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Washington State University

Graduate Student Unionizing

As you have no doubt heard, our graduate students are now represented by the United Autoworkers Union. The graduate student/union bargaining team will soon be beginning negotiations with the WSU bargaining team to build an initial collective bargaining agreement. During the bargaining process, it is important that faculty not do or say anything that creates legal risk for the university and/or complicates the bargaining process. One area to watch out for is called “interference.” This means that we should not, intentionally or unintentionally, say anything (including in posts on social media) that might convey approval or disapproval of unions, unionization by our students, collective bargaining, etc. We also should not be asking graduate students about their opinions regarding the union or what they think about specific bargaining topics.If in doubt about what you can and can’t say, the safest course is to not say anything at all. For more information, please see HRS Employer Tips and Tools.

Photo of Faculty Senate Chair Christine Horne

Christine Horne
Faculty Senate Chair

 

 

Addressing Culture in the WSU Police Department (Pullman Campus)

I contacted Chief Gary Jenkins to learn more about the precipitating events and response. As you are all probably aware, a few years ago allegations of sexual misconduct were made against a sergeant in the WSU police force. The three command staff at the time conducted an internal investigation. Subsequently, WSU investigated the command staff regarding their handling of the incident and determined that they did not follow protocol and did not implement appropriate discipline. Those three command staff resigned over the summer. WSU asked then Sergeant Dawn Daniels to step in as acting chief and subsequently asked Gary Jenkins, former Pullman police chief, to take the position. Jenkins is now chief; Daniels is assistant chief.

Title IX proceedings against the sergeant regarding the initial sexual misconduct allegations are in process. For the command staff, the repercussions may include more than resignation. When an officer leaves a police force documentation, which includes reasons for termination, is sent to the Criminal Justice Training Commission. The Commission can decide to decertify the officer. Documentation for the three WSU command staff who retired has been submitted

When Jenkins joined the WSU PD, he began by interviewing every staff member. He found that every individual had been unhappy with the way the sexual misconduct case had been handled, and that staff had repeatedly expressed their concerns to command. When their concerns were not addressed, they took the unusual step of jumping the chain of command to report what they viewed as inappropriate handling of the sexual misconduct allegations. Police department staff are seeking to improve the department so that it is a place they can be proud to be a part of.

Efforts include:

  1. Create a culture that encourages staff to bypass the chain of command if they feel their concerns are not being heard such that staff can report (e.g., to Finance and Administration, HRS, Compliance and Civil Rights) without fear of repercussion. Staff stepped forward in this case; the department wants to support that kind of reporting.
  2. Seek accreditation for the WSU PD by the WA Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
  3. Improve communication within the department. This includes communication in both directions — command staff keeping staff up-to-date and informed, and command receiving and paying attention to suggestions and input from staff.
  4. Improve communication and build relations with the WSU community. For example, the department is working to improve their social media presence in order to communicate more effectively. They are also meeting with various WSU groups, including, most recently, the Graduate and Professional Student Association.

Photo of Faculty Senate Chair Christine HorneChristine Horne
Faculty Senate Chair

Faculty Appointment Salary Distribution

Dear Colleagues – many faculty at WSU have 9-mo appointments whereby salary is distributed for the 9-month academic year, but not during the summer months. WSU has never been in a position to spread checks from <12-month appoints across 12 months. There are some complicated accounting reasons for this and while it is technically feasible, there is significant institutional overhead associated with such a service.

If you prefer to have your paycheck divided over 12 months, you have the ability to manage this through Workday. You do this by having a portion of your monthly paycheck distributed to a second bank account that you designate as your summer budget. By doing so, you maintain complete control over your money including earning interest and having these funds immediately available in case of an emergency. Plus, WSU does not have to assume more overhead expenses to manage faculty money that has already been earned and taxed. Importantly, dividing your paycheck in this manner has no implications for your taxes. Dividing your paycheck in this manner also has no implications for your appointment. That is, your 9-month appointment and commitment to the university does not change just because you distributed the funds to different personal accounts.

To setup this option, please see the Jira Service Desk

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Call

Sincerely,

Douglas Call
Faculty Senate Chair

9-over-12 month pay options

During the March 24th Faculty Senate meeting, a constituent concern was raised about why WSU does not provide an option for distributing a 9-mo salary over 12 months? Apparently, this has never been an option at WSU, but faculty were expecting this to be available after the implementation of Workday. To learn more, I reached out to Matt Skinner, Senior Associate Vice President in Finance and Administration.

Matt shared that some faculty have expressed interest in this service in the past. In response, they held early exploratory discussions with consultants and other universities who identified a few ways to meet this need through a combination of Workday and manual processes. Each option likely comes with varying degrees of flexibility, complexity, impact on different employment groups, benefits, and administrative workload for departments, human resources and payroll. Consequently, each option needs to be explored and fully understood before a recommended approach can be vetted with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and other university leadership partners. Understanding the number of employees interested in this service would also be useful. Given other priorities, including tax withholding, the next mass pay increase, tuition payment plans for students, and improvements in grant reporting, it is likely that a 9-over-12 option will not be available in the near-term.

Matt and I discussed another idea that may be of interest to faculty who would prefer a 9-over-12 pay option.

Workday allows us to setup paycheck deposits into multiple accounts. In practice, this allows each person to personally setup a system whereby 25% of take-home pay is distributed into an account that they would use for the summer. One advantage with this option is that the faculty member can accrue interest on these funds, which is not possible if WSU is holding the money. In addition, 9-month faculty would also be able to tap reserves in an emergency that would not be possible if WSU was holding the money. This simplified approach would require significantly less administrative effort and it is ready and available today.

Matt has offered to develop a guidance document to help faculty setup this multi-account option. Senate Exec will work to ensure that this Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Callinformation is disseminated to faculty as soon as it is available.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call,
Faculty Senate Chair
w/ attribution to Matt Skinner and his team

Parking Changes on the Pullman Campus

Dear Colleagues,

Last Wednesday, Transportation Services alerted the Pullman campus about a proposed fee structure that will result in a 30% increase in parking permit fees between 2022 and 2025. Some parking lots will be reclassified, including instances where permit parking will be converted to hourly parking. I reached out to Christopher Boyan, Director of Transportation Services, to learn more about this proposal. This included a series of questions and responses shown here (edited for brevity).

  1. Why was the comment period so short (4 business days)? The primary motivation was to ensure that feedback is available for the next task force meeting scheduled this week (task force information can be found here). Chris indicated that this comment period is shorter than they had planned, but also noted that in similar cases in the past, most comments were received within 2-3 days of when proposals are advertised.
  2. Where can interested parties find more information about how these funds will be spent? Chris provided the linked summary table to show how they arrived at the $14 MD figure.
  3. Faculty and students are concerned about continued erosion of parking opportunities on campus. Are all of the hourly conversions justified? Based on the feedback received to date, Chris indicated that there is a reasonable chance the proposed changes will be modified to limit the loss of permit parking spaces. The parking task force will address this point and adjust the proposal accordingly.

Please keep in mind that parking is governed by Washington State Administrative Code, and Transportation Services at WSU must be “self-supporting.” That is, WSU Transportation Services is tasked with financing, managing, and maintaining parking facilities while also facilitating and promoting transportation options on the Pullman campus. This is a self-supported unit and does not receive federal, state, grant, or tuition funding. Revenue for capital projects, maintenance, and operations comes solely from parking fees and fines.

Several faculty have expressed dismay about the rising cost of permits on top of other inflationary pressures and eroding purchasing power relative salaries. To put some perspective on this point, if a faculty member has a green permit, in 2025 they will have to pay $714.80 – 552.00 = $162.80 more than required in 2022. As a point of reference, if the faculty member is making a salary of $100,000 (the average for WSU is closer to $125,000) and if we receive a 3% mass salary increase in 2022 (still under consideration), the proportion of the pay increase going towards the green parking permit will be $162.80/(100,000*0.03) = 5.4% of the salary increase….that is, not a huge impact for this salary range.

Nevertheless, there are important issues of equity that have been raised and these have been succinctly summarized by the Association of Faculty Women. That is, increasing permit fees will have a disproportionate impact on individuals earning lower salaries and, notably, less expensive permit options are relatively hard to find on the west side of campus.

*Given these considerations, and assuming that it was possible to have an income-based fee schedule (i.e., a progressive user tax rather than a regressive user tax), would faculty be willing to pursue this idea?

Other transportation options may be part of the Pullman strategic planning process that is currently collecting stakeholder input.

There have been suggestions that visitors using parking lots during football events should make up the difference, but I suspect that would be a hard ask. Consider that the deferred maintenance amounts to $14 million while there are probably 6-12 times a year when parking lots are reserved for off campus visitors.

Several faculty have also voiced suspicions that funding from parking fees will be siphoned off to somehow support athletic services. This is emphatically not the case as confirmed with my discussion with President Schulz (and he will share some thoughts on this point during his April 7th Faculty Senate address). I respectfully request that we dispense with this supposition.

Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug CallThank you for considering this information.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call
Faculty Senate Chair

Follow Up on WSU Masking Policy

Dear Colleagues:

As a follow up to March 1st announcement of a new mask policy (link: https://from.wsu.edu/covid-19/2022/03-01-update/email.html), we asked the WSU administration for additional guidance about masking as requested during the constituent concerns section of the Faculty Senate meeting on March 4th. President Schulz and Provost Chilton have kindly provided a memo with additional information (PDF). Thank you for considering thisPhoto of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Call feedback.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call
Faculty Senate Chair

Follow up on the Staff Recruitment & Retention Survey

Dear colleagues:

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee conducted an informal, qualitative survey (Dec-Jan) to collect information about challenges that faculty face with staff recruitment and retention. I distilled the information from this survey to produce the following 2021 – 2022 Internal Report (PDF). We delivered the report to the President and Provost in January and on February 22, 2022, we met with HRS representatives in conjunction with our meeting with the President and Provost.

A key take-home message from this meeting is that if you are encountering problems with recruitment and retention efforts, contact Lisa Gehring or Theresa Elliot-Cheslek by email or by phone at 509-335-4521 so they can address your specific concerns. Furthermore, HRS is launching a new “Administrative Professional Enhanced Compensation Plan” in Workday that will increase transparency of these processes and better account for details including salary range for different position classifications and geographic location.

HRS provided the following response to the six main points derived from the Faculty Senate survey (PDF). Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug CallThank you for considering this information.

Sincerely,
Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

More on Administrative Expenses

Dear Colleagues:

This past fall your Executive Committee engaged President Schulz and Provost Chilton in discussions about WSU’s administrative overhead. This has been a concern amongst the faculty in general, particularly with the attention to restructuring leadership with a One WSU focus. Provost Chilton and Fran Hermanson (Director of Institutional Research) addressed our concern by accessing data from the Institute of Education Sciences’  National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which “…is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.” NCES operates the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Statistical tables from IPEDS can be access here. Data from this site comes directly from the institutions as part of Department of Education reporting requirements.

Please see the slides linked here for a summary of Provost Chilton’s findings. The results are normalized per 1,000 students. Roughly half of the institutions included in this summary report data from single campuses and the other half reports data from a system of campuses (WSU does the latter). Total population sizes are not shown, but you can query these details at the website if desired. Slide #7 probably speaks most directly to concerns about administrative positions at WSU. Despite the challenges of comparing apples and oranges, WSU is not the lowest, but we are far from the highest in terms of administrative size.

I invite you to explore these slides and look at the raw data from IPEDS in case you have other ideas for how to formulate questions about administrative overhead. From my perspective and based only on the attached slides, WSU is a little above average for our Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Callpeers, but far from an outlier. Thank you for considering these observations.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

How does WSU Spend ‘Grant Lands’ Revenue?

Dear Colleagues:

On January 27th we received a constituent concern about how the money raised from the 1890 land grant to WSU are expended. These lands were originally expropriated from tribal nations. This concern has been raised previously including in senate and during meetings between the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the President and Provost. Provost Chilton and Vice President Stacy Pearson offered the following specific responses to the postedPhoto of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Call concern from January.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call,

Faculty Senate Chair

 

Note: Questions from the post are in bold and responses are italicized.

In reference to how WSU expends funds form the Agricultural College Permanent Account and the WSU Bond Retirement Account:

  1. Are there certain expenses that, by law, can or cannot be covered with these two accounts, or does the administration have full discretion over how the land grant revenue is spent? The law explicitly states how the endowment lands are managed for the benefit of the University. Management of these lands, legal responsibilities, and the process to appropriate proceeds for the WSU capital budget and bond retirement fund are defined. Please see the link for details.
  2. What percentage of this multi-million dollar annual revenue stream goes to directly support Native American students, staff, and faculty each year? These funds are only appropriated to WSU for capital; they are not under the University’s discretion to cover operating expenses. My understanding is that this would require a statutory and perhaps a constitutional change. We have asked the Attorney General’s office to review the legal aspects of this, are assembling a longer history of the funds received, and an allocation from these endowments.

Finally, I’d like to add that Zoe Higheagle Strong, Executive Director of Tribal Relations/Special Assistant to the Provost and Executive Vice President; is assembling a small working group to develop a proposal for how to address the larger context of the “Land Grab” research. This research and an expanding partnership with Native peoples and students have been the topic of previous discussions among CAS leadership, under the direction of Dean Todd Butler. Elizabeth Chilton, Provost and Executive Vice President; WSU Pullman Chancellor

Reasonable Accommodations

Last fall we had several discussions about how presumptively vulnerable faculty and staff might be reluctant to seek reasonable accommodations for fear that causing extra work or impacting the unit’s budget might lead to subtle or explicit resentment or retaliation in terms of annual reviews and opportunities for career advancement. In short, this issue could be affecting diversity, equity, and inclusion at WSU.

The Faculty Senate met with the President and Provost last fall, and we raised this concern. Both were engaged and interested in knowing more about this issue and were willing to have the matter looked in to further.

  • On February 4th, 2022, we met with Vice President & Chief Human Resource Officer Theresa Elliot-Cheslek HRS Disability Services Director Kendra Wilkins-Fontenot to discuss how reasonable accommodation is managed at WSU and what possible solutions to address real or perceived concerns and barriers to accessing this assistance.

Director Wilkins-Fontenot, indicated HRS can work with employees and departments to address accommodatioconcerns or perceptions of risk associated with seeking reasonable accommodation. Her office is Photo of HRS Labor Relations Director, Dr. Wilkins Fontenotmanaging many requests at any given time and each request requires an interactive process between the employee, unit, and health care provider (if involved). HRS serves as a facilitator and evaluator for this process. When specific units have questions regarding costs, they work with departments to identify other potential resources.

We will work together to increase education about employee rights with the goal of minimizing any perceptions about negative consequences from seeking an accommodation, and to provide department leadership with information about accommodation rights and responsibilities. As part of this solution, I have contacted the Provost’s Office to request that a representative from the HRS Disability Service be granted time to present information about the reasonable accommodation request and review process during new employee orientation sessions and at New Chair orientation.

If an accommodation is needed, WSU employees should contact the Disability Services Office at HRS to facilitate this process hrs.disabilityservices@wsu.edu. Information on Reasonable Accommodation may be found on the HRS Reasonable Accommodation website. If an employee feels that such action has resulted in a negative consequence such as discrimination, they should contact the Office of Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug CallCompliance and Civil Rights.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call, Chair, Faculty Senate

What is Happening with SPS?

Dear Colleagues,

Sponsored Programs Services (SPS) is an important unit at WSU that is tasked with, among other things, setting up accounts when faculty are awarded grants and contracts, and invoicing expenditures. There have been numerous complaints about SPS service and the backlog of accounts needing attention (exceeding 800 at the beginning of the academic year).

Recent efforts have significantly improved this situation and I want to briefly highlight the successes that benefit all of us. To address the backlog of accounts, WSU partnered with Huron, which is a consulting firm that is also engaged with our efforts to develop a new systems-level budget model. With Huron’s help, and University investment in some new SPS positions, a recent tally of backlog accounts shows that we are down to about 100 while managing an average of 300 new account requests per month.

The next big task is to get the backlog of invoicing cleared, which will be done with the goal of not losing ground on account setup. As you might guess, staff recruitment and retention are ongoing issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. SPS is actively working on a plan to address this issue, as WSU will eventually need to function fully without Huron’s assistance.

I’ve also heard reports that the overall degree of customer satisfaction has turned well into positive territory for SPS. These are all good things that we need to continue tracking, but also acknowledge the hard work involved and celebrate the gains. Thanks for considering Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Callthese comments.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

Concerns about administrative bloat

Dear Colleagues:

Speaking for your Faculty Senate Officers, I can confirm that we receive a lot of input about constituent concerns whether it be through our concerns website, Senate Steering and Senate meetings, or through discussions and emails. The path to addressing such concerns is, frankly, much smoother when we have data-informed discussions. Here is one example to consider.

We frequently hear concerns expressed about administrative bloat at WSU. Most recently, concerns have been raised about “yet another” administrative position in the form of a VCAA for the Pullman campus. Early last semester, I worked with chair-elect Christine Horne to gather information about administrative appointments and salaries so we could address this very issue…but among other challenges, we struggled with how to define administrative appointments; many are partial appointments and at what level should we be concerned?

Despite these challenges, during our November meeting between the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the President and Provost, we raised this issue as a concern. Both acknowledged that there is a genuine perception of bloat, but they challenged us to define a standard of comparison. For example, if you compared the WSU administration in 2022 with the administration in 2000, they would look very different, but our institution/system has grown considerably since then. How do you define what is excess vs. what is appropriate?

It turns out that this is not an easy question. As far as we know, there is no standardized database that collects public information about administrative appointments that can be used for meaningful comparisons (although there might be some information available through Academic Analytics and this will be investigated). In some cases, we have peer institutions that don’t even post their administrative titles with executive webpages…suggesting that they might be trying to avoid attracting attention to this information.

On the plus side, both the President and Provost indicated their willingness to discuss this concern in more depth provided that we have data to inform the discussion (and the Provost’s Office has been looking into how such data might be retrieved).

Until we have such data, however, I can share two observations.

  • In my experience working with the President’s Office and the Provost’s Office, I can assure you that our administrative team is working very hard. And to be fair, in some cases our administrators may be asked to do more than is reasonable simply because there is so much that needs to get done (sound familiar?). I’m not seeing a lot of bloat from this perspective.
  • If you know of any data on this issue that you can share, please notify me or anyone else in senate leadership.

Without such data, complaints about administrative bloat are not much different from just hand waiving. Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Call

Thanks for considering this perspective.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

Tracking materials through Faculty Senate

Dear Colleagues:

During the constituent concern segment of the February 3rd Faculty Senate meeting, we discussed the perennial challenges of tracking paperwork through the committee review process. We agree that it is a challenge, but there are also a multitude of moving parts, a lack of standardized nomenclature, and different requirements for different reviews. Given the bandwidth of the Faculty Senate Office (Chair, 0.5 FTE; Chair-elect 0.25 FTE; Past Chair 0.25 FTE; Executive Secretary, 0.5 FTE; Principal Assistant 0.5 FTE), and the fact that all of our faculty members working on committees are volunteering their time and effort, there is only so much that we can do. Nevertheless, there are two very useful resources available to faculty.

  1. We maintain an agenda item tracking list and a degree tracking list on the Faculty Senate website: https://facsen.wsu.edu/faculty-senate-tracking-documents/
  2. The Registrar’s Office has recently assembled an extremely useful curriculum home page that includes a description of the materials that are needed for different curricular needs, and a description of the review processes that are involved: https://curriculumchange.registrar.wsu.edu

If all else fails and something needs to be verified, faculty are welcome to reach out to the senate chair or committee chairs to locate items that may have fallen through the cracks Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Call(see https://facsen.wsu.edu).

Sincerely,

Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

Activity insight…Yes, it’s that time!

Dear Colleagues:

If it hasn’t happened already, you will soon be asked to embark on the annual ritual of preparing your materials for your annual reviews, and this invariably includes working with Activity Insight to document your efforts. Many of us have traditionally entered the minimal amount of information to ease the pain of this process, and I confess that I have been as guilty as anyone for most of my time at WSU. Frankly, it is difficult to find time during work hours, and all of us have real lives that need nurturing during the evenings and weekends.

So, why am I writing about this? I want to urge you to find a bit more time to work with Activity Insight. It is a cumbersome process, but it is also the only way that you and I can document our efforts in a centralized manner so that our administration understands what we do during the year.

Why is this important? Besides the fact that documentation is needed for evaluation, this process allows us to collectively elevate the visibility of important activities that might not otherwise receive much recognition. For example, there is a section in Activity Insight called “WSU Institutional Priorities.” Here you will find text boxes where you can enter narratives about high-impact practices, about diversity, equity and inclusion, about community engagement, and about internationalization.

No one is obligated to fill out these boxes, but these provide opportunities to inform administrators about the broader narrative of our contributions to our academic, local, state, national and international communities. Doing so encourages greater recognition of these efforts while providing administrators with rich narratives that can be shared with the state legislature, stakeholders, students and their families, and taxpayers in general.

I urge you to find the extra time to address these questions…and I fully recognize that this is Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Callasking a lot. If it helps at all, please know that I am committed to doing the same.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

COVID-19 Transmission in Classrooms?

Dear Colleagues,

Faculty and students are continuing to express concern about the safety of face-to-face instruction while the omicron wave is hitting our communities. Recent statements by the President and Provost about finding no cases of in-class transmission are viewed with incredulity. Afterall, most instructors have knowledge of students missing class presumably due to COVID-19 infections. How could in-class transmission not be a huge problem?

Omicron is a highly infectious variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has been sweeping across the U.S. and displacing the delta variant. A recent report from the CDC evaluated COVID-19 patients from a single hospital in Los Angeles (about 1,000 patients) and found that a higher proportion of vaccinated people were hospitalized during the omicron period compared to the time dominated by the delta variant, which is likely due to the antigenic mismatch between vaccination and the omicron spike protein. Nevertheless, for December 2021 the rates of infection for vaccinated and boosted (148.6 people per 100,000), and vaccinated but not boosted (254.8 people per 100,000) people were much lower than unvaccinated people (725.6 per 100,000).

The recent recommendation by CDC to use higher quality masks (e.g., K95 and KN95) reflects the recognition that omicron is more infectious, probably because more virus is shed and thus a better mask is going to work better than a cloth mask. One way to appreciate this fact is the R-naught (R0) for these strains. R0 indicates the infectivity of a pathogen. The first strains of SARS-CoV-2 had an R0 value of about 3.3, meaning that if people mixed freely and without barriers or immunity, one infected person would infect an average of 3.3 additional people. The delta variant upped the game with an R0 of between 5 and 7. Omicron hit the jackpot with an R0 of between 7 and 14 (10 seems to be the growing consensus). Measles, which is the most transmissible virus in the human population, has an R0 of between 12 and 18. That is, by some measurements, omicron is as infectious as measles.

Consequently, why wouldn’t you expect transmission to be rampant in a college classroom? WSU has worked closely with Whitman County Public Health to conduct contact tracing during the omicron wave. If classroom transmission was occurring frequently, they should have found multiple cases where an individual’s infection could only be explained by sharing a classroom with an infected individual. In fact, for 95% of the cases investigated, contact tracers found that infections could be explained by shared housing and social interactions, not a classroom. The other 5% were ambiguous because there was no way to clearly separate classroom contacts from housing and social contacts.

Put another way, if 5% of cases were due to in-class transmission, you would have to trace at least 60 cases to have a 95% probability of finding just one in-class transmission case. For the month of January alone, contact tracing for WSU students exceeded this by ten-fold. That is, with nearly 600 investigated cases, there hasn’t been one that is unambiguously due to in-class transmission. Does this mean that in-class transmission is not happening at all? Probably not, but it certainly means that in-class transmission explains very little of the omicron cases on campus.

The WSU population has a vaccination rate of >95% and the number of cases in a 10-day infection period dropped from about 250 to about 100 in the past two weeks. Furthermore, on-demand student testing peaked between January 20th and January 26th with 150-170 tests per day. For the remainder of the month the number tests dropped to 90 or less and positivity dropped from a high of approximately 60% to 20-30%.

Contrast this with the county at large that has a vaccination rate of around 42%. Case counts have skyrocketed to roughly 3,000 per 100,000 individuals. Assuming a campus census of 20,000 people, an equivalent rate on campus would require 600 cases, or six times more than what is being reported. The take-home message is that vaccination, even if not a perfect match to omicron, really works, as does masking. Furthermore, faculty, staff and students should Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Callbe far more concerned about community transmission of omicron than classroom transmission.

Sincerely,

Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

Addressing Workplace Misconduct

Dear Colleagues:

We recently completed a Qualtrics survey for information about the challenges that faculty face with staff recruitment and retention. As part of this survey, we received several responses on unrelated topics. In a couple cases, we received comments suggesting that the respondent has encountered issues of sexual discrimination, retaliation, favoritism, and nepotism. I want to emphasize that WSU is publicly and fully committed to creating a workplace free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.  If any WSU employee encounters such situations, we strongly encourage you to report your concerns to WSU’s office of Civil Rights and Compliance (CRC) for follow up: https://ccr.wsu.edu/file-a-complaint/.

At the end of the day, we can’t control things like pay raises from the state legislature, but we can control issues that impact the quality of our day-to-day work environment. We can and must do better, but it also requires trust and a willingness to seek help. I’m personally familiar with the staff at CRC and I can vouch for their dedicated efforts to address the wrongs committed by a minority of individuals. Please reach out if you need help.

Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug CallSincerely,

Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

Mask Distribution at WSU & COVID Funding

Dear Colleagues:

At the January 20th Faculty Senate meeting, a question arose about the fate of the WSU strategic stockpile of KN95 masks. I checked with our Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communications, Hailey Rupp, and she indicated that the original stock of 4,800 masks have already been distributed. Please contact me if you want a copy of the distribution information, but suffice to say, the masks were passed to COVID coordinators in multiple colleges and administrative units including units in Spokane, Vancouver, Everett and the Tri-Cities.

Another question was raised about an accounting of COVID-19 relief funding that WSU has received. There have been three distributions of federal funds. Stacy Pearson, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, provided an earlier accounting of the first distribution. She is in the process of preparing a summary for how all three distributions were expended, and she expects this to be available by late February. The Faculty Senate Executive Committee will work with Stacy to determine how to best convey this information to the senate during this Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Callsemester.

 

Sincerely,

Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

COACHE and Academic Analytics

Dear Colleagues –

On January 20th, Senior Vice Provost Laura Hill presented information about the upcoming ‘Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education’ (COACHE) survey that will be launched by late February. This effort is in response to a funded request from the legislature, and it offers an important opportunity for faculty to provide feedback on their work environment with respect to teaching, research, and service. I strongly urge everyone to participate so that we have full representation. I have accepted an invitation from Laura to co-chair a committee that will review the findings from the survey and propose ways that the university can address shortcomings that are identified from the survey.

Laura also discussed Academic Analytics, which is a database system that allows academic leaders to understand our position in the larger academic ecosystem, while also providing tools to help identify under recognized but high performing faculty at our institution. The Faculty Senate Executive Committee worked with Laura to develop a best practices statement that provides guidance on the limits of use for this resource. We are also still working on getting access for faculty (at least periodic if that model works) so that individual faculty can review their record and provide corrections. Part of this includes working out a process for submitting corrections. Overall, unit leaders are likely to gain the most from this resource if only because it can be used to provide data-driven arguments for state and university investments and provide tools for promoting unit faculty.

A copy of the best practices statement and additional information from Laura’s presentation can be found on the Faculty Senate Agenda: January 20th, 2022 (linked here).

Photo of Faculty Senate Chair, Doug Call

Sincerely,

Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair

Teaching with Remote Options

Dear Colleagues – Bill Davis, Interim Vice Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Achievement, recently shared some correspondence that may be useful for anyone considering the idea of incorporating online course delivery. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Question 1: When considering a change that includes remote delivery, can the program or college make this determination independently, or does the university have a specific process?

Answer: As stipulated in the Faculty Manual, the decision on course modality lies in the domain of the instructor with the permission of the chair or the director of the academic program. Once that decision is made, guidance on course instructional modalities should be followed regarding how the course is placed on the time schedule through the WSU Registrar (see Question 3 below). New courses and major curricular changes are evaluated through the Faculty Senate.

Question 2: Is there specific documentation that should be maintained for accreditation purposes?

Answer: At least through the spring semester of 2022, it is important to ensure that all instructors who employ on-line modalities have received appropriate training from AOI. Future guidance from our accrediting body (NWCCU) will change in response to new requirements from the Department of Education. Discussions about these changes will be ongoing between Faculty Senate, the Provost’s Office and others during the spring semester.

Question 3: Should the amount of asynchronous time be held to a certain limit – e.g., limited to no more than 25% of a program that has been 100% synchronous?

Answer: In terms of teaching pedagogy, there are no hard and fast rules about a conversion like this, but a consultation between the faculty member and an instructional designer at AOI is highly recommended so that the best delivery model is developed. Once this decision is reached, there are two options in the EPPM that can be used for courses with largely (more than 75%) asynchronous online instruction. The first is online (ON) where there is 100% course instruction in an asynchronous online fashion. The second is Hybrid (HY) which is a mix of asynchronous online teaching (>75%) and the rest face to face (in person or videoconference; <25%).

Photo of 21-22 Faculty Senate Chair Doug CallDoug Call, Chair, Faculty Senate