At the second University Faculty Meeting of the 2015-2016 academic year, University of Idaho President Chuck Staben recalled the visions for the university he mentioned at the first meeting.
“We really talked about three things that were very important to, I felt, for the university to consider as we moved forward into our strategic plan,” Staben said.
First up on the list was “ideas that matter,” Staben said. He said the Vandal Ideas project, a competitive university-wide grant program that aims to encourage new research, is an example of that vision becoming a reality.
“It appears that project has been quite stimulating and I hope ultimately it would be extremely successful,” he said.
Staben also said he wants faculty to continue thinking about transformative education and how to transform the lives of UI students. He said transformative education applies to all of Idaho as well, and promoting the value of higher education to others throughout the state.
The final issue Staben discussed was “building our team.” UI Provost and Executive Vice President John Wiencek reviewed the university”s nine-year strategic plan at the meeting. Wiencek said he wanted to clarify what the strategic plan was to faculty.
“It”s not just a plan,” Wiencek said. “It”s also a process.”
A draft of the university”s strategic plan was sent out to faculty last week. Wiencek said faculty should send their feedback by the end of March so they can propose the final version of the strategic plan to the State Board of Education in April.
Faculty Senate Chair Randall Teal went over some of the policies Faculty Senate reviewed over the academic year during the meeting as well. On the list, he included increasing the price on memorial trees, shifting faculty evaluation forms to a more narrative style than numerical rating and an edit on the university”s leave policy.
“The leave policy update is merely removing the clause or the footnote on domestic partners now that we”re into the 21st century,” Teal said.
During the meeting, Staben also discussed the progress of increasing student enrollment and while he said the university has done a lot, he admitted that there is still plenty left to be done.
Staben said the direct admissions program, which is in its first years, has some rough patches. He said because of direct admissions, some high school students are under the impression that they don”t have to apply for the institutions they are qualified for, so the number of applications is lower for in-state students.
Staben encouraged faculty to utilize open source textbooks in classes, as UI recently signed a partnership with OpenStax. He said open source textbooks are a good way for students to save money while still succeeding academically.
Staben also addressed the tuition lock program Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter proposed in his State of the State Address. While Staben said he doesn”t know where it will end up and is interested to see, he said he isn”t optimistic about it.
In Otter”s State of the State Address, he mentioned for a 3 percent increase in employee compensation for higher education employees. Faculty Senate Vice Chair Liz Brandt said she appreciated this, but mentioned that a 3 percent increase still won”t catch up with inflation rates. She asked Staben what the university can do to increase employee pay at a faster rate.
Staben said there are three effective ways to increase pay for faculty and staff – increase student tuition, decrease scholarships or increase the number of enrolled UI students. He said he clearly prefers to increase the number of students as opposed to the two other options.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pound on this again,” Staben said.