Proposal for Academic Renewal Approved by Board of Trustees

(The following message from Provost Abela was distributed to the faculty on June 6, 2018 as part of his Faculty Newsletter.)

Dear Colleagues,

I thought that I would send you one more newsletter to let you know that yesterday the Board of Trustees approved the Proposal for Academic Renewal, with one small amendment. In the version that the Academic Senate submitted to the Board, the new Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art was to be established on August 20, 2018. Since we have already hired the new dean, the Board was comfortable establishing the new school effective immediately. I look forward to working with Dean Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw and our students, faculty, and staff in Music, Drama, and Art in the launch of this exciting new school.

You’ll recall that one objective of the Proposal was to reduce our operating budget by $3.5 million through a reduction of 35 faculty positions. I am very pleased to inform you that, as of yesterday morning, our hopes to achieve this through voluntary means alone have been realized. The details regarding a couple of departures are still being finalized, but I think I can say with confidence that this part of Academic Renewal is now complete, and has been accomplished without any program closures or faculty layoffs.

Now that the Proposal has secured the Board’s approval, we can focus our efforts on implementing its many forward-looking initiatives, including the creation of the new Center for Teaching Excellence, the establishment of our Endowment for the Humanities, and renovations of our labs, classrooms, and performance and studio spaces.

I would like to take this moment to reflect on the Academic Renewal process as it unfolded over the past nine months. I acknowledge that this past semester in particular hasn’t been an easy one. We have had some very difficult conversations. I’m sure that many of you can think of things that could have been done better. Still, I hope that we can all agree that the version of the Proposal approved by the Board was superior to the version I presented to the Academic Senate in March, and that our collaboration has paid off. The numerous improvements to the original draft are the result of the tremendous efforts of a great many people. They also testify to a broad and deep commitment to the good of the University. I am grateful to every person who worked to make the Proposal better.

Given the significance of the issues involved, the intensity of the dialog that ensued was not only predictable, it was entirely appropriate. I also expect that some of you still have concerns and questions, all of which will surely take time to work out. I look forward to engaging in continued dialog to this end, and would be happy to meet this summer with any faculty member or members, and respond to your emails to provost@cua.edu. In addition, we have added a to the Provost Office website that provides an opportunity for faculty to submit comments, questions, suggestions, and concerns anonymously, should you prefer that. I will review each item posted, and endeavor to offer a response either on the Provost Office website or through other appropriate means.

We should not let the challenges of this past semester hide the many and important successes we continue to have. After the undergraduate freshman shortfall two years ago, our enrollment bounced back in the following year, and this Fall’s class will represent a further increase. Our new graduate enrollments to date have increased significantly compared to last year, turning around a four-year decline. Our student retention is the highest it’s been since we first started tracking such statistics in the early 1990’s. This past year we approved the first major change to our Core Curriculum in decades, affirming our commitment to a broad-based liberal arts education. We are embarking on an exciting exploration—funded entirely by philanthropy—into how to bring a education to low-income Hispanic families in the Southwest through a hybrid online-local combination, to be piloted in Tucson, AZ. Our fundraising has quadrupled since 2010, with each of the past three years setting all-time fundraising records for us. Given the success of our Academic Renewal effort, instead of diverting every new dollar generated from all these achievements towards closing a budget gap—and spending all summer looking for additional cuts—we can now focus all our efforts on investing in our future.

I will close by expressing my admiration for and gratitude to the many faculty, students, and staff who engaged so vigorously and intelligently in these important discussions. It is my privilege to work with you all. I wish you a well-earned, restful summer.