The second faculty senate meeting of the semester covered enrollment, CARES funding, budget improvements, updates on the vaccine, pay cuts and an idea of what the administration hopes Fall 2021 looks like.
President Ashish Vaidya said the search for the new Provost is almost finished and he expects a decision in the coming weeks. The position is currently held by Interim Provost Ande Durojaiye after an extended search last semester.
The university was granted $13.7 million by the state in the second wave of the COVID-19 relief funds. The president said that a minimum of $4 million of that will be allocated to student relief. Students that are in need of funds can apply for it on their MyNKU account. As for the remaining funds, they will be allocated toward university needs such as auxiliary services, athletics and housing.
In Frankfort, Governor Andy Beshear has made a proposal to improve higher education’s funding by 2% across the state, with 1% going to institution based budget and the other 1% going to the performance funding. Vaidya said the Board of Regents submitted their recommendation for NKU that the budget shouldn’t decrease further than it is presently.
“[Our recommendation] is our state appropriations from this year will be considered as a floor,” Vaidya said. “In other words, we will not be cut any more than that, and any new money will in fact be put into the performance fund formula.”
The president also hopes that there are some asset preservation dollars granted to the university and their top priority is upgrading the Natural Science Center.
This past fiscal year, faculty and staff experienced a pay cut, but Vaidya assured the senate that the pay cut is only temporary.
“If we have to make some difficult choices, we have to make them in other ways, and not revert back to something like this,” Vaidya said.
The university is currently in the later stage of Phase 1 of administering the COVID-19 vaccine and Vaidya hopes that people will be able to register for the vaccine by the first week of February. Durojaiye said there are a number of individuals on campus certified to offer the vaccine and an order has been placed but he does not know when they will get the vaccine delivered due to statewide shortage and demand. He also encourages those to receive the vaccine off campus if possible.
“I just don’t have a lot of faith in when we will get our vaccine doses, and then the amount we particularly have,” Durojaiye said. “That’s one of those big issues that we’re concerning so if you have an opportunity to go somewhere else and you’re interested in getting vaccinated, we would say please take advantage of that.”
Durojaiye said he is thinking about how the university can transition into a “new normal.” He said the best-case scenario would be that the Fall 2021 semester would reflect the Fall 2019 schedule. After meeting with department chairs, he said he has learned the campus has a “mixed feeling” about returning to face-to-face operations.
He also found that student engagement has been down since the previous semester. After taking a few focus groups, Durojaiye found that students felt very disengaged in classes, especially in the online asynchronous format.
Durojaiye said the initiative now is how can the university engage the students while still recognizing that safety is the most important thing.
When it came to university enrollment, the provost said the university was in a “very, very bad place,” but with the efforts used this past semester, they saw the highest retention and graduation rates in previous years.
Cheating and campus policy
Toward the end of the meeting, Dr. Phil McCartney spoke about how he is gathering policies across campus about what different departments do if a student is caught cheating in a class. This comes up after McCartney had a student turn in an exam that was assigned to a different section of the class last semester.
McCartney said he was unable to answer several questions regarding the situation as the student withdrew from the class before they received the punishment for their actions.
Durojaiye said that there are some departments that keep track of it while others do not, which blurs the line when students change majors and move throughout departments on campus. He said the academic integrity workgroup is working on creating a system where there is one place for campus to report these instances.
Other updates included that Staff Congress will be utilizing “Norse Uppreciation” for faculty members to give praise to other faculty members. Dr. Charlisa Daniels said her committee is working on getting paid paternal leave back to the university. There are looks into finding a new student evaluation platform that will help give recommendations to faulty.
The Senate voted in favor of revising the policies and procedures currently in place for the Foundation of Knowledge and approve the program proposal for the Masters of Science and Health Administration.