Visible Service Roles for and by Faculty, AY16-17

Tenure-Track Faculty Structure and Service Roles, Part 1

Convocation, Aug. 25, 2016: I shared a visual that I find helpful in explaining the junior-senior structure of our tenure-track faculty and enumerated the service opportunities for faculty. Then I blogged on these topics and provided evidence for updated counts of 391 service roles for senior tenure-track faculty and 709 for all tenure-track faculty.



At CI we are fortunate to have many dedicated and talented lecturers, including many who take on and perform admirably in service roles. I am grateful and will always recognize their contributions. I focus on the tenure-track faculty when discussing service roles as service is both an obligation of and expectation for probationary and tenured faculty.

“Visible” Service Roles are those that are visible university-wide. This discussion accounts for program service only as chairs, directors, or coordinators — while acknowledging that a lot of good service work occurs in programs. It does not account for service to one’s communities or professional associations. And perhaps most critically, it does not account for the time spent mentoring students beyond classes and office hours. Demands for this time are inordinately high, on average, for faculty of color at predominantly white institutions — the term “invisible burden” is often used in scholarly literature to investigate and articulate this phenomena. Visible service roles also do not account for informal faculty-faculty mentoring. And of course, roles do not all require the same skills, time, or energy.

Some AY16-17 Developments

Early on, Senate Exec agreed to try a new method for matching faculty volunteers to service on university committees. (We use this term to indicate all committees that are not Senate committees.) Senate Officers went through all the university committees and tentatively assigned high, medium, and low priority to the requests for faculty, so we could fill the higher priority requests first. We asked people to indicate committees on which they’d be willing to serve along with their desired service “load” for this component. While the matching process was still arduous and imperfect, we were able to avoid some of the iteration of earlier years. Meanwhile, CI continued to add service roles: for example, the Graduation Initiative 2025 Task Force, a number of ad hoc search committees, etc. I continued to be impressed by faculty’s willingness to serve in various capacities, as time and again people stepped up and took on additional service in response to calls for faculty self-nominations. By the end of the year, however, the well was just about dry. Some calls for nominations or volunteers came up empty.

Tenure-Track Faculty Structure and Service Roles, Part 2

Confession: I’m a data geek. That’s what led to examining our tenure-track faculty structure critically, and to “counting” visible service roles. It’s hard to make headway on a problem — or even be sure there is a problem, let alone convince others! — without some analysis. And yet when I shared the structure graphs and counts of service roles, I was sometimes asked whether the real issue wasn’t that some faculty were doing a lot of service, while others weren’t very engaged at all. So… more data. Below are the graphs I shared in Senate on April 18, 2017. The legend is critical to provide a sense of the types of visible service roles engaged in by individuals. Each colored bar represents one person.



Here we see from the light blue bars along the bottom that 26 of the 47 full professors not FERPing or on leave are chairs of programs, directors of centers, institutes, or programs, and coordinators of programs. Three professors are doing no visible service; three took on nine service roles each this year. There’s a lot of orange — you’d expect faculty to want to be on faculty search committees to have a voice in determining their new colleagues. Professors elected to Senate committees all took on at least three visible service roles. The average (mean) number of visible service roles for professors is 3.5.




Every associate professor took on at least one visible service role. The mean is 3.4; the distribution here appears more uniform than for professors: everyone is doing something and the high numbers are 6 and 7. I believe that we should be developing leadership from among the associate professors. What does this graph indicate about how we’re doing in that respect?


Here we see quite a bit of activity on faculty search committees, and Senate and university committees. The mean number of committees per assistant professor is 2.6. Overall, this looks healthy to me, especially if I assume that the faculty represented by the bars in the left third are those who are first or second year faculty.

We’re hiring: won’t that help?

Sadly, no. Here’s the structure with which we started the year:


After accounting for known FERPs and attrition, here’s what I predict for faculty structure for next year… assuming all 8 of the faculty hired in AY11-12 and AY12-13 are or become senior faculty.


Wow. One more senior faculty than previously, and 19 brand-new junior faculty to acculturate, mentor, etc.

So, now what?

I’ll share these graphs and discussion with Cabinet on May 15. Senate Exec has provided some comments and suggestions for consideration. What’s your take?

Retrospective: The Search for a Provost

“Choosing a provost will be the most important decision we make this year.”

I agree. And from those who engaged in the search in one way or another, I infer this agreement is widespread. With gratitude to all who participated, and in an effort to “pull back the veil,” I offer this retrospective as we await a final decision. You’ll find three sections below:

  1. Perspectives on informing and reacting to decisions
  2. The search process, including actions following the campus visits
  3. In appreciation

Perspectives on informing and reacting to decisions

In one telling of the “Blind Men and the Elephant” parable, the seer who resolves the dispute says “All of you are right. The reason each of you is telling it differently is because each of you touched a different part of the elephant…”

My touch on this elephant is from the perspective of the faculty member elected by senators to represent them this year and, as a result, asked by the president to chair this search committee. In both roles, I greatly appreciate what academics do. We assess, analyze, investigate, criticize, raise concerns, and argue. We seek evidence to inform our thinking; we recognize when our perspectives are limited; we listen and seek additional evidence and perspectives. It has been gratifying to see all this from my faculty colleagues – indeed, from the entire university community – throughout this year and this search.

CSU Channel Islands is an institution to which individuals are deeply committed. We care about the future of the institution and its ability to serve students: accordingly, we are anxious about the choice of our next provost. Yet we know how our university community best arrives at important decisions, and how we react. We assume best intentions from those engaged in decision making, delegate when appropriate, engage and provide feedback, and finally, accept decisions. We acknowledge that no choice of provost will please everyone. We recognize when we are touching only a piece of the elephant. Finally, we act in good faith. We support whomever is chosen, as we know the success of our next provost will play a large role in the success of Academic Affairs and of CI in continuing to make this institution one that truly serves its students, its future students, and the region.

The process

The search committee was formed in August and September, 2016, in accord with Senate Policy SP14-12. The committee comprised a student (Marlene Pelayo, Student Government Vice-President), staff (Alison Potter), a non-Academic Affairs administrator (Carrick DeHart), three faculty who self-nominated and were selected by Senate Exec and the president (Geoff Buhl, Dennis Downey, and Marie Francois), an administrator in Academic Affairs (Beth Hartung, Asst. Provost), the Chief of Staff (Genevieve Evans Taylor), and the Academic Senate Chair as chair of the search committee (Cindy Wyels). The search consultant firm, Academic Search, Inc., was chosen through a process of competitive bids from firms and interviews with those who’d worked with them: we specifically appreciated the work of senior consultant Ann Hasselmo, a former president and provost with a track record of developing academic leadership potential and cultivating diverse applicant pools.

Every person on the search committee reviewed well over one hundred cover letters and CVs – letters ranging in length from three densely packed pages to over twenty pages and CVs containing up to thirty pages of detailed accomplishments — as well as letters of nomination and recommendation. Over 50 candidates received at least one “let’s consider” vote during the paper stages of the process. Extensive in-person discussions resulted in a list of semi-finalists, all of whom participated in a thorough airport interview by the full committee, a separate video conference with President Beck, and a video conference with Cabinet. The five candidates who were selected for campus visits were chosen from the large and impressive field of applicants based on track records of accomplishments across their careers – particularly in relevant administrative roles. They were also selected on the basis of fit, and the synergy they might have with our campus and institutional culture. Prior to the visits each finalist underwent a deep background and reference check, the latter consisting of 8 – 10 interviews. The campus visits were 14-hour days that included small group meetings with the Cabinet, the Provost’s Council, the search committee, Student Government leaders, Senate Exec, the Provost’s Office staff, and Foundation Board members. Candidates made presentations in an all-faculty setting and a campus and community open forum, and took questions. They also met one-on-one with members of Cabinet and with President Beck.

Following the campus visits, the search committee, search consultants, and President Beck reviewed the campus feedback thoroughly and consulted with many who interacted with candidates during the visits. This step led to extensive follow-up: additional phone interviews with references, more conversations with candidates, etc. Questions raised from campus feedback were investigated as thoroughly as possible. When feedback indicated that staff were concerned about particular candidates’ modus operandi, we explored relationships with staff at their current and past institutions. When faculty-faculty networks left negative impressions, we further investigated candidates’ reputations at their institutions – and the reasons behind them. We dug deeper into changes in positions. Essentially, we took our collective unknowns and concerns and sought to resolve what we could. The result? Multiple outstanding candidates, each with a proven track record of moving his/ her piece of one or more institutions forward.

The next provost has a daunting task before him/ her. We knew that when we crafted the campus profile early in Fall ’16. (See p. 10 – 12 for a summation of what we sought in a provost.) We’ll soon learn who will be our next provost; I’m confident we’re ready to support that individual in the work of continuing to build our university.

In appreciation

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the entire search committee for their commitment and hundreds of hours of work each on this search. Their dedication, their preparation and critical discussion were simply amazing. Our search consultants, Ann Hasselmo and Andrea Cowsert, were a huge help in every way, from logistics and extensive reference reports to providing guidance as we sorted through our thoughts. President Beck consulted extensively, seeking and incorporating the views of the search committee at every step of the process. A large proportion of the campus community stepped up to inform the profile and shape the search, then to engage with the final five candidates and provide feedback. And while many people, some unknown to me, supported this search from behind the scenes, Mary McDonnell is due special thanks for outstanding support, always done graciously and with a smile, even in times of stress.

Spring ’17 Senate Deadlines

Faculty and others working hard on policy proposals, resolutions, and other Senate business… Please keep in mind the deadlines necessary for Senate to consider your items in an informed and deliberative process!

Remaining Senate meetings: March 28; April 18; May 9.

Preceding Senate Exec meetings: March 14, April 11, May 2.

Deadlines for proposals to be considered by Senate Exec prior to the subsequent Senate meeting (all by noon):

  • March 9 (for 3rd-to-last Senate meeting)
  • April 6 (for 2nd-to-last Senate meeting)
  • April 27 (for last Senate meeting)

Please keep in mind that items requiring a vote of Senate go through two readings (barring extraordinary measures), and that not all items are passed through by Senate Exec on their first perusal.


Faculty Values at CSU Channel Islands

At F’16 Convocation, I made a claim regarding CI faculty values. The context of this claim: examining the number of tenure-track faculty as well as the structure of the tenure-track faculty (weighted towards junior faculty) vis-à-vis the service opportunities and expectations at our university. Here they are again, for reflection and comment.

  • First, our faculty value engagement in service opportunities. We have a strong desire for a significant role in shared governance, for being in the room when weighty decisions are considered, and for providing input and perspectives at all levels and across divisions.
  • Second, we value our students. Many service opportunities support student success either behind the scenes or directly.
  • Third, we value our junior faculty and we want them to thrive long-term. We often talk about “protecting” our faculty, both from taking on too much service too early, and from taking on roles best left to senior faculty.
  • Fourth, we value our lecturers. We respect that they have no contractual obligation to service and that in spite of very high teaching loads, many are engaged both in service as well as in learning about and implementing high impact teaching practices.
  • Finally, we say we honor a work-life balance for all our CI community.

Other values? Issues with the above?

CI Faculty Structure and Faculty Service Opportunities

The Counts

Convocation, August 25, 2016. I asked the audience to remember two numbers, 80 and 300. Both were undercounts of the number of service roles for a) tenured faculty, and b) all tenure-track faculty.

Undercounts? Let’s touch base again, now that I’ve included things like Program Personnel Committees and Disciplinary Search Committees, and done more work assembling disparate requests for faculty service.

391 service roles for senior tt faculty; 709 for all tt faculty. Evidence? This spreadsheet will always be a work-in-progress, but here’s the list as of Sept. 12, 2016.

Faculty Structure

Let’s take a look:

tt faculty by year of hire tt-fac-pie

So for all this to work out, each of the 122 available tt faculty member would take on an average of 5.8 service roles. (And of course, not all tt faculty are completely available, for health or other reasons.) These service roles include major commitments such as program chairs, mission center directors, chairing major senate and university committees, etc., yet do not include major grant work and some other things. Many of the service roles included do not pair well with other roles, let alone with 4.8 or more other roles.

Tentative Conclusion

It’s time to seriously reimagine how we do things. We can’t simply continue to expect the same few people to continue to take on more. And let’s not forget the primacy of working with students and of scholarship in the varied professional lives of faculty.

First step: Senate Officers are prioritizing university committees and will field calls and responses for volunteers on a priority basis.

Second step: Share this and related information; seek solutions university-wide.