Dear Campus Community,
This Provost Update focuses on our plans for both the cluster hiring initiative and our next round of campus strategic planning. Below is the text of my letter to the Academic Senate on these topics, which was sent earlier today.
During the past few years, we have received a substantial amount of feedback from faculty, staff, the Academic Senate, and campus leadership about the cluster hiring initiative. Much of this feedback has been helpful and constructive. In response, we took steps to adjust and improve the hiring process but we declined to make significant changes to the initiative as it was originally envisioned. Several months ago, we shared with the Academic Senate and other campus leaders a discussion paper outlining three possible future models for the hiring initiative that incorporate more fundamental changes and that are responsive to persistent concerns in different ways:
- Model 1 retained the current cluster hiring program and the unfilled positions, but introduced additional changes to make the process easier to implement.
- Model 2 retained the cluster themes and the unfilled positions but required deans to submit proposals to my office for cluster positions as part of their college hiring plans.
- Model 3 involved foregoing some or all the unfilled positions and redirecting the resources to initiatives that may or may not be focused on growing the faculty.
In response to the discussion paper, we received little support for Model 1. The deans and other campus leaders are supportive of Model 2. The Academic Senate feedback varies widely. Some committees are unsupportive of all options. When support is expressed, it tends to align most closely with versions of Models 2 and 3. In a meeting with the Executive Council last fall, most members expressed support for Model 3.
Our campus budget outlook also has changed since the inception of the hiring initiative. State funding has been lower than anticipated while salary, benefits, and other recurring campus costs have been higher than anticipated. The implementation of our new budget model also has shifted resources from the central campus to the units thus reducing the ability of my office to fund strategic initiatives.
Given these realities, I have decided to proceed as follows. First, we will no longer treat the remaining cluster hiring resources as separate from other central campus resources. Moreover, in 2018-19 there will be few, if any, centrally funded faculty hires. Due to our current budget outlook, I feel it is prudent to be conservative with these resources for the time being while we evaluate adjustments to the budget model in the coming months. Meanwhile, deans may of course use their college/school resources for academic hiring, including Target of Excellence and partner hires, and my office will continue contributing to those start-up packages. In the future, I anticipate resuming an annual call for requests from the deans to use central campus resources to support additional strategic hiring in coordination with the college/school hiring plans. My office will evaluate these resource requests alongside other campus strategic needs. This approach aligns closely with the feedback received from the Senate Committee on Academic Personnel (CAP):
“CAP is in favor of Model #3 in conjunction with the requirement from Model #2 in which deans must submit a proposal to request hiring as a cluster position. The proposals should provide justifications as to how the position aligns with the department’s plans, how it will fulfill and enhance the research, service and teaching mission of the department.”
To gain additional flexibility for future strategic hiring, if faculty hired into a recent cluster leave UCR my office will pull back the salary and any remaining startup funds to central resources. These funds could be reallocated towards a faculty hire in an area related to that cluster to maintain momentum, or they could be used to support a new strategic initiative.
This strategic hiring process is one that I believe will serve the campus well as UCR grows and evolves. To be competitive, future hiring proposals will have to demonstrate a strategic value to the campus through compelling arguments such as undergraduate instructional need, support for growing graduate programs, opportunities in emerging or interdisciplinary research areas (which could include continued hiring in a previously approved cluster), addressing critical gaps in expertise, the establishment of new programs, departments or schools, etc.
As we transition to this approach, it is clear that we will need a coherent plan to guide our future decision-making. Our current strategic plan, UCR 2020, has served us well but is in need of an update during the next two years. Therefore, in the coming months I will announce a steering committee to establish the process that will guide the creation of our next campus strategic plan. I expect that we will begin the process of strategic planning in the 2018-19 academic year following our WASC
Thank you again for the thoughtful consideration everyone has given to academic hiring and broader issues of resource allocation at UCR.