UA President responds to poll

I was just forwarded this e-mail that was sent to the University of Arizona campus community from president

UA President Robert N. Shelton
UA President Robert N. Shelton

Robert N. Shelton. Just wanted to pass it on to readers. I also heard from Arizona Board of Regents President Ernest Calderon, who said he plans to speak with Shelton about the poll in a private meeting next week. Here’s Shelton’s e-mail:

I have said from the very beginning of the budget crisis that I wanted to
hear from as many people on campus as possible.  Nearly one-third of the
eligible faculty voted in the poll that was conducted last week.  While
there is variable representation across the colleges, and time will be
needed to analyze the many open-ended comments, there are nevertheless some very clear themes that stand out in the answers from those faculty who voted.

Many people on campus are frustrated.  Many feel that they have not been heard.  Others feel that the Provost and I should have provided more detail on how we planned to approach the differential cuts that most (though not all) believe are the best way to tackle the enormous challenge before us. For some, personality and personal communication style are the issues.

While we have attempted to be as transparent in this process as possible, it
is apparent that we need to do more, both in sharing details of the
monumental budget dilemma that we face, and in engaging our faculty in the
search for solutions.

To that end, we are planning two immediate steps.  First, I have asked our
faculty leadership to schedule a Presidential Forum with the faculty of each
college.  This will provide an opportunity for me to hear from and engage
the faculty in each area of our University.  I expect those to be frank
conversations with no topic off the table.  It will also afford the
opportunity to discuss how we, as a University community, can confront the
very real political obstacles that all of us in education face in this
State.

Second, Provost Hay has already begun planning to meet with smaller groups
of faculty leaders to discuss the continuing actions that are being taken to
deal with the cuts that we have already received from the state
(approximately $100 million). Even more critical will be talking through the
possible options for dealing with what will undoubtedly be more devastating
cuts in the coming years.  How we go about decentralizing unit budgets and
implementing a tuition funds flow model will be critical components of those
conversations.

Issues that we face in this state are not only about money, but about our
values. Partisan state politics intrude on both of those areas on a constant
basis. In virtually every corner of the country there has been a shift away
from state support for public universities.  This trend is probably most
evident in Arizona, where over the past two decades the portion of the state
budget dedicated to higher education has decreased by half.  By all accounts
that trend will continue, and how we as a University replace those revenues
is critical to the future viability of our institution.  I cannot emphasize
enough that the status quo will not hold.

Let me conclude by saying that I take the comments that were shared in the
poll to heart.  This has been a frustrating time for the administration as
well as the faculty.  We want to do everything possible to sustain the
greatness of the University of Arizona. Finding the right path in a time of
historic revenue reductions is not easy, and not everyone is going to agree
on whatever path is chosen.

As I have said many times, in the face of these state budget cuts we cannot
continue with business as usual nor do everything that we have done in the
past.  That is a sad reality, but it is the reality nonetheless.    How we
arrive at a model that will preserve the University as the type of
institution we all want it to be will take time and enormous effort.  I very
much welcome the best thinking of everyone on campus to help inform the
approach we take.  I will work hard in the months ahead to seek out those
ideas, and I pledge to greater engagement of faculty leadership at the stage
of taking quantitative decisions.

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8 thoughts on “UA President responds to poll

  1. “How we go about decentralizing unit budgets and implementing a tuition funds flow model will be critical components of those conversations.” If by “tuition funds flow model” Shelton means that tuition will follow students into whichever college they are taking courses from, I think that makes the firing of Garcia doubly outrageous, since that’s exactly what he wanted to do as a VP. He said so in his public interview for the position.

  2. Charges dropped…horray!

    Kids sent to student Deans disciplinary to be punished instead.

    Quieter…and shameful.

  3. 86% not supportive of Hay, and 80% not supportive of Shelton. And 69% not happy with their high-handed handling of the budget cuts. And 43% saying, wait a minute, stop saying “ALL the faculty support differential cuts” – 43% shy of 100 is pretty far from ALL.
    Where do those percentages come from?
    The UA Defender did a tally of the poll numbers that were made public today. Here’s how:
    On the questions assessing “confidence” or “no confidence” where 1 = “no support” and 5 = “full support,” the range 1-3 defines the range going from “no support to neutral.” Everything shy of 3.0, the midpoint, is negative – the “unhappy range.” Or “no confidence,” if you prefer.

    The UA Defender posted this tally of percentages in the “unhappy range”:

    #1 … the way the President has carried out the Transformation process: 77% unhappy
    #2 … the way the President has handled the recent budget cuts: 69% unhappy
    #3 …the way the Provost has carried out the Transformation Process: 86% unhappy
    #4 … the way the provost has handled the recent budget cuts: 82% unhappy
    #5 … the principle of differential cuts: 43% not happy with it
    #10 How much confidence do you have in the ability of central administration to lead us through the tough challenges we face now and in the forseeable future? 80% in the no-confidence range.

    The tally is at http://UADefender.blogspot.com

    1. UA Defender – and the Star – did good tallies based on answers in the 1 to 3 range. I was looking at the far ends – because that middle zone is a sea of gray. So I think the numbers 1 and 5 are the most important, as is the fact that so few of the voting faculty members responded. That is what I wonder about – is the campus just full of apathy?
      On the other hand, Shelton responded seriously and pretty immediately (did he have an idea of what the poll showed before the results were released?), demonstrating good will and what Regent Calderon refers to as the willingness to redeem oneself.
      Although, as SallyGradstudent has on her site, the statement is similar to other statements made in the past by UA administrators about listening to the campus, which is causing some people to take the memo with a grain of salt.
      I have to back off this blog for a bit while I get myself up to speed with my online teacher certification classes, so I don’t have much more to say, except: The UA is in a boatload of turmoil right now and with budgets all a twitter and students feeling persecuted for free speech, folks need to take a deep breath and learn to play nice – from the very top down, and figure out just what changes must be made to increase faculty morale and rebuild trust. And Shelton needs to seriously consider that reports of Hay’s dismissive and controlling attitude toward not only faculty but department heads, deans and even a VP or two are not figments of folks’ imagination.

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