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UD Faculty Senate holds April meeting

President Assanis provides update on budget and path forward

The University of Delaware’s Faculty Senate held its regular meeting on April 1, with President Dennis Assanis updating senators on UD’s fiscal challenges, but at the same time sharing his continued optimism about the future of the institution.

“I continue to be inspired about the future of our great University,” Assanis said. “None of us wants to slow or suspend the momentum that we have created, nor the progress we have made together over the past several years, in spite of enormous and unprecedented challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. To forge our path forward, all of us must continue to work together with a strong spirit of support and collaboration, and with increased transparency, which is essential for building and maintaining trust in the months and years ahead.”

Assanis’ remarks to the Faculty Senate were the most recent in a series of meetings involving him and Provost Laura Carlson over the past several weeks. These include the Faculty Senate meeting on March 4, as well as multiple listening sessions with faculty and staff of every college and several administrative units. In addition, Assanis, Carlson and Chief Financial Officer, Mary Remmler, updated the UD community and trustees about the budget challenges and approaches to ensure long-term fiscal stability at a Board of Trustees meeting on March 19. More meetings with groups of UD faculty and staff are being planned.

Assanis also shared with the Senate that he, along with the Provost, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Chief Budget Officer, Mandy Minner, will meet in April with the Senate’s Budget Committee for their perspectives and input in preparation of the FY2025 budget, as they have done in past years. In addition, the President and Provost will meet with the Senate’s Coordinating Committee to discuss a draft of a multi-year enrollment plan. Also, the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees has invited all members of the Senate Budget Committee to attend their meeting on April 19.

Assanis said the listening sessions have provided insight into how the initial measures and guidelines had unintentional impacts on faculty and staff. Also, meetings with department chairs, groups of faculty, the Faculty Senate and members of the UD chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) have led to “very valuable conversations” and helpful revisions. The most recent updates reaffirm the University’s commitment to academic excellence and the importance of supporting faculty in their teaching, research, and career development and advancement, he said. “We welcome continued input,” Assanis said.

Also, UD is exploring alternatives for providing health insurance that is comparable to the state plan but less expensive, Assanis said. “Based on my own experience, and the comments I have heard from many other faculty members and retirees, continuing to provide excellent healthcare coverage is a priority,” he said.

The process of creating and migrating to a UD-provided health insurance plan is complex and requires at least one year of lead time, Assanis said.

To provide a measure of partial relief in the FY2025 budget, Assanis said he will recommend that the Board of Trustees Finance Committee approve a one-time use of reserve funds while the University develops alternative options for healthcare coverage. “This would be with the understanding that we will continue to carefully manage our enrollment, hiring and capital plans to ensure that our revenues would not fall short of our expenses in FY2026,” he said.

Also at the Faculty Senate meeting, Carlson announced that the One Idea, One Slide Summit is planned for the end of the spring semester. The Summit is an opportunity for faculty and staff to propose new initiatives or innovations by presenting each idea on one slide in two minutes. Presenters and non-presenting audience members will have the opportunity to collaborate and network with each other at the event.

“This is an avenue for faculty and staff to share interesting ideas and create access to those ideas,” said Carlson, adding that the summit enhances transparency in the annual process of applying for project grants from the Unidel Foundation.

The Summit is open to everyone. Those interested in presenting an idea should submit a one-page paper explaining their concept. Other details about the summit will be shared soon, Carlson said.

The Consent Agenda portion of the Faculty Senate meeting included a single vote to approve 53 undergraduate proposals and 22 graduate proposals.

On the Regular Agenda, a vote of 27-25 delayed the resolution granting the executive committee of the Faculty Senate the ability to expedite the approval for corrections of any editorial inconsistencies made to the Faculty Handbook. The matter will appear on the May agenda.

Faculty Senate President Jim Morrison announced the teaching materials grant sponsored by the Library, Museums and Press, and the Unidel Foundation. Meg Grotti, associate university librarian for learning, engagement and curriculum support, can be contacted for more information.

Morrison reminded the Senate that the Graduate College’s bylaws will undergo its five-year review and made them aware of the Board of Trustee spring committee meetings in April.

According to Rusty Lee, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, the admissions test-optional report is being reviewed within the Office of the Provost and is expected to be distributed to the senators before the Faculty Senate meeting in May.

Michael O’Neal, associate professor of earth sciences, gave an overview of section 4.3.5 of the Faculty Handbook – the evaluation of faculty – and its need to be revised.

“It’s about the evaluation process, especially pre-tenure or pre-six-year contract renewal for continuing tract faculty. It describes the procedural process and includes annual, two- and four-year evaluations,” O’Neal said.

The need for a refresh was identified indirectly by UD ADVANCE and the COACHE survey results due to its antiquated language, missing procedural information and the confusion it creates, O’Neal said. “This is way overdue.”

Further information about the Faculty Senate, including meeting minutes and agendas, can be found on its website.

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