Challenges in the College of Arts & Letters

MSU Spartan Head logThe following challenges have been identified through discussions with Department Chairs, Program Directors, and the College Advisory Council.

Trust

The events of the past year have revealed a debilitating culture of distrust in the College of Arts & Letters. We must rebuild trust by cultivating habits, practices, and policies of shared governance and responsibility based on mutual respect. Since January, some of the intentional steps we have taken to nurture a culture of trust in the College include:

  • Empowering the College Advisory Committee to be more proactive in their leadership;
  • Establishing a College Undergraduate Committee to support our efforts to advance the undergraduate experience as a priority;
  • Facilitating retreats with the Chairs that empower them to shape meeting agendas and share in decision making about how resources are deployed;
  • Advancing a values-based fall planning process that is beginning to open spaces of more trusting interactions at the unit level.

Budget

Garnering resources not only for innovative new initiatives but to advance and enhance the core educational mission of the College continues to be a major challenge. As enrollments increase, budgets tighten, and the incentives around more entrepreneurial activities associated with online learning shift, we are working hard to identify efficiencies and develop new revenue-based initiatives to support the basic writing program, our commitment to integrative studies in arts and humanities, and the holistic liberal arts education for which the College has long provided. A related challenge is the general antipathy toward the arts and humanities in the broader culture of the country, despite the clear preference of employers for graduates with a broad liberal arts education. In addition to the enhancements to undergraduate education mentioned above, we are also developing a more holistic set of indicators of our contribution to the core educational mission of the University. To this end, we have begun to develop reports that look not only at primary and secondary majors, but at minors and student credit hours more generally to better articulate the significant contribution to student success the College is making.

One faculty, different appointment types

Structural inequities continue to bifurcate the faculty and undermine our attempts to create a caring and supportive culture. Increased reliance on underpaid fixed-term faculty to provide core education in writing, the languages, the arts, and the general education curriculum undermine our attempts to establish a culture of respect in which we have one faculty with different but equally important appointment types. Although we have received temporary funding for increased hiring in writing in the wake of the large incoming class, the contingent nature of this funding and the positions we establish with them further erode our efforts to live out our core commitment to equity.