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Faculty Senate Resolved Concerns

equity in provisions for graduate students

Our department’s graduate studies committee is discussing possibilities for graduate students who wish to study and teach on campuses other than Pullman–consistent with our vision of one university with multiple campuses. On other campuses, there is not the same availability of office space, the cost of living could be higher, and there is not the same graduate community. How does the university plan to address the unfunded mandate that all faculty members at all campuses be able to accommodate similar numbers of graduate students?

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Question WSU Bonds to Fund Baseball Facilities

WSU has recently announced a plan to construct new baseball facilities, with a budget of $10 million. According to an editorial in the Nov 14, 2018 Daily News, “The clubhouse would be funded using a mixture of donated cash on hand ($4 million), money pledged ($2.5 million) and money raised through the sale of bonds ($3.5 million)”. These bonds would be guaranteed through access to “general revenues of the university”, which also fund general WSU activities. The athletic department has recently pledged to reduce its considerable deficit and debt, largely through fund-raising. The proposed arrangement suggests that WSU is matching contributors’ funds at a time when there are no funds to match with, a move that will increase the athletics deficit. Why is the cash on hand not being used to decrease the current athletics deficit or debt? Why is WSU proposing to do this construction now rather than waiting until sufficient donated funds are in hand? Does the budget include an endowment for facilities maintenance, as has recently been specified for supplemental donations to facilities that will be used for academics or research? The editorial concludes “We don’t understand why right now is the time for Schulz and Athletic Director Pat Chun to stick their heads out on the line for a baseball clubhouse.” WSU faculty also have questions.

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Syllabi should not have too many “required” textbooks

In today’s meeting of the Graduate Studies Committee, we discussed the cost of required textbooks for a course.  The instructor and the department should be aware that textbook costs have skyrocketed in recent years and if too many textbooks are required, the cost of education can be impacted negatively.  For instance, we noted that some courses had four textbooks that were “Required and/ or Recommended” and other courses had multiple textbooks that were Required with additional readings.  Those who create a syllabus should check textbook prices and keep this in mind while assigning textbooks. Further, we suggest that Required textbooks should be clearly marked and separated from Recommended textbooks so that students can make the decision to buy only Required textbooks and possible use the library for Recommended textbooks.”

Vote tally: 1
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Disproportional growth in administrative positions

One of my constituents (CAHNRS) has raised a concern that was discussed in last year’s faculty senate and does not seem to be adequately resolved. The issue regards the apparent disproportional growth in WSU (and WSUV) administrative positions in relation to the investment in educational (faculty) positions, especially in the current austerity phase. Perhaps the new administrative positions were to fill vacant positions. But the data are not readily available from the WSU website. The one graph easily findable in the WSU Budget Office and the President’s Office is from 8/31/2017, and it conflates the numbers of Classified, AP, and Faculty employees into one figure. In the spirit of fiscal health and transparency the President and the Provost publicly embrace, it would be important for our WSU community to know the growth of each of these positions, separately, over these past several years. We grew from 4,537 Employee FTE in FY 2013 to 5,281 in 2017. How many of these new 744 positions were faculty? How many were administration? Has faculty FTE increased at the same rate of student FTE? How can we get these numbers and make them easily accessible to our WSU community?

Vote tally: 2
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Availability of secure lockdown browser for test taking

As a mechanism to support academic integrity, the CON searched for lockdown browsers. We give tests on multiple campuses simultaneously, and despite efforts to always have tests proctored, we have had incidences of students opening and accessing other websites during secure tests. We were planning on using Respondus, but when contacting Pullman last spring, learned that Respondus had been piloted but the decision was made to not use it. We would like to know about the process that was used to evaluate the resource, and what alternate resources are available to provide similar protections.

Vote tally: 2
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Access Center and Student Accommodations

Multiple constituents have expressed confusion and concerns about the accommodation process / procedures and the impact on the class as a whole. Would it be possible to have the Director of the Access Center come before the Senate and explain the process of accommodating students as well as the process for modifying student accommodations mid-semester, as well as ffield questions from the faculty?

Vote tally: 2
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Department of Athletic’s Request for Student Athlete Classroom Performance

A number of my constituents received from administration an email encouraging them complete the request from an email they will receive from the Department of Athletics to update them on the performance of any student athlete in their class at week 5 and at week 13. The goal is to ensure that student athletes are performing well in the class and to help them succeed. The email also encouraged my constituents to do better than last year’s 58% response rate. This request raised a number of concerns.
1. Student athletes sign consent forms to release this information. Is this really consent or would they not be able to play if they did not consent? If that is the case, is this really consent? Some constituents said they did not respond to this request due to not believing the athlete really consent out of free will.
a. Details of this consent process would be appreciated.
b. Also what are the benefits/drawback to forced consent and classroom monitoring?
2. Why is this early warning system not available to all students?
a. Is AWARE a viable solution to do this for all students?
3. How is the information used by athletics, is it positive intervention (tutoring, help with time monitoring) or is it negative (threats and ultimatums)?
a. One constituent had reason to believe that athletes who were performing too well in the classroom were receiving negative feedback to focus more on athletics and less on the classroom.
4. How meaningful is this information in the fall when student athletes who play in the fall have missed over half of the classes?

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WSU Research Infrastructure

There are concerns regarding the infrastructure needed to support clinical research specifically, and biomedical research more broadly, at WSU. These concerns fall under 3 broad categories: IT, budget mechanisms, and timeliness. Currently there is little in the way of IT infrastructure for researchers who routinely engage with sensitive, protected health information (PHI) and who must be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. A case in point was presented at the Faculty Senate meeting of 9/20/18 in which a constituent (G Duncan) is currently unable to receive data for a large registry of twins assembled from WA Department of Licensing records because no IT systems currently meet the specifications and standards required by the DOL. It should be noted that this is not an issue germane to a single researcher, rather this is an institutional issue because more and more researchers will be interacting with PHI and will need to satisfy increasingly stringent IT standards. The other, more general, issues pertain to the need for flexibility by research staff in Pullman in establishing specialized research budgets (e.g., service center accounts) and timeliness in establishing important grant management tasks such as subcontracts and agreements with outside consultants. Examples were provided in Faculty Senate in which tasks such as subcontracts were established in a matter of days at top public and private research universities compared to a matter of weeks at WSU. Timeliness is critical when interacting with federal funders such as NIH and NSF.

Vote tally: 4
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Transparency and clarity on PBL funding

There are concerns related to how PBL funding is established and whether this is an appropriate funding model for a complex, multi-campus system. As currently understood by constituents, PBL does not necessarily track tuition dollars generated by a given unit. This creates a situation where there is no real incentive to grow a program; as a simplistic example, a program with 30 students that increases enrollment to 50 students may or may not receive any increase in PBL funding. The issue is compounded when one considers the range of academic activities undertaken within various units including education, research and scholarship, service, community outreach, etc. In addition, there are concerns whether poorly performing units are subsidized by well performing units because once again, PBL funding doesn’t necessarily track revenue in and so a unit with large enrollments and research activity may be subsidizing units with lower enrollments and less research activity within the same college. Instead, there was discussion whether an alternative funding model, one that provides an incentive for program growth and innovation, would be better suited for WSU. A PBB or ABB model — performance based budgeting or activity based budgeting — would provide funding to units based on the revenue generated. Such a model would truly incentivize units to grow, expand, and innovate. Finally, there was discussion about programs that would be susceptible to such a funding model but are critical to the universitie’s core mission. Perhaps those units could be funded using other mechanisms, such as endowments, set asides, or a dedicated state funding line.

Vote tally: 3
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