Summary of Remarks by Steve Bollens, WSU Legislative Representative
State Legislative Update: Higher Education
Current year is an even-numbered year, so session is shortened to 60 days to consider adjustments to biennial budget and “minor” policy legislation.
Council of Faculty (COF) consists of one representative from each of the State of Washington’s public four-year and research institutions. Steve Bollens is Co-Chair.
State financial projections:
Good news concerning revenue revisions for 2019-2021 and 2021-2023 bienniums: Projected increases in Near General Fund collections of $606M for 2019-2021 and $536M for 2021-2023. The state’s total reserves are projected at $4.1B at the current biennium. “In other words, the state is doing very well financially; indeed, better than anticipated.”
Bad news concerning COVID-19: Washington state Senate passed House Bill 2965 to designate $100M in 2020 budget for COVID-19 response.
“Mixed news overall, financially. The crystal ball is fairly opaque as to how this will shake out in the months and years ahead.”
Update on the current session for WSU legislative priorities:
“The administration established their priorities, the Faculty Senate through the Steering Committee and Executive Committee set their priorities and they were perfectly aligned.”
Three priorities for this session:
- Capital Budget Request – $4M for Design of Vancouver Life Sciences Building.
- Operating Budget Request – ~$1M for Soil Health Initiative
- HB-1079 – “Creating a faculty regent at the research universities”
Funds for the budget requests were in the Senate budget but not in House budget, so hopeful that the reconciliation process will be in WSU’s favor. We should know the outcome next week.
2020 COF Legislative Priorities:
Three priorities for this session are supported by all six COF members:
- HB-1079 – “Creating a faculty regent at the research universities”
- HB-1363 and SB-5506 – Increasing state employee access to peer-reviewed journals
- Smaller “feel good” bills:
- HB-2542 – Tuition waivers for children of eligible veterans
- SHB-2543 – Ensuring eligible veterans and their dependents qualify for in-state residency
- SB-6425 – Establishing the American Indian cultural study grant
Public testimony by Steve Bollens before Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, along with his UW counterpart. A.G. Rudd of WSU contributed written testimony.
Passed out of Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee unanimously, then passed on to the Senate Rules Committee; waiting for this committee to move it to the Senate floor.
COF is the voice of all faculty of the six four-year public institutions.
Timely and effective communication is crucial! Things happen very fast in Olympia! Steve Bollens is in e-mail correspondence with Faculty Senate Steering Committee on daily-weekly basis.
Faculty are welcome to visit/tour the Capitol, observe COF meetings, and attend public senate and house hearings.
TVW is available for those far away from Olympia.
Legislative bill tracking: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/
Feel free to email Steve Bollens at sbollens@wsu or call him at 360-608-6893.
“If you want to weigh in on particular legislation, that I encourage you to do one of three things:
First, as a private citizen, of course you are welcome and encouraged to contact your representatives and let your voice be heard.
But as a WSU representative, there are really two routes. One is to work through the Faculty Senate, the Senate leadership. They give me my marching orders and then I can take this forward in Olympia. Or alternatively, you can work through your unit administration—your chair, director, dean, etc.—and that goes up to President Schulz who then gives marching orders to Chris Mulick, the director of state relations and he goes forward.
But there are definitely ways for you to be involved and I strongly encourage that.”
Summary of Remarks by Greg Crouch
The election for Faculty Senate leadership posts is running: Candidates for these positions are
- Chair-Elect: Doug Call
- Executive Secretary: Matt Hudelson
Policy updates in Education Policy and Procedure Manual concerning Videoconference Policy, Student Location Policy, Assessment Policy Update, Course Descriptions – Links to specific topics are on the Agenda for the March 5, 2020 Faculty Senate meeting.
Corona Virus Update:
WSU’s main website with COV-19 information: https://wsu.edu/covid-19/
Additional links are available on the Faculty Senate homepage (Menu Item: COVID-19 Links) “for support on what the administration and Academic Outreach and Innovation is doing should we need to teach remotely.”
Specific questions from the floor and answers from Greg Crouch concerning COVID-19 are summarized:
Matt Carroll mentioned that the website “is extremely helpful what happens if we have to teach classes remotely.” He sought clarification into “what the administration is looking at in terms of what would trigger that decision.”
Greg Crouch commented, “Again, this is not my area but the guidance would occur based on some metric.”
Shameem Rakha asked whether discussions concerning holding classes via Zoom are being done with the knowledge that many students do not have computers or access to high-speed internet.
Greg Crouch replied, “All of those things are on the Provost’s Office website. Craig Parks in the Provost’s Office is the person on the emergency response team. . .he is trying to coordinate the academic concerns with those agencies. Because community responses in the regional areas are different, they’re all plugged in to that.”
John Barber raised concerns that e-mails concerning COVID-19 are not being answered in a timely manner and that responses were “repeats of the website happy talk.” He asked if the university would provide cleaning and disinfectant supplies for their classrooms or if faculty were expected to buy those supplies themselves.
Greg Crouch indicated that he would follow up on this issue. At the end of the meeting, Dave Turnbull reported that the Provost’s Office is “inundated with e-mails and it’s just their backlog trying to respond to all of the e-mails.”
Doreen Main raised the concern about increased social distancing and about Washington State Department of Health guidelines concerning “impacted areas.” The guidelines indicate that persons who had been in impacted areas should self-quarantine. Senator Main pointed out that in an e-mail, Pullman’s chief of police referred to Seattle as an impacted area whereas the university had not taken that stance. She also asked “why we are waiting for increased transmission before we do something? We’re going to have to close anyway and do online teaching.”
Greg Crouch replied that his understanding was that WSU is following CDC and Department of Health guidelines. He indicated that a team has been put together, including Bonnie De Vries, director of Cougar Health Services, who “meet constantly” and are monitoring the situation closely.
Whitman County Watch continued their coverage reporting that the investigation is now public. The WSU Insider reported on the scope of the investigation: “The independent review will examine three areas of concern, including possible issues of gender bias against former Provost Montoya, any improper influence or pressure surrounding the decision to terminate her appointment, and the role that the consulting firm Ideas for Action, LLC, played in that decision.”
Data has been provided to the investigator, interviews will be being conducted, and we have a pledge that the report will be transparent. The timeline for the investigation is still uncertain. The investigator is free within that scope to ask whatever questions of whoever is felt necessary.
Mike Kahn asked if the scope included the questions that Provost Montoya was asking about the branch campuses relationship summarized in Craig Parks’ report, specifically concerning Provost Montoya’s e-mail to Stacy Pearson that is already public. Senator Kahn reiterated that Provost Montoya raised substantive questions about how the university was operating.
Greg Crouch replied that he believed the scope of the investigation would encompass Senator Kahn’s concerns.
Feedback for Draft Strategic Plan:
A report summarizing e-mail feedback concerning the Draft Strategic Plan will be posted to the Faculty Senate website. Comments concerning that report are encouraged.
Parking (Constituent Concern):
Feedback from Parking Services has been posted as a response to the Constituent Concern raised about parking rate increases. There were about seven questions addressed individually in the response from Parking Services.
All of the Action Items were passed. For a complete list, see the agenda for March 5, 2020.
The following Discussion Item was moved to an Action Item and was passed:
- Recommendation from the Academic Affairs Committee to approve the Undergraduate Major Change Bulletin #10 (Exhibits X X1 X2 ) – K.Hildenbrand
For a complete list of discussion items (numbered 2 through 11), see the Agenda for March 5, 2020.
Senator Weller voiced concerns concerning Discussion Item 10 on the original list, requesting that the “teaching and scholarly tracks should be removed.” The chair requested that his motion to this effect be made in writing and submitted well in advance of the March 26 meeting. It was moved and seconded that Discussion Item 9 be kept as a Discussion Item for the March 26 meeting. This motion was defeated and Discussion Item 9 will be an Action Item for the March 26 meeting.
All Discussion Items were moved as Action Items for the March 26, 2020 meeting.
No new constituents’ concerns were raised.