Shelton, Hay Clarify Transformation Process

Shelton, Hay Clarify Transformation Process

By La Monica Everett-Haynes and Pila MartinezUniversity Communications
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UA President Robert N. Shelton answered question after question during the town hall held on the Transformation Plan.
UA President Robert N. Shelton answered question after question during the town hall held on the Transformation Plan.

The Transformation Plan proposals due next week will be posted on the provost's Web site as soon as possible and every one will be considered regardless of where it came from, Provost Meredith Hay told members of The University of Arizona Faculty Senate on Monday.

"We want a free dialogue and discussion," she said. All of the proposals will be considered "with a blind eye to who submitted them."

The proposals, or "white papers," are "being developed by deans and also by department heads and faculty considering opportunities for consolidation," according to guidelines posted on the Transformation Plan Web site. "General ideas about the structure of the new unit (graduate and undergraduate programs, faculties, etc.) should be outlined along with projected savings. All proposals should specify how the mergers and realignments will strengthen the research, teaching, and service of the units while increasing efficiency."

The goal of the transformation, she said, is to "create a world-class university" and identify the areas we should invest in as well as the areas "we can really no longer afford to do."

The proposals, due Monday, will be given to a subcommittee of the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, known as SPBAC. That group will evaluate them according to the criteria outlined by the provost, said Miranda Joseph, SPBAC chair and associate professor of women's studies. It's likely that the subcommittee will first consider proposals that deal with the college level and then move on to proposals at the department level, she said.

Once the subcommittee has determined which proposals should be given further consideration, those will be passed along to the full committee and then to the president and provost.

SPBAC will do its best to complete its review of the proposals within two weeks, but might need to ask Hay for more time, Joseph said. According to the Transformation Plan timeline, SPBAC will make its recommendations on which proposals warrant further consideration by Nov. 3. The proposals then will be further developed and are due to the provost's office by Dec. 15. After that, they go before the Faculty Senate for discussion.

Joseph said SPBAC will not rush the process because doing so would not lead to "thoughtful, good decisions."

"We're not going to force this too quickly," Hay said, noting that it's likely that the course schedule for fall 2009 will not change.

Hay also emphasized that there is no limit on proposals - a college or department can submit more than one. Or, President Robert N. Shelton added, a group working independently could submit a proposal that does not have the endorsement of a department head or dean.

No one has been excused from the process, Shelton said, noting that all of the units reporting to him also have been asked to look at ways to improve operations.

Marlys Witte, a professor of surgery and a member of the Faculty Senate, said it would be helpful if members of the University community had a means to register their comments about the proposals. Even if the provost's office does not respond to or consider the comments, "at least they can get it off their chests."

Hay said that she would look into creating a blog or some other kind of online "suggestion box."

Last week, Hay and Shelton met with faculty and staff to answer questions about the process and implications of the Transformation Plan.

During both events – a faculty forum and a town hall held by the Staff Advisory Council – the pair worked to clear up misconceptions and misinformation about the plan.

Among the greatest concerns expressed by faculty, appointed personnel and staff during the meetings was the need for clear communication about how the reorganization plan will be carried out.

Some questioned talk about creating business centers and merging programs while some questioned the issues of financing and fundraising. Other topics that came out of the meeting related to Web-based courses, student retention and the tenure process.

Shelton and Hay also talked about how staff from affected departments might be considered for new positions at the University and that certain employment decisions depend on human resources policy.

"We are not simply going to cut out people and keep the same amount of workload," Shelton said. "We need to think about what we no longer need to do."

Shelton and Hay repeatedly said "everything is on the table," adding that while there had been rumors of significant cuts in academic programs, Hay said nothing has been decided.

"There is no preconceived notion of anything," Hay said, adding that the transformation is an attempt to make the UA a better institution while "changing the way we do business" and while engaging the whole of the campus in the process.

A number of UA employees also were concerned about the short timeline, a perceived lack of discussion about diversity issues and the potential for low morale.

Both Shelton and Hay – who have said the UA can expect another budget cut next year – said they were sympathetic and that they understood the frustration but emphasized the need for a broad-based and swift evaluation of the University's administrative and scholarly functions.

"If we were doing this over three or four years then it would have no impact," Shelton told the approximately 200 people who attended the faculty forum.

"I know there is a lot of anxiety, and I wish there wasn't," he said. "But I want to reassure everybody that we are committed to doing this with you."

Shelton also said that he and other administrators remain devoted to improving diversity on campus.

"I don't want there to be any doubt," he said. "We will not sacrifice our commitment to diversity one iota."

Hay said that while all issues will not be resolved in the coming year – such as how to deliver the curriculum – going through the process will put the University in a proactive instead of a reactive mode.

"I am not anticipating that this (plan) will be resolved by June," she said. "But I need that blueprint."

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