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Washington State University
Washington State University Responses to Constituent Concerns

Fall 2021 mask mandates

Given changing guidance from the CDC for vaccinated people, and the likely spike in cases as many people move into town in August and begin mixing on and off campus, why not require all students, faculty, and staff to mask?

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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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