Policy Board Minutes—24 Jan 2018
McL 250

PB members: Nola Agha, Rachel Brahinsky, Brandon Brown, Robin Buccheri, Fernando Comiran, Jen Dever, Doreen Ewert, Joe Garity, Candace Harrison, Richard Johnson III, EJ Jung, Dorothy Kidd, Gabe Maxson, Matthew Monnot, Elliot Neaman, Mary Jane Niles, Meera Nosek, Julia Orri, Sonje Poole, Christina Purpora, Steve Roddy, Claire Sharifi, Calla Schmidt, Malik Henfield, Brian Weiner, Annick Wibben, 

USFFA-FT members: Kathy Nasstrom, Paul Lorton Jr

USFFA-PT—John Higgins

Guest: Don Heller, Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs, USF

Minutes from 6 Dec were approved online 

  1.                    Announcements
  2.      Jeff Hamrick will attend Feb. 7 to discuss university finances.


  1.                New Business

  1.      Provost Heller attended. He had been given written questions before the meeting and responded in writing to many. He said that for some of the questions he would prefer to answer at the meeting. Below are the questions and his written and oral responses.



  1. What is your vision for USF five or ten years from now? What would you like to accomplish as Provost and what do you think needs to happen to get there? Both from the faculty and from the administration and from the rest of the University?


Heller said that the higher education market is challenging to predict—10 years is a long ways away. USF plans to develop an engineering program—it is underway. They are searching for the first founding director. A fundraising system is underway. The honors college is another opportunity to recruit students. This was jump-started by a gift from Gordon Getty. A purchase of the Star Route Farms was completed with philanthropic gifts only. A $20 million gift will be pitched next month. This will complete the purchase of Star Route Farms and provide funding for academic programming at the farm and on campus. Lastly, the completion of residence halls will be done—ground breaking will occur this spring or summer (Sombrato Residence opens in 2020).

Heller stressed that USF will be very committed to the Jesuit mission in the following years—it will be recognizable.



  1.       There are concerns over the amount of power exerted by auxiliary services (sports, facilities, etc) over academics. What can the Provost do to bring academics into a greater leadership role?


  1.       While it seems fair to say that decision-making at USF has always been rather top-down, there is a widespread perception that this is even more true now. Given your experiences in leadership at other institutions, would you characterize USF this way, and if so, do you have any ideas for structural or other changes that would increase inclusion of faculty voices in decision-making?


Heller said that the P&T process operates as a joint faculty administration task force. The administration is open to other collaborations.

Prepared answer: I believe that decision-making at the university, particularly around academic issues, would be enhanced if there were more formal academic governance structures in place across the university (not just within the units).


  1.       Why is there such urgent need for restructuring? What is the goal of the restructuring/academic prioritization practice?


Prepared answer: If the university is going to have resources to launch new programs, meet student and faculty demands for services, or expand the services we offer, we need to continually examine all of our existing programs and services to determine whether there are some in which we are not able to excel.  Processes like program reviews and academic prioritization can assist in this process.


  1.       Given the continuing financial difficulties at the law school, do you have a timetable in mind for restoring solvency, before resorting to more drastic restructuring or other measures?


Prepared answer: Fr. Fitzgerald and I are working with Dean Trasviña on a long-term enrollment and financial plan for the School of Law.  I have also brought in an outside consultant to assess the current state of the school and its plans for the future.  I am awaiting that report.


  1.       You mentioned at the A & S College Council meeting on Nov 6 that USF would probably survive the next thirty years, when financial and demographic pressures may lead to the closure of many other institutions of higher learning in this country.  Can you identify a shortlist of things we can do now to ensure that we survive and thrive?


Prepared answer:

  1.   Continue the process described in number 1 above.
  2.  Through the Magis project and similar efforts, ensure that we are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.
  3.   Enhance our marketing and student recruitment efforts
  4.  Do everything we can to have strong graduate program cohorts


  1.       What can the provost do to share decision-making with faculty about budgeting, including both surplus and cuts. May we suggest a “board” that meets with him on budget issues 3 times a year for both 1) transparency’s sake, and 2) sharing decision-making?


Heller said that in the past there was a USFFA budget committee. He is willing to have a conversation with Jeff Hamrick about reconstituting such a committee.

Maxson said that there were opportunities to speak to the vision with respect to the budget. He felt that it was difficult to understand Heller’s vision on the budget and how to distribute revenue. Maxson said it sounded like efficiency was the main part of Heller’s vision. Heller responded that efficiency is definitely not at the center of his vision and he had never said it was. Heller said that he is responsible for $450M budget and that he needs to adhere to it. Heller reiterated that the number one value is the mission of the university. The budget has to support this since it depends on the students. Heller added that while financial aid is the fastest-growing part of the budget, employee compensation is still the largest part of the budget. However, he did state that efficiency is always a factor in any financial decision.

Prepared answer: As I have shared many times, the university’s annual budget – the same information provided to the Board of Trustees – is available on the CIPE website.  In addition, Vice Provost Hamrick and I would be happy to discuss the value of restarting the Faculty Budget Committee, which used to exist but was disbanded.


  1. What is behind the trend of faculty, deans and administrators of color leaving the University and is there anything specific being done to reverse it?

Heller explained the chart he distributed. It compared employee changes from Fall 2017 to 10 years ago  (Figure 1). African American faculty increased 24% in the last 10 years. Heller stated that the fastest rates of growth are faculty of color.

Jung expected to see a trend over multiple time points. Heller said that he can provide this. Jung added that she would like to see retention data for faculty. Heller asked the purpose—Jung wanted to identify retention data.

Prepared answer: There is no such trend.  The chart on the next page shows the changes in the number of faculty and staff by category over the last ten years.  As you can see, in all three categories employees of color have grown at a rate at least as fast as that of white faculty.  I do not have data for the same time period for all of the deans, but four of the six current deans are people of color.   

We also have quite a bit of diversity in gender and LGBTQ identification as well.  As best as I know, when I sit around the conference table with my direct reports (six deans, five vice provosts, the Director of the McCarthy Center, and my administrative assistant), I am one of two straight white males in the group.  

Figure 1.


  1. Please comment on the trend of increasing workload for faculty (largely uncompensated), especially for term faculty, and in the context of USF’s priorities.

Maxson asked about workload (new term faculty). He said that the 4-4 load was implemented despite the deans’ ability to hire term faculty at a 3-3. Heller said that the faculty agreed to this in the CBA. Heller gave certain deans waivers under certain conditions—service. He granted complete waivers to about 3 new term faculty and partial waivers to others.

Kidd reported on a survey conducted by chairs and directors in Arts and Sciences. The main points of the report are that most chairs and directors are working way beyond their contractual hours. As a result, they doing less teaching and research. Kidd further mentioned that there have been several other additional areas of work added by the Administration to the weekly workload, including assessment, sorting out the new website problems, marketing, etc. etc. She added that the work is over and beyond the contractual amount.

Heller said that the expectations are higher across higher education in general. He said individual chairs should discuss this matter with their respective deans. Kidd added that some tasks are unclear—their labor time should go to teaching, research and service. Kidd commented that asking individuals to discuss this with their respective deans was problematic when we are told that there will be cuts.  


  1.       There have been multiple emails/notifications regarding various topics received by faculty from administration that contain threatening and abrasive language. This is quite new to USF.  Could you please explain the rationale behind this new method of communication? Are you

aware of, or concerned about, the negative impact this approach may have on faculty (e.g., anxiety, job insecurity/dissatisfaction, feelings of hostile work environment, resignation, etc.)?

Heller asked for clarification. Neaman said that the letters for training courses such as sexual harassment often contained punitive language. Heller said that very gentle reminders were originally sent when faculty did not complete the training, but after several attempts the language did get harsh and in his opinion necessarily so, since USF is at great legal risk if the training is not done. Just look at what has happened across the bay at Cal for an example of what can happen.

Heller further mentioned that the compliance rate increased—this is state law and very serious issue. He added that he is very aware the training does not by itself prevent sexual harassment. But without it the risk increases.

On the ITS security training: Data breaches are very costly. Jung asked if this was the best training we could receive. Heller suggested inviting ITS staff for a future PB meeting. Heller added that phishing has occurred at USF. They are trying to prevent future occurrences. Wibben said that the increased training increases workload. Heller said that this is a fact of life—we need to manage our workloads.

Sharifi said that threatening emails were received despite signing up for training. Heller suggested contacting HR. He said that with 2000 employees, mistakes are sometimes made. 

  1.       At CAS College Council meeting on November 6 a member brought to your attention the current level of distrust and asked for your solutions. What solutions have you developed to rebuild trust with the faculty?

No response was provided.

  1.       Why was the climate survey designed to allow multiple submissions? How can you address concerns over its validity and what do you propose to do with the results?

Heller said that anonymity was a priority. Kidd said that it is easy to determine faculty names. She said that the credibility is reduced due to the fact that it was possible to fill out the survey multiple times. Heller said that the company maintains the data—USF does not have access to it. USF only gets the statistical reports. He added that the system is not perfect. The company tries to identify survey-takers who mistakenly took the survey twice, but if one wanted to fill out two surveys with very different answers it couldn’t be detected. Still, when thousands of people take a survey, a few erroneous data points will not affect the outcome much. 

Harrison asked what becomes of the data. Heller said that the data will be presented at two town hall meetings later this spring. Harrison then asked about the priorities of the university. Heller said that the campus climate will be evident through the survey. He said that they are committed to responding to the results. Ewert asked about data on specific colleges. Heller said that this is possible. 

Prepared answer: Here is the response I received from the consultant who conducted the survey.  The firm has conducted these surveys for scores of institutions around the country, so have addressed this issue before: 

Due to our promise of protecting the confidentiality of the respondents, no ID numbers are used in the survey, thus providing anonymity to the respondent. As we discussed, without this promise, prospective participants will not complete the survey.  The “trade-off” is that a participant could take the survey more than one time. We offer the following process to identify any “duplicate data” and remove cases that are duplicates from the final data set.


There are two methods for identifying duplicate data (e.g., someone taking the survey more than once).  

(1)                When the survey is live, the software package we use flags any surveys that have “similar” responses. Those flagged surveys are reviewed when the survey closes. More often than not, the participant just hit the submit button twice as the time stamps are nearly identical.

(2)                Once the survey is closed, one of the steps in the cleaning of the data is identifying duplicate data. This is done via the Statistical Software package.  Duplicate surveys are removed from the final data set.

I am satisfied that this issue will not lead to validity problems with the survey results.

Gleeson Library


  1.       Journal subscription costs increase yearly by between 5 and 10 percent (7% last two years). In the past, the library has been able to get a budget that specifically covers these subscription increases. However, the 2017/2018 academic year budget was well below the cost of our journal increases and we had to cut approximately $77,000 in journal subscriptions. Going forward, we’ve been told increases will be tied to USF tuition increases, which will leave us with even larger deficits. Are you aware that this budget will not allow us to maintain a viable journal collection that will serve the needs of faculty, staff and students, and will result in either the dismantling of our collection or a reduction in staff?  

Garity was concerned about the budgets, specifically cutting journal subscriptions. The Library is using restricted funds for book purchases. Heller said that this is reflected by our situation. The staff needs to prioritize the journals—the budget is not unlimited. Heller explained that they need to spend restricted funds 

Garity said that faculty will be affected long term by these budget trends. Heller said recruiting students without financial aid will free up funds 

Prepared answer: Like the other parts of the university, Gleeson’s budget is not unlimited.  We are constrained by the revenues we have available to us, and our tuition increases have been growing more slowly than the 5 – 10 percent quoted above.  I have encouraged Dean Cannon to examine ways to help control the growth of these subscription costs by carefully examining what journals we subscribe to and whether they are all needed.  I have also encouraged him to ensure that we are not duplicating print and electronic subscriptions, other than in those few areas where the electronic subscription does not offer everything provided in print. 

Heller added that small cohorts in graduate programs could be higher to free up funds.

Dever asked if better students will be recruited for the engineering program. Garity said that they don’t have the journal or book collection required for engineering. Heller said that they are fundraising for faculty and materials. He added that the students coming may be a mix of new students to USF, as well as students who may have otherwise majored in other subjects at the university. (Fall of 2020 to begin). He said that if they can’t raise the funds—they will not begin. Heller added that he is comfortable with the current level of materials and services (i.e honors college).

Wibben asked about the need for adding an engineering program. Heller said that it meets the Jesuit mission of the university, as well as also meeting the needs of the community. He reminded us that USF used to have an engineering program.

Buccheri was concerned about the library. Heller said that they are increasing the amount of money to the library. Garity said that the costs are increasing higher than the rate of increase from the University. He said that this is not sustainable—they have cut to the bone with respect to periodicals. If current trends continue, each year they will have to cut more and more.

Kidd asked if USF has the capacity. Heller is looking at graduation rates. He said that we are in the 99th percentile. Jung asked for the absolute value. Heller said that it is 62% for 4 yr., 72% for 6 yr.  

Johnson III asked about the location of the Honors college (undergraduate). Heller replied that it will be open to undergraduates in all three units, CAS, SOM, and SONHP. 

  1.       The library has been directed to spend down our restricted (endowed) funds, and specifically to use these restricted funds to pay for journal and database subscriptions. When, inevitably, the market experiences a downturn and our restricted funds go under water, what will the provost’s office do to ensure that the university can meet its contractual obligations and continue to provide access to the necessary journal, newspaper and databases required for an institution of higher learning?

Prepared answer: I am comfortable that the Gleeson restricted funds are currently at a sufficient level to protect us from a downturn in the market.

Star Route Farms

  1. Given the increasing severity of climate-related disasters like this fall’s Gulf hurricanes and Sonoma/Napa/Socal fires, as well as the rising prominence of the SF Bay Area as an incubator of ameliorative technologies and thinking (e.g. the Global Climate Action Summit, Sep 12-15, 2018), does the Provost’s office envision turning USF into a leader in sustainability education, such as through the acquisition of Star Farms? 

Prepared answer: I am very excited about the possibilities provided by Star Route Farms to expand on the strong work already going on around the university in the areas of environmentalism, sustainability, and agriculture.  I agree that we can be a national, and even international, leader in these areas. 


  1. What can the provost do to improve ITS and especially web services so that it better serves our departments in not only marketing to prospective students but providing information about our academic excellence in research and service to the communities?

Kidd said that the new website has been a disaster and Media Studies has spoken to Marketing and Communications many times, but without much success. One of her concerns was that the website is designed primarily as a marketing site, and not a site that promotes our research and other work. She said that they need something from the top—the website should reflect the actual work that we do. Heller said that specific examples are welcome. Kidd agreed.

Prepared answer: Marketing and Communications has been working very closely with Strategic Enrollment Management to improve our marketing and recruiting materials (both web-based and paper) for prospective students.  SEM totally revamped its accepted student packet, and the new packet has already received many compliments. 

I have communicated to Vice Presidents Bawa and Ryder the importance of our website to marketing to prospective students, as well as communicating our successes as an institution to a broader audience.  They have made some improvements; for example, OMC has been working to provide more ability to departments and programs to be able to update their own websites.  But if you have specific suggestions for either vice president, I encourage you to invite them to come and meet with you.  


Monnot asked about R1 designation. Heller explained that we are a research intensive classification now. There is a diverse level of research among faculty and field to field.

We thanked Heller for his time.

A discussion began.

  •         Dever was concerned about the 62% graduation rate.
  •         Harrison mentioned that the graduation rate for black students was lower (55%).
  •         Kidd suggested that the USFFA should focus on the important issues going forward—avenues for change.
  •         Brown said morale and workplace fulfillment are not being addressed.
  •         Monnot expected more regarding vision and strategy.
  •         Ewert suggested measuring the effectiveness of 4-4.
  •         Wibben suggested looking at the workload issue. Neaman stated that we will put on PB agenda.
  •         Weiner suggested a follow-up with the provost—collect requests that came up during the discussion, since Heller said that he will provide us with the information.



The meeting was adjourned at 17:00


Submitted by Julia Orri

USFFA Secretary