In my April 7 letter, I laid out my intention to initiate discussions with faculty and staff about the future of Portland State. I now want to follow up with more specifics.
The Strategic Plan
While our discussions will take many forms and focus on a variety of issues, the cornerstone will be an update of PSU’s strategic plan involving faculty, students, staff and other university stakeholders. The backdrop is clear: Higher education is in a period of turbulence and great challenge. State support is woefully inadequate. Costs have shifted to students, who are either priced out of attending college or who graduate with historic levels of debt. Online courses and other technologies are changing how – and where – students learn. We do not have the option to retreat to the halcyon days of yore. There is only the path forward.
The strategic planning process will get underway in earnest this fall and will foster an inclusive and robust discussion about how best to navigate that path. What are our shared values? What are our goals? What is the first and best use of limited resources? How do we ensure that the focus remains always on the needs of our students – and how best to meet them?
On May 20, we will have an all-day session with approximately 90 faculty, students, staff and administrative leaders to begin the discussion of how to structure the strategic planning process. This meeting is the first of many discussions that will help shape how the process moves forward. We would expect the strategic planning process itself to begin in the fall and extend over most, if not all, of the upcoming academic year. The goal will be to have a new strategic plan in place by fall of 2015.
Other Key Discussions
The next 12 months will also see discussion of several specific topics that may ultimately be referenced in the strategic plan, but which merit their own separate consideration. Among those are:
• Academic Quality: In the contract, AAUP and the University agreed to jointly recommend to the Faculty Senate the establishment of a task force to review and make recommendations on academic quality. Topics that might be covered by such a task force include student success, advising, tutoring and class size, among others.
• Post-Tenure Review: NWCCU accreditation compliance mandates that PSU establish new post-tenure review guidelines by 2015. The Faculty Senate will lead this effort.
• Academic Program Prioritization: The Faculty Senate is establishing a process for reviewing PSU’s academic offerings. This effort is expected to extend through at least the upcoming academic year.
• Performance-Based Budgeting: We will organize several meetings to clarify the implementation of performance-based budgeting and to deal with any unforeseen or undesirable consequences.
• Fixed-Term Faculty: A task force will be taking up the question of how to reduce use of the so-called “holiday letter” that is used to inform fixed-term faculty that their positions may not be renewed for the following year. We also want to start a broader discussion on how fixed-term faculty can be provided with a clearer status and greater job security.
• Public Safety: In the fall, the university community will begin discussing recommendations by the Public Safety Task Force that PSU hire or contract for sworn officers to provide enhanced safety services to the campus.
• Dean Searches: The search for a new dean for the School of Business Administration also will begin this fall. Faculty and staff in CLAS have indicated a desire to discuss the best structure for the college before undertaking a similar search.
• Legislative Planning: We will work closely with faculty, staff and students to advocate for increased funding in the 2015 legislative session.
This is not an exhaustive list of ongoing subjects of discussion or of new ones that will arise. But it does highlight some of the key opportunities for open discussion about our values, our goals and our objectives. I look forward to these opportunities to work with all of you to come to a common understanding of how to move this great university forward.