equity are among several themes identified in the recent COACHE survey. The University intends to examine these issues further through the COACHE task forces that are currently being fielded. Note that the University is aware of only a few higher education institutions across the country that provided merit raises this year – and those that did most likely will not be able to do so in the coming fiscal year.

Has there been any reallocation of top salaries to reduce the need for such sacrifices lower down?

Yes, in several areas of the University.

Why aren’t we using reserves to offset financial issues?  Also, faculty have worked so very hard to rejuggle teaching – with no compensation – and such efforts have impacted research efforts. Why NO raise for faculty – even 1% in recognition of effort would have been valuable. And, we spend a lot on marketing – branded masks, water bottles, etc. Also fancy magazines from departments.  These are but two examples.

Baylor has utilized one-time reserves in meeting the challenges of the pandemic and recession.  Utilizing a prudent portion of these reserves has helped Baylor to protect the academic core from reductions to operating budgets, programs and tenure track positions. With that said, it would be fiscally irresponsible for Baylor to rely only on these one-time resources during a period of deep economic contraction and unprecedented and ongoing uncertainty. Also, it is important to note that the endowment cannot be used for such purposes, as the overwhelming percentage of these funds must be used in accordance with the donor’s direction. The University invested in several COVID-19 related items to ensure students, faculty and staff have the resources available to be healthy and well as part of the goal to offer an on-campus educational experience. Additionally, printing budgets from many units across the campus have contracted as part of budget reduction measures.

Are health benefits going to be reduced?  Will employees be paying more?

There are no current plans to reduce health benefits for faculty and staff. Human Resources has undertaken several proactive measures related to benefits, such as the recent dependent audit, to demonstrate good stewardship and potentially offset any future cost increases.  The Group Health Committee and Retirement Plan Committee are both composed of faculty and staff members who are responsible for receiving information and making decisions regarding benefits. The value of our benefits programs and costs to employees are considered carefully by the committees. 

With the ongoing freeze to merit increases, what plans and considerations are being made to stave the lasting impact of such freezes, such as how these freezes will affect raises earned through promotion?

The President, Provost and Chief Business Officer have communicated their goal is to incorporate a merit compensation program at some level for the coming fiscal year as part of the current budget preparations – unlike most of higher education. We do not anticipate any future impacts to the promotion process.

When are contracts for 21-22 to be issued? Before May meeting of regents?

The Faculty Performance Review process for this year has been communicated to Deans and Chairs. We intend to issue faculty contracts on May 1. Note that this is later than has been the case in recent years, but is necessary as the review process is incorporated into the Ignite system.

Will our 2020-2021 performance count toward the future merit increase?

Yes. The President, Provost and Chief Business Officer have communicated their goal is to incorporate a merit compensation program at some level for the coming fiscal year (2021-22) as part of the current budget preparations.

When merit raises are reinstated, does the clock “reset,” or can those who earned (but did not receive) a merit raise during the pandemic eventually expect to receive it?

The President’s Council has determined that there will not be a merit compensation program for the current (2020-21) fiscal year. Any potential merit increases for the upcoming fiscal year (2021-22) will be based on 2020-21 performance.

Events

The email concerning the "Event Proposal Process for Spring 2021" that came from the Provost's office includes the statement, "However, for the remainder of the spring 2021 semester, the University will only host on-campus in-person events that include Baylor students, faculty, and staff." Does that mean there will be no in-person All University Sing--at least this Spring? Parents, students, and alumni are consistently asking.

Plans are underway for All University Sing with strict COVID-19 protocols approved by the Health Management Team. More details will be communicated to the University community in the weeks ahead.

Race/Equity

The topic I have brought up every semester:  Last time there was an in-progress search to replace Bryce Yates.  That was a failed search and now the position has been eliminated.  I can appreciate the other hiring changes in the Equity office and how they will benefit the university, but this is a step backwards.  The office still is only reactive and not proactive in addressing DEI issues.  [The required "training" was not received well by faculty of color, and my reaction was so traumatic that I reported it to the Bias Response team.] After _decades_ of committee after committee recommendations, this is another example of Baylor not following through.  Unfortunately, it is not unexpected.  What are your plans to get faculty and staff of color to trust in Baylor to "have our backs" and support us?

Diversity, equity and inclusion are key priorities for the Administration as Baylor strives to provide a caring community for students, faculty and staff. The University has made progress in many areas, but also recognizes much more needs to be done in the fulfillment of Baylor’s mission. The University understands that actions speak much louder than words and this must become an institution-wide approach. Baylor has increased its training opportunities related to diversity, emphasized diverse hiring pools, established the Commission on Historic Campus Representations, launched the Trailblazers Scholars Program, revised the University’s Civil Rights Policy, restructured and fully staffed the Equity Office, and hired a Special Advisor to the President for Equity and Campus Engagement, among many other initiatives. Part of Mr. Foley’s responsibilities is to work with the President to find the best ways to build a culture of support for faculty and staff of color that looks beyond one-time events/acts. The Administration hears your concerns and understands this work has been decades in the making. You’re witnessing the beginning of substantive change. Even the mandatory training video was meant to set the tone for the work that we would do in the coming months. Keep Mr. Foley apprised of specific suggestions. 

With so many faculty positions, is the administration considering cluster hiring which can help with minority faculty recruitment and retention?

We are currently planning faculty hiring for next year, dependent on availability of funding. We will be planning for cluster hiring in areas of considerable need and aligned with Illuminate priorities. We will also be allowing three finalists with a campus interview for each faculty position, provided that the finalists are a diverse set. This should help considerably in adding diversity to our faculty.

How is Baylor addressing Racial Injustices and Inequities both historically and in the present context?

This is a question that has been examined by the Commission on Historic Campus Representations. The Board of Regents has received the Commission’s report and is currently reviewing and discussing the findings and recommendations. The University intends to publicly release the report at some point following the February Board of Regents meeting. With that said, the work of the Commission is only one piece of the discussion. The University also is currently looking at opportunities to audit our equity-related processes to make sure that Baylor functioning equitably as an institution, as well as seeking the input of our faculty, staff and students of color. 

Is it adequate for the university to push for civil discourse when one side of the conversation is inherently uncivil (i.e. transphobic, homophobic, racist, etc.)?

As Provost Brickhouse communicated last week, a university is both a marketplace of ideas and a gathering of diverse cultures. Within this community, the ability to share perspectives and beliefs, even when they may stir controversy, must be safeguarded. Baylor respects and values an academic environment in which faculty members can freely express their views. To be sure, the protection of free speech by individual faculty members is vital.

Taking into account recent articles in the Baylor Lariat, what guidance does the administration have for departments for dealing with faculty publicly trafficking in racist, homophobic, and/or transphobic rhetoric?

As Provost Brickhouse communicated last week, a university is both a marketplace of ideas and a gathering of diverse cultures. Within this community, the ability to share perspectives and beliefs, even when they may stir controversy, must be safeguarded. Baylor respects and values an academic environment in which faculty members can freely express their views. To be sure, the protection of free speech by individual faculty members is vital. Every department has the responsibility to invest in the building of a just and equitable culture. Through hiring and professional development, departments can make expectations clear and hold individuals accountable to them. 

Thinking on Mr. Foley’s comments, other than civil discourse, how are we as a university striving to not just be diverse or inclusive, but actually foster a sense of belonging for all students, faculty, and staff?

In addition to an ongoing focus on civil discourse, the University has increased its training opportunities related to diversity – including mandatory training for faculty, staff and students – established the Commission on Historic Campus Representations, launched the Trailblazers Scholars Program, revised Baylor’s Civil Rights Policy, restructured and fully staffed the Equity Office, and hired a Special Advisor to the President for Equity and Campus Engagement, among many other initiatives. More related to this question will be communicated as the spring semester continues.

New US administration

If the new U.S. administration has its way, public colleges and universities will be "free." Presumably, private universities cannot continue business as usual. How will Baylor engage in this national conversation? What should we be doing?

The University has resources located in Washington, D.C., who specialize in higher education and continuously monitor and influence such conversations and/or proposals. Additionally, President Livingstone serves on the Board of the American Council on Education, the premier national higher education advocacy organization which works to shape effective public policy. It would be premature to assume such a proposal becomes a reality.

Summer/Fall Planning

What planning is underway for Fall 2021, and is the expectation that we will be back to normal (or at least close)?

The University has initiated early conversations about the Fall 2021 semester. Our plans will take into account the current situation regarding COVID-19 and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for the general population. The University certainly hopes this fall for a return to a campus experience similar to before the onset of COVID-19.

Will BU offer summer of discovery again this summer?

Yes. More information can be found here.

COVID Safety

Faculty members who are teaching in person, especially Lecturers and Senior Lecturers who are teaching 4-5 classes per semester, are putting themselves at greater risk due to all of the in-person time with students. Is there a way to better protect these faculty members or prioritize their compensation?

The University is not aware of any transmission of COVID-19 in Baylor classrooms or due to faculty-student interactions on campus. The use of a layered plan – to include masking, social distancing, symptom monitoring, frequent testing and aggressive contact tracing – has proven to be highly effective in the prevention of COVID-19.

When will faculty receive the COVID vaccine? What's the plan for vaccine distribution?

Baylor has received only 300 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to date, which have been distributed to healthcare providers, emergency responders and nursing school staff and students. We continue to develop our plans, however, for Phase 1B in the event the University receives additional vaccines in accordance with state guidelines, which will include people 65 years of age or older or people 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that places them at increased risk for severe illness. Additionally, the availability of the vaccine within the Waco area continues to be very limited. Visit the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District’s covidwaco.com site for more information, or you may consider contacting your personal healthcare provider, as many have begun the process of offering the vaccine to Phase 1B patients as available.

Will Baylor require COVID-19 vaccinations at some point?

Currently, there are no discussions related to requiring the COVID-19 vaccine on the Baylor campus.

Many classrooms are not spaced out enough (less than 5 feet between seats/desks). It doesn't appear that contact tracing is including classroom interactions because the assumption is there is proper spacing in these spaces. This is making me extremely concerned for my students' safety and my own. Are students sitting next to/around positive cases being contacted?

Yes – all positive COVID-19 cases that the University is aware of are being aggressively contract traced. The University is not aware of any transmission of COVID-19 in Baylor classrooms or due to faculty-student interactions on campus. The use of a layered plan – to include masking, social distancing, symptom monitoring, frequent testing and aggressive contact tracing – has proven to be highly effective in the prevention of COVID-19.

Where do our faculty (with no health problems) fall in the prioritization for vaccine?

The University’s current priority remains on Phase 1B, as Baylor has not been able to obtain any additional vaccines since an initial 300 dose supply. The availability of the vaccine in the Waco area continues to be severely limited. Visit the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District’s covidwaco.com site for more information, or you may consider contacting your personal healthcare provider.

Renovations

Some of the academic buildings are in rough shape. The hallways of Draper/Old Main/Burleson have mold, scuffed floors, and peeling wallpaper. The bathrooms have broken tiles, broken sinks, missing paper towel dispensers, missing soap dispensers. Is there any plan to renovate the parts of these aging academic buildings that do not belong to any one department?

The University’s deferred maintenance budget was reduced significantly due to the events of 2015-16 and the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a targeted short-term reduction, which again helped to protect the academic core, particularly programs and positions. Restoring the University’s deferred maintenance budget has been identified as a strategic goal by the President’s Council as part of the upcoming budget process for 2021-22.

COACHE Survey

Could you clarify the cost of BU participating in the COACHE Survey -- or was it participation at no-cost? Will we be participating in the survey again in the future -- or are there plans to do so?

The cost of the COACHE survey was $35,000, but the information gleaned has already been incredibly valuable and will continue to inform planning and improvements as data analysis progresses. We expect there will be additional costs for the divisional reports that provide data disaggregated by college/school and for the implementation of a faculty exit survey. While we have not yet signed an additional COACHE Faculty Satisfaction Survey contract, we intend to follow up with additional COACHE survey administrations so we can track our progress.