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Washington State University
Faculty Senate Responses to Constituent Concerns

COVID mask mandate

(A note addressing prior concerns, not a concern)

Luckily, the governor came to everybody’s rescue:
https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-announces-educator-vaccination-requirement-and-statewide-indoor-mask-mandate

Alexander Dimitrov, CAS Math & Stats

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Using a tuition increase to provide relief to students is self-defeating

[Please post anonymously. Thank you!]
I applaud the intention to “support mental health, housing, and food insecurity services for students and will provide additional tuition waivers for students who are having difficulties paying for college” described in this article on the proposed tuition increase: https://news.wsu.edu/2021/04/29/wsu-regents-consider-tuition-increase-budget-items-may-7-meeting/ . However, I’m concerned that raising tuition to fund these efforts would do more harm than good and may defeat their purpose. Tuition costs contribute to food insecurity, housing insecurity, and stress, and a tuition increase across the board will have an impact on low- and middle-income students that the university may not be able to remedy through redistribution. If the goal is really to help students succeed and make WSU more affordable for poor and working-class students, I hope the faculty senate will urge the regents to find other funding for these services rather than raising tuition. In a year that has seen both massive spending on athletics and massive unemployment, I’m incredulous about framing an increased cost to students as an effort at relief for basic needs like food, housing, and mental health care.

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Student vaccination requirement

Is WSU considering requiring students to prove they have been vaccinated before allowing them back on campus? I believe Rutgers is requiring it and there are several other schools that are considering it. Is WSU? I’m not going to feel safe if students are going to misbehave and not follow rules, like wearing a mask etc.

Questions surrounding return to face-to-face Instruction in the fall

Anonymous constituent concern from 4/7/2021. These questions relate to all campuses.

  1. Who are the members of the WSU Testing, Attestation, and Contact Tracing (TACT) Committee, their departmental/campus affiliations, and how can members of the university community contact them with concerns or questions?
  2. We have learned that a 3-foot distancing requirement is to be implemented in classrooms in fall. Where is the data that supports this move? While the CDC has approved 3-foot distancing for K-12 students, their adult teachers are still supposed to remain 6 feet away from them, and from other adults (“CDC continues to recommend at least 6 feet of distance: Between adults in the school building and between adults and students.” – https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/p0319-new-evidence-classroom-physical-distance.html). Please provide the research or rationale for changing the distancing requirement to 3 feet.
  3. When will we find out whether vaccination will be required for the on-campus WSU community? We have learned that the expectation is that students will come to campus for classes coded as in-person, and that they may not attend remotely except with formal accommodation. If this is the case, and we are to use 3-foot distancing instead of the 6-foot CDC recommendation, it seems like requiring proof of vaccination is the bare minimum WSU can do to protect its staff, faculty, and students.

Concerns of Faculty Regarding Fall 2021 Instructional Modes and Transparency of Decision-making

Shared on behalf of constituent faculty members:

We understand that there is still much uncertainty about the Fall 2021 semester and that plans are in flux. However, the current planning strategy is causing frustration and concern among some faculty, especially because the communication to faculty from the Provost’s Office has been sparse and vague.

The following are concerns some faculty have expressed regarding the instructional modes and transparency of decision-making. As members of a research-intensive university, we are asking for evidence in support of student preferences, pedagogical reasons for the instructional modes, and other decisions being made for the Fall 2021 semester. Additionally, we request more transparency and faculty input in the decision-making process.

Note: For the sake of clarity, we use in-person, some online, hybrid, and web-based instructional models according to the Registrar’s definitions: https://registrar.schedule.wsu.edu/students/instruction-mode/

1. Student Preference:
Given WSU’s announcement of an in-person experience in the fall, it appears that students’ and stakeholders’ preferences for in-person classes are known. It is unclear, however, whether there is evidence to support the assumption that students prefer courses to be in-person, some online, hybrid, or web-based. Does WSU have data to support the preference for one format over the others?

2. Pedagogical Concerns:
The hybrid and some online models may not be pedagogically superior to fully remote instruction especially as faculty move to implement them for the first time.

First, there is an inherent difficulty in managing both in-person and remote course delivery simultaneously. Many of the approaches instructors use to facilitate interactive, student-centered learning, such as small-group discussions or clicker questions, may be particularly difficult to implement in a hybrid or some online format where remote students may be excluded. Additionally, as has been experienced with AMS courses, if the instructor’s attention is focused on in-person students, remote students may feel they are getting a second-rate learning experience.

Second, there is a concern about how students will manage a schedule that includes both in-person and synchronous remote classes. What do students do, on a given day, when they have a schedule that includes different modes of course delivery? Issues related to this include whether there is available physical space on campus for students who attend in-person classes to also attend remote classes, access to laptops or on-campus computers to attend remote classes, and—if the physical space or technology resources do not exist—the burden placed on students to find a hotspot off campus.

Finally, we are concerned about the effect of offering a mix of course delivery methods on equity gaps such as differential access to technology and the internet as well as balancing work and school responsibilities. Having more formats may lead to more work and confusion for the students we know are already struggling.

3. Attendance for In-person Classes:
Another concern is that, despite the loosening of room capacity restrictions expected as vaccine rates increase, the course enrollment (especially for large classes over 100) will exceed room capacity and attendance will need to be monitored. What responsibility will the instructor have in ensuring that in-person attendance does not exceed room capacities? Will instructors be asked to police mask requirements if masks are mandated for in-person classes? How will students be compelled to attend the in-person session(s)?

Anecdotally, colleagues at other institutions that have been using a “some online” model of instruction have experienced very low rates of in-person attendance and higher remote attendance. This worries some faculty who must risk exposure to leave home and be in the classroom regardless of in-person attendance.

4. Faculty Workload:
There is a substantial concern that there will be an increase in workload with a change to hybrid or some online instructional formats. Already, faculty have been asked to redesign their courses over the past year and without compensation. Ongoing redesign expectations disproportionately impact lecturers and career-track faculty with higher instructional loads. If faculty are asked to use the hybrid or some online models, they will need to invest time and effort in adapting the design of their courses and course components to accommodate both in-person and remote environments. This work will likely need to be done when faculty are off contract. Additionally, this increased workload will disproportionately impact instructors of large classes and departments that teach high enrollment classes. Finally, with WSU moving to Canvas next fall, there will be the additional workload associated with learning a new learning management system (LMS) and building a course in the new LMS.

5. Transparency of Decision-making and Faculty Input:
So far, there has been little communication to faculty, staff, and students about fall plans. It is important for the administration to keep us informed even if plans have not yet been finalized. Currently, the faculty are relying on second- or third-hand information about fall plans which adds inaccuracies and confusion to an already uncertain future. Additionally, with improved communication, students and staff, especially professional advisors who are actively advising students, can be better informed to make academic and personal decisions. Finally, it is unclear whether faculty are involved in the decision-making process.

Recommendations:
We request that faculty are provided with research indicating the effectiveness of instructional modality as well as student and stakeholder preferences. Faculty should be provided with more freedom over choosing the class format that facilitates their instructional goals and that does not lead to additional uncompensated work. Additionally, the Provost’s Office should communicate more with faculty and include faculty input into the decisions that have a direct effect on them.

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Concerns with Workday Personal Profile Section

In the “Personal Profile” section of Workday, there is a required gender field containing problematic language that both others trans-binary individuals and ignores all other gender non-conforming identities. Since reviewing the Personal Profile is an explicit direction in the “First 30 Days” manual, the likelihood of multiple individuals being affected is high. At this time, I would like faculty senate to encourage adjusting the existing options as well as implementing a more inclusive option for gender non-conforming individuals.

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Free parking for students seeking services is no longer available at Cougar Health Services.

Posted for Faculty Senate’s consideration on behalf of the Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Organization:

To Whom it May Concern,

This is an open letter in response to the recent decision by WSU Cougar Health Services administration to implement a parking fee for the parking lot in front of the Washington building.

The building this lot is attached to is Cougar Health Services which houses the student medical center, the psychological services center, and the Access Center—where students go to receive disability services.

For context, this parking lot has historically been free but required obtaining a parking token while receiving services in order to exit the lot. In advance of the 2020-2021 academic year a meter was installed in this lot which now requires anyone parking there to enter their plate number and pre-pay for parking time above 15 minutes. If someone does not pay or does not pay enough, they may receive a parking ticket.

Now more than ever, health disparities are being highlighted in this country. It is apparent that economic inequality maps strongly on to health outcome inequality. Requiring students to pay a parking fee creates one more barrier that may prevent them from receiving the medical and mental health care they need. Amid the current global pandemic, police brutality, and systemic health inequalities occurring right now, barriers to care are the last thing students need.

We were informed that this decision was made due to the burden of cost on CHS to pay for the upkeep of this parking lot. Specifically, CHS pays approximately $40,000 per year to manage this lot. We recognize that such a cost is significant, and we do not want CHS to eliminate any services or service providers to cover this cost. However, passing the cost to the students also seems problematic. We request that other options be considered by the University administration.

As a comparison, the University of Washington has a parking lot in front of their student health center with no-cost stalls reserved for individuals with permanent or temporary disabilities that impair movement including: bone fracture or sprain, respiratory illness, or other illnesses limiting movement. This free parking is also available for use by individuals with babies or children as well as those who are pregnant. Eligible patients provide the make/model of their car at the front desk to avoid a ticket. Providing free parking allows these students, especially those with disabilities or dependents, to access services and resources they need without adding financial stress. Ideally, free parking at CHS would be reinstated; however, at a minimum, an arrangement similar to the one at UW would be available for WSU students.

Enforcing further economic hardship on students while they try to access the very services they so need right now, is not in alignment with who we are as a WSU community. We hope a resolution that reinstates free parking when accessing CHS services that does not put undue burden on CHS can be found. As a graduate student organization, we have also communicated with GPSA about this issue.

Signed,
The Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Organization (CPGSO)

Response from Ellen Taylor, Senior Associate Vice President e-mail to John Shaheen, Director of Parking Services and Matt Hudelson, Executive Secretary of Faculty Senate:

Matt and John,

We have communicated with CPGSO as well as GPSA about the decision for CHS to stop subsidizing parking near the Washington building. Our budget situation simply does not allow us to absorb this cost any longer.

Let me know if there are further specific questions we can answer.

The following memo was provided by Joel Schwartzkopf, CHS Executive Director and John Shaheen, Parking Services Director:

CHS Parking Memo

This memo outlines steps to resolve the parking issue, including a short-term offering of free parking for the remainder of Spring Semester 2021, along with investigations into longer-term resolutions of this issue.

 

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Assigning designations to our 6 campuses

On September 30, 2020, President Schulz included in an email to the university community the suggestion of using descriptors for the different campuses. I ask that this be reconsidered. Offering some campuses with a specific descriptor (e.g., HEALTH SCIENCES CAMPUS: SPOKANE; FLAGSHIP CAMPUS: PULLMAN) but not others (e.g., REGIONAL CAMPUSES: EVERETT, TRI CITIES, AND VANCOUVER) implies a tiered status, which could impede applicants and opportunities for Everett/Tri Cities/Vancouver as well as neglect the true diversity and unique qualities each campus brings to the system.

I ask that the campus’ descriptor titles be discussed further to reflect the “one university/geographically dispersed” practice.

From the President’s September 30th email:

• We have been reticent to assign designations to our 6 campuses, but it is clear that in order to have an interconnected set of unique campuses each needs a distinct designation, mission, and vision while remaining aligned with the One WSU system operating principles identified in the system five year strategic plan. I am suggesting that we use the following designations moving forward:

o ONLINE CAMPUS: GLOBAL.
The WSU Global campus provides opportunities for students to complete a WSU degree from anywhere around the world, with no constraints on location.

o FLAGSHIP CAMPUS: PULLMAN.
The WSU Pullman campus is the largest and most established campus in the WSU system and has significant numbers of both residential undergraduate and graduate students. It is the focal point for a significant majority of research and scholarship.

o HEALTH SCIENCES CAMPUS: SPOKANE.
The WSU Spokane campus is statewide in scope and is the center for education and research in nursing, medicine, and pharmacy.

REGIONAL CAMPUSES: EVERETT, TRI CITIES, AND VANCOUVER.
The WSU Tri Cities and WSU Vancouver campuses offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of fields. The WSU Everett campus emphasizes opportunities for students in the north Puget Sound area to earn a WSU bachelor’s degree with a special emphasis on industry-aligned learning and applied research.

 

Action Taken toward a Resolution:

On December 10, the Chair of the Faculty Senate gave a report concerning this Constituent Concern, summarized here:

During our meeting with Provost Chilton, we expressed to her the concerns that many faculty believe that “regional” is a pejorative term.  She replied that she believes the term describes certain campuses’ strengths but also went on to say the term “regional” starts the conversation.  She is open to suggestions as to how campuses are distinct.  Also, faculty are free to contact the provost’s office and communicate with her how they might describe some of the campuses within the WSU system.  Finally, the provost said she would talk with the chancellors of the respective campuses as well concerning this issue.

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Spring Break

We understand the goal the WSU administration wants to accomplish by canceling spring break. And we understand they made this decision based on the concern of spreading COVID and bringing back more cases because we also share those concerns. But the logic is skewed, misguided, misinformed, and focusing on the wrong thing.

Instead, WSU should be implementing repercussions for the people who choose to party or not wear masks despite WSU’s COVID policy. Other universities have implemented punishments for people they discover not following their policies. For example, NMSU mandates a day-long zoom class with an essay for first-time offenders. As far as I know, WSU isn’t doing this; there aren’t consequences for people who don’t follow policy.

WSU shouldn’t be making significant decisions that affect the ability of students to perform without their input. And this is the biggest problem; students didn’t get the chance even to debate the topic. We are paying for an education; we should get a say in decisions like this.

I have Graduate students in our department from all different campuses contacting me because they believe this is an unfair decision based solely on the fact that irresponsible students could potentially make the wrong decisions. They feel like, and I think most of us can agree, they are being punished for the actions of the few students who have made bad decisions and WSU has failed to admonish immediately.

Our students need the mental break that comes with spring break, but that isn’t the only reason why spring break is essential.

Parents (both faculty and students) expect to spend that time with their children and not need childcare during that week.

Many students go back to their family doctor or dentist for annual check-ups during this time too.

Not to mention it is a time for students and faculty to catch up on work without having new things added to the workload the next day or have an exam immediately afterward. Spring break is prime grant writing time. Without time to write grants, research doesn’t get funded.

TAs and faculty often take this time to grade reports/essays during spring break, and classes are planned with this in mind. It would take at least twice as long to grade all of those reports/essays when school is in session.

Researchers use spring break to go out into the field to collect data.

And prelims are often scheduled right after spring break, so Ph.D. students use it as a time to study for those.

Response:  This COVID-19 emergency measure was put forward from the Provost’s Office, discussed during the September 24 and October 8 Faculty Senate meetings and then passed by the Faculty Senate on October 8.

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Cancellation of spring break

This is an extreme decision made with zero input from students. This is a huge inequitable practice that will cause more harm than good for students. By letting this decision pass, you are putting your students last.

Response:  This COVID-19 emergency measure was put forward from the Provost’s Office, discussed during the September 24 and October 8 Faculty Senate meetings and then passed by the Faculty Senate on October 8.

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Cancellation of Spring Break

Spring break needs to be re-instated, my club FormulaVanCougs Electric where we design and build electric racecars use that time to fundraise and meet with potential sponsors to lobby for funding which is vital for our club, we have already missed the time window to apply for senate funding because our campus’s Office of Student Involvement failed to notify any of our club members of when the application period started and when it closed. We just got John Lynch as our faculty advisor and now we are getting set back after setback. We don’t need more time for winter break we need time off for spring break. If you have a highway you do not put several gas stations at the beginning of the road and only put a few gas cans along the road, you need to have your gas stations equally spaced out along the road so you don’t overfill on gas and you don’t run out of gas either.

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Cluster Hire Turnaround

While it is commendable (and perhaps overdue) that the Provost’s office is willing to fund a cluster hire around racism and social inequality, it is, frankly, irresponsible and undermining to demand that full-blown, interdisciplinary proposals, endorsed by college/campus leadership, be completed within only seven days. Such a short timeframe, unreasonable even under normal circumstances, is necessarily disadvantageous to those individuals who are already working beyond capacity due to the pandemic (many of whom belong, ironically, to groups affected by existing structures of inequality), and to dangle such a funding opportunity in a time of overall austerity without providing the appropriate time to respond to it is shortsighted, self-defeating, and simply unfair to those individuals unable to drop everything else they are doing to pull together an appropriate response to such an exciting opportunity. Please allow units time to confer and organize around thoughtful proposals – at least 3 weeks.

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Impact of resuming Pac-12 football in Pullman this Nov

On September 24th, Pac-12 officials announced resumption of football games, including three scheduled for Martin Stadium (Nov. 14th, Nov. 27th, and Dec. 12th). Fans will not be allowed into the stadium, but WSU has a long history of enthusiastic “tail gating” as an alternative means of attending and supporting football. From a public health perspective, and in the interests of our community’s hopes of reopening K-12 public schools, is anything being done to discourage people from coming to Pullman for these games and participating in traditional tail-gating activities?

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Adjustment to Spring 2021 Academic Calendar

I’m concerned with WSU making such changes to the academic calendar in regards to spring break without considering the actual functional purpose within the academic structure for faculty, students and staff. That said, this is not enough time for faculty to do field work or make changes to research plans. I would rather see us possibly make spring break later in the semester or have the semester end a week later as well as consider other remedies before taking action on this agenda item. My primary point, as always, is if there has been enough discussion on the matter or consideration of the long-term ramifications of such action–which has potential draw backs. We already this last spring, over break, were expected to turn-around our F2F instruction to online format in less than a week which involved significant extra labor by faculty and staff. The bottom-line I’m not supportive of this move at all.

Response:  This COVID-19 emergency measure was put forward from the Provost’s Office, discussed during the September 24 and October 8 Faculty Senate meetings and then passed by the Faculty Senate on October 8.

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Proposed changes to S2021 academic calendar

Dear Senators,
I would like to voice my concerns on the proposed changes to the Spring 2021 academic calendar. I understand the reasoning behind the benefits for delayed start section, but I disagree that finals week can be counted as a week of instruction; 1) no class meetings other than the final exam time is scheduled during finals week so there is no class instruction that week; 2) many classes do not require a final exam so again no meetings that week. MWF classes historically lose 2 lecture days per semester and that will not change so now MWF classes will lose 5 lectures; essentially another week of instruction lost.
I agree with part of the proposed changes. Moving back the semester start by nearly two week, cancelling Spring break to eliminate potential corvid transition due to travel is appropriate. We are an institution of higher education and so we should be doing what is in the best interests of our students rather than undermining their education. Eliminating a full week of instruction is not in the student’s best interests.
I urge all Senators to amend the proposal and require 15 weeks of true instruction followed by a week for final exams.
The Spring 2021 semester would start as proposed on Wednesday January 20, 2021 and end 1 week later, so final examinations will begin on Monday May 7 and end on Friday May 14.

Thank you for your consideration.

Response:  This COVID-19 emergency measure was put forward from the Provost’s Office, discussed during the September 24 and October 8 Faculty Senate meetings and then passed by the Faculty Senate on October 8.

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Altered Spring Schedule

I am writing in support of the proposed change to the Spring semester schedule. Such a change seems wise from a COVID-19 perspective. Additionally, from a faculty perspective, it would give an additional 2 weeks to prep Spring classes for online delivery. While we had all summer to work on fall classes, the winter break is much shorter. So, personally, I would welcome those extra 2 weeks!

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WSU’s use of, and statements supporting, ProctorU and/or other proctoring technologies

On Friday, September 25th Provost Chilton sent out a statement about the University’s utilization of ProctorU to “monitor tests administrated remotely.” As a faculty member and librarian, this statement felt wholly insufficient to address real concerns held by students, parents, and other stakeholders. Not only did this statement insufficiently address issues of privacy and surveillance, but it directly ignored concerns surrounding the inequities that proctoring technologies uphold.

These concerns include, but are not limited to:
– Exacerbated mental distress during testing
– Utilization of racist, ableist, and transphobic technologies
– Inaccessibility based on technological needs and ability to have an adequate space free of noise, background movement, and distraction

Some of these concerns are inherent to the way that proctoring tech functions while others are a more intrinsic aspect to the coding and software that is employed during testing. President Chilton’s statement urged readers to review the ProctorU’s privacy policy. I have done so at length and find issue with how ProctorU values users (utilization of vague language that is institution/instructor focused instead of student focused) and in its extensive use of biometric technologies.

There is a lot more that can be said here, and I am prepared to discuss at further length if necessary. I am also able to provide relevant literature on the subject as needed.

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Adjustment to Spring 2021 Academic Calendar

The memo sent by the Provost proposes to start two weeks later, which means January 25th, 2021.
However, the memo mentions Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day off.
What’s the “official” beginning of Spring 2021 semester date that the Provost is using to base the proposed change on?
According to the Registrar, next semester starts on January 11th.
Could you please clarify?
Thanks!

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Black Lives Matter

I came to WSU in 1970, since then I’ve seen the social, cultural, academic, and athletic contribution from African-Americans, a minority that has fought for the rights of other minorities such as mine (I am Mexican). I believe that now it is time for WSU to come to the front in this matter by adding to the WSU logo painted on Pullman’s streets a “Black Lives Matter” sign, or a sing on Stadium Way. A letter from the President (as is the usual response) is not longer enough to give support to that important movement. I as a member of a minority, WSU faculty, and member of the WSU Naming Committee, would like to ask the Senate to go for this proposal. Thank you for your attention.

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