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Chancellor's blog: Choosing our path forward

| Chancellor James Schmidt

April has been a month of conversations. Sometimes candid, sometimes anxious, but always thoughtful.

I have met with almost 400 faculty and staff during eight small-group coffees and two campuswide forum discussions over the past two weeks. As you can imagine the conversation was wide-ranging, but if I were asked to summarize the discussion in one word, it would be "change."  

We talked about the two paths we can take to our future. The first is to make across-the-board cuts, which leads to doing more with less. The second path is to make difficult choices about what to preserve and what to give up. The reality is we will be serving our students with fewer resources and people. I reject the first path because it causes people to burn out and will ultimately weaken our quality. The second path is harder, because we must make choices that impact our colleagues. But it is the only way we can make decisions that will ultimately strengthen our ability to provide the excellent learning experiences that define a Blugold degree. The four guideposts that I've laid out remind us that, even with budget reductions, we must still strive to improve our student retention and graduation rates, to increase participation in high-impact practices, and to become a more diverse campus community.

What kinds of opportunities will we find if we take the second path? During our conversations, we talked about the kinds of innovative changes proposed by the Rapid Action Task Forces: streamlining our curriculum while enhancing quality; removing silos and pooling our expertise to enhance the services we provide; reimagining how we structure and recognize our teaching and support systems. Thank you to the great work of the task forces and to the many people who have shared their comments with me. I read every one.

Taking the second path will not be easy. During my meetings I asked faculty and staff whether they thought we could make the tough but strategic changes we know will help make us stronger. The answer was yes — but with some caution. I was reminded that our campus is good at creating ideas for change but struggles with carrying them out. People told me that I should expect resistance. But I'm more optimistic than that.

By late May, as the state budget and scope of reductions become clear, and as we learn how many faculty and staff have accepted the separation offer, we will be able to identify the very specific steps we need to take. Over the coming weeks I will be meeting with shared governance leaders and continue to share updates with you. My goal is to map the way forward before the semester ends. 

That path — the second path — will preserve our ability to continue to provide our current students and future Blugolds with an education that transforms lives and that has distinguished us for the past century. 

Read more Chancellor's Blog entries.