Theme 3: Academic Master Plan
Section I. Theme Group Values, Goals & Aspirations
San Francisco State University is an institution with an abundance of resources and riches. The faculty’s passionate commitment to teaching, learning, service, and professional achievement. Our students’ energy, ambition, and creativity. A dedicated and knowledgeable staff. Innovative programs and curricula. Our unique mission and values. Chronic budget difficulties over the past several years have threatened these assets, but they endure. In fact, as with many crises, the University’s recent budget situation has exposed a deeper question. To what extent do current university structures, policies, and practices value and exploit the talent, knowledge, energies, and accomplishments of our faculty, staff, and students?
After almost a year of intensive study and reflection, we believe the University can and must do better. To prosper over the next decade and become a national and international exemplar of public higher education, the University must reorient itself around its mission and its vast reservoirs of talent and ambition. This strategic plan identifies some of the most important steps the University can take to harvest our existing resources and to cultivate new energies and accomplishments.
To achieve this, we believe that the University must first apply a critical, even disruptive, imagination to existing structures and practices. For instance, funding, incentives, and rewards have not always been effectively tied to the actual varieties of work done in many units of the university. Colleges and departments are often confused about the value of work such as consulting, creating works of art, integrating students into research activities, and working with neighborhoods and communities. Further, while they represent zones of rich engagement for faculty, staff, and students and are obviously connected to the university’s mission in innovative ways, the significance of social justice in the classroom and curriculum, research in the field of teaching and learning, and social entrepreneurship activities linked to local communities typically generate ambivalence and confusion within our current systems of recognition and reward. Aligning these systems with these kinds of work will not only reduce confusion, it will also allow the university to more effectively discern and exploit its strengths.
More transparently and effectively aligning our mission, our work, and practices of support and recognition will, we believe, open up new pathways to excellence and leadership on a national and global stage. We can lead, for instance, by providing an original and just framework for lecturer employment and professional development, an issue that bedevils universities around the country. We can lead by adopting flexible, but rigorous “creativity contracts” that acknowledge a multiplicity of academic career paths and simultaneously channel faculty efforts into mission-driven but fulfilling professional achievement. We can lead by developing and supporting pedagogical strategies that integrate technology and teaching through “bottom-up” creativity and expertise, while respecting “top-down” needs and constraints. We can lead by developing and pioneering new models of faculty and professional development. These objectives all translate into student success, and can be most effectively supported, for example, by a new virtual and physical academic center that provides the infrastructure for faculty to collaborate, to learn, to innovate, and to more easily disseminate their discoveries.
Today’s “new economy” has rediscovered the virtues of a very old academic value. Call it crowdsourcing, peer-to-peer collaboration, the “sharing economy,” or opensourcing, our current tech boom puts community at the center of its ways and means of doing business. We believe it’s time to rejuvenate this time-honored academic value within the university. Thus, a common theme of our strategic plan is to rediscover the power of academic community, to reimagine and reinvest in new forms and places of cooperation, collaboration, and communication that bring faculty, staff, students, administration, and external constituencies into exciting, powerful communities of practice and knowledge.
Section II. Analysis of Current Circumstances
Since its last strategic plan, San Francisco State University has experienced a significant period of budgetary difficulty that has highlighted a number of tensions in the university which this academic plan addresses. Each of these represents both a threat to the university and an opportunity for change.
The first tension is a debate over our academic goals at the university. On the one hand, we clearly have a teaching mission at our core, and faculty overwhelming expressed support for this mission in response to our University-wide survey. At the same time, however, there is a clear, important relationship between teaching and research/creative activities not only in the abstract but also through faculty research collaboration with students and in the ways that faculty research and creative activity enriches the classroom. Moreover, research and creativity allow the University to give back to the state and community that support us. For many faculty, the institution has not adequately or transparently addressed the multiple, competing demands of teaching and research/creative activities. This creates confusion..
Clarifying the appropriate balance between teaching and research/creative activities highlights a further tension. Certain kinds of research are particularly valued in the process by which faculty and projects are evaluated and supported. In particular, these are typically peer-reviewed works in traditional streams of scholarship. In recent years, SF State has become much more successful at competing for federal and philanthropic funds to support this type of research, and these efforts should be redoubled. However, there are many varieties of scholarly work. Our university mission and current, ongoing faculty work, suggest that other pathways of creative activity and scholarship tied to public-facing community engagement, teaching and learning, and social justice might be equally or more appropriate for many faculty. Additionally, much of this activity - - which combines teaching, professional work, and community engagement - - does not fit neatly into our current “three-bucket” (scholarship, teaching, service) rubric for retention, tenure, and promotion. These exciting, emergent pathways pose challenges to a one-size-fits-all formula for evaluation and reward.
Especially given our faculty’s commitment to students and teaching, the question of meaningful assessment and support for teaching generates another tension. In our survey, many faculty made particular note of the University’s much-diminished Center for Teaching and Faculty Development, a consequence of recent budget difficulties. Some faculty expressed deep apprehension about what they see as the university’s retreat from support and recognition of our teaching mission. When an institution appears negligent about a value deeply engrained within its culture, tensions are sure to arise.
Another tension more explicitly connected to RTP involves the recognition and valuing of service. Recent PULSE and Academic Senate surveys show that faculty at SF State generally value service highly. However, both budget limitations and the emphasis on teaching and productive activities have served to de-emphasize service, as faculty made clear in response to this subcommittee’s survey.
Recognition and reward for service are particularly vexed issues for the largest contingent of our faculty - - lecturers. Increasingly, San Francisco State University is relying on lecturers to teach. However, there has been minimal, public discussion about this development. More importantly, these members of the faculty are not fully developed as assets to the university. They have less access to teaching and research support, even when they are long-term and serve large numbers of students. Moreover, lecturers frequently express a sense of being second-class citizens, stuck in dead-end jobs with little hope for career development or access to the opportunities that can more fully cultivate their talents. A professional workforce increasingly alienated from the institution does not bode well for the university.
Another important tension exists in the area of innovation, especially in terms of technology. Technological innovation, so far, is neither highly encouraged nor rewarded at San Francisco State University. Little funding or space exists to promote or incubate faculty-driven innovation. In the area of technology (for instruction, research, and support), especially, a one-size-fits-all/top-down technology strategy currently inhibits bottom-up innovation from students, faculty, and staff. Today, faculty, students, and staff inhabit an exciting, rapidly-changing technological environment, until they step onto campus.
Underlying all of these tensions is a real financial issue, including the declining funding for Academic Affairs in the face of California state budget cuts and the diversion of funds from Academic Affairs to other areas of the University, including University Advancement, Benefits, and Student Services. These shifts may pay future dividends but in the short-term, they limit investment in faculty and academic resources.
These tensions have shaped the strategies and initiatives adopted in the Academic Master plan. It may be simpler to choose one “side” or the other of these competing demands and expectations. However, this master plan seeks to find ways to capitalize on the university’s strengths through creative solutions that draw on the benefits of a truly diverse community of learners, whether they be faculty, staff, students, or administrators.
Section III. Strategies & Initiatives
Building academic community
San Francisco State University will focus on building a vibrant academic community that promotes the exchange of ideas and concepts among faculty, staff, administrators, and students. Whether in teaching, learning, research and creative activities, or service, the current barriers to sharing, collaboration, and communication on and off-campus must be lowered. This initiative will include new models of peer-to-peer participation and includes the creation of digital and physical spaces for interaction and learning for students, staff, and faculty.
Investing in faculty
People represent the ultimate asset of the university, and faculty represent the core academic workforce in terms of teaching and learning, shared governance, and creative and scholarly activity on campus. Given the current state of public funding, the University will pursue ambitious, transparent strategies for adding and supporting tenure-track faculty. We will also take the lead in providing innovative, ethical solutions to the lecturer employment situation at SF State and across the nation. Finally, the University will support faculty in a wide range of creative, pedagogical, and entrepreneurial activities. While sabbaticals, grants, and other material resources are critical, the University will develop structures and improve processes to maximize faculty expertise.
Fostering a culture of creativity
The University will promote creativity among students, staff, and faculty by encouraging bottom-up efforts, incubating new ideas, endorsing experimentation, and providing new pathways for intellectual exchange and development. The University will create a rigorous but flexible model for scholarship based on creativity contracts that align mission-sensitive systems of recognition and reward with the work actually done in the University’s units, and with faculty needs. The university will also develop a new approach to technology, one that sees new media not just as a means of greater efficiency but also as an opportunity for creative, even disruptive, innovation.
Strengthening educational experience
The University will pursue outcomes that will strengthen the educational experience for students by supporting teaching, training, and professional development among faculty. This includes a focus on the integration of research, creativity, and technology in the classroom and the active promotion of inter-, multi-, and transdisciplinary curricula and collaboration at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students will be equipped for post-millennial life and work. This includes the inculcating of new knowledges and ways of knowing, as well as the kinds of literacies - - technological, profession, and critical - - required for a long, happy, and ethical post-graduate life.
Section IV. Action Plan
Wherever possible, the actions that follow will be formulated by key faculty constituencies including standing committees of the Academic Senate working closely with administrators from Academic Affairs and other units of the University. A prerequisite for much of this work is the adoption of new University Mission and Vision statements.
Building academic community
Big idea: A University Academic Center. The new University Academic Center will serve as a physical setting for building and sustaining academic community for faculty, staff, and students. Almost every one of our surveys, interviews, and solicited memos and reports decries the lack of community on our campus [See especially appendices 1.1, 2.8, and all of appendix 3]. The University Academic Center will provide a well-designed structure for meeting, collaborating, and creating. This will be the central place on-campus for many community-building activities: peer-to-peer faculty mentoring and development; maker-spaces for faculty and faculty-student work; centralized university-wide tutoring and academic support services; presentation and demonstration of faculty projects; the cultivation and coordination of faculty interest groups and advisories; public venues for symposia, conferences, and other gatherings; informal socializing and more formal events. It will also be the place where student computer labs are more efficiently aggregated, disburdening the Library and colleges of much of the technical support and training for student computer use. [See appendix 3.7]
- A task force will be appointed by the President and the Academic Senate that - - over the course of the year - - will identify potential space and create the specifications for a physical faculty-and-staff-oriented University Academic Center. . University Advancement will look into raising funds from donors specifically for this purpose.
- The Office of the President, through wide consultation, will create a strategy for restoring and creating innovative retreats for faculty and staff to learn and collaborate about teaching and professional development. (The University Academic Center can eventually provide the venue for these retreats.)
- The University Interdisciplinary Council will provide the campus community with a report on interdisciplinarity and collaboration at SF State that includes strategic recommendations for promoting greater interaction and collaboration across units.
- The University will pursue hires of interdisciplinary clusters of faculty identified by the Academic Deans and Academic Affairs.
The Academic Senate and Faculty Affairs will study patterns and best practices of peer mentorship of faculty, including lecturers, across campus with the objective of proposing new peer-to-peer faculty mentoring models.
- The Academic Senate and the President will report to the University community on progress towards the University Academic Center. It is intended that this center be in operation at this time.
- The Provost will report to the University on the progress of the cluster hires and on plans for the future.
- The University Interdisciplinary Council will report on progress made towards collaboration and interdisciplinarity on campus.
- The Academic Senate will report on university-wide retreats.
- The Academic Senate will propose policies and processes for stimulating peer mentorship among faculty..
- The University Academic Center will have been in operation for several years, and a University task force will evaluate its operation in terms of enhancing community as well as faculty development.
- The Provost will provide a five-year review of progress towards campus community and interdisiplinarity, including the impact of the cluster hires.
Investing in faculty
Our current efforts at faculty replenishment and support are unsustainable. Likewise, our growing contingent labor force is increasingly alienated from the mainstream of professional life and development [see especially appendices 1.1, 1.2, 2.5, 3.2, and 3.3]. The university will implement an intentionally-designed plan for faculty at the university that accounts for hiring, lecturer/TT balances, career development, sabbaticals, and faculty citizenship and that positions the University as a national leader in these issues, demonstrating our commitment to social justice and to serving our students by leveraging the teaching ability, service, and knowledge base of all faculty.
- The University will develop a comprehensive 5-year plan for hiring with the objective of increasing tenure-track faculty levels, including exploring the possibility of lecturer conversion to TT faculty, cluster hires, and “game-changing” hires. Finance & Administration and University Advancement will be charged with helping to support this objective financially.
- The Academic Senate and the Dean of Faculty Affairs will review the “Best Practices for Lecturers” proposed by the Lecturers’ Council of CFA for possible adoption.
- The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs will collaborate with campus leaders to look at new ways to assist faculty in pursuing a wide range of research, entrepreneurial, and creative endeavors, including the required resources to do so.
- The Academic Senate and the Dean of Faculty Affairs will review the Strategic Issues Committee’s 2014 report on Service to the university and produce a blueprint for creating a more efficient system of support and recognition for academic leadership and service congruent to the University’s mission. This may include initiating a ‘leadership academy’ to help train and motivate faculty at the associate professor rank to undertake major service on campus.
- Academic Affairs will report on progress towards the goal of increasing tenure-track faculty levels, supporting service, and supporting lecturer career development and teaching outcomes.
- The University will increase sabbatical leaves with pay above the minimum twelve percent of eligible faculty stipulated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The target should be to support all meritorious applications for such leaves.
- The University will begin implementation of a robust program of professional development for lecturer faculty, including the design of pathways to full-time, tenure track employment.
- The University will begin implementation of a program of renewed support for service.
- The University will have increased tenure/tenure-track faculty lines to a healthy level of sustainability, e.g. appreciably increasing tenure density and growing the full-time faculty at a significant net positive rate.
- The University will have implemented and widely advertised an ethical model for promoting lecturer professional development, linked to fund-raising efforts and communicated widely as a cutting-edge contribution to higher education in the U.S. and around the world.
- The Academic Senate will conduct a new survey on University service to evaluate progress made over the past 5 years.
Fostering a culture of creativity
Our expectations of professional work and achievement must grow to match to the current and future variety of faculty and work and roles. A 21st-century University requires a new, flexible vision of research & professional development tailored to the strengths of our community and to our vision/mission and that embraces some work that may not fit traditional models, including the scholarship of teaching and learning and public-facing work, while at the same time promoting high standards of scholarship and competitiveness for outside funding[see especially appendices 1.1, 2.4, 2.6, and all of appendix 3] This operation entails the careful development of a process and a structure that matches what we really do and what we aspire to do to the economy of the university.
- A task force will survey faculty work and roles and make recommendations for formalized ways of recognizing professional activities and providing campus-based supports for a wider range of scholarly activities related to the University mission and the work of the colleges. These will include recommending short-term programs for immediate implementation as well as longer-term initiatives, and the task force will be charged in part with looking at ways to reward overlaps among scholarship, teaching, and service. In addition, the task force will consult with Academic Affairs, including the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, to consider ways to leverage these changes to increase faculty’s abilities to attract funding and to promote high standards of scholarship in these areas.
- The Academic Senate, the Professional Development Council, and the Office of Faculty Affairs, consulting widely, will propose for adoption a revamping of the RTP process around a new scholarly and teaching model based on creativity contracts. These contracts reflect explicit and transparent expectations about the quality and kind of work undertaken by faculty in their progress toward tenure and promotion and may not respect the traditional configurations of the “three bucket” model.
- The new RTP process and creativity contracts, if adopted by the Academic Senate and signed into effect by the President, will go into effect, with accommodations made for faculty who did most of their work under older models.
- The University Administration and Academic Senate will report on the implementation of policies and practices aimed at fostering creativity and innovation in scholarship and teaching.
Strengthening the educational experience
Big Idea #1
The University will create and support a University Teaching and Learning Commons [See appendices 1.1 and 2.7]. This Commons will include both physical and virtual spaces and will foster interaction among faculty, among various academically-oriented units within the University (Academic Technology, tutoring and student support services, a writing commons for promoting Writing Across the Curriculum, etc.), and between the university and external constituents, including local communities, business, and governments. A key goal of this Commons is to create and maximize peer-to-peer networks of teaching and learning expertise.
- An Academic Senate task force, in consultation with Faculty Affairs, Academic Technology, and other constituents, will study and propose a new model and structure for faculty and teaching development that leverages the power of community. This Teaching and Learning Commons, which requires real and physical spaces, should build on: existing structures and relationships, assessment, existing faculty teaching expertise, career-long frameworks for professional development, and a recognition of the variety of particular and disciplinary contexts for teaching and learning. The Teaching and Learning Commons will emphasize: sharing rather receiving knowledge; an intellectualized approach to teaching, rather than mere training; opportunities for localizing teaching practice and knowledge within particular disciplines and domains; pairing teaching with specific resources (tutoring, subject librarians, stipends, assigned time, etc.), opportunities for faculty to “go public” with their teaching through scholarship and professional activity, and inclusion the whole faculty in its efforts, especially lecturers.
- The Dean of Graduate Studies and Graduate Council will investigate and report to the University faculty and community on re-envisioning graduate education with the goals of increasing access to graduate education for under-represented communities, supporting research and teaching by graduate students, supporting faculty by rewarding them for mentoring, examinations, and other graduate service, and innovating in the development of graduate programs.
- CWEP and Academic Affairs will convene an Advisory Group for WAC to integrate the various strands of writing across the curriculum
- The Professional Development Council together with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs will conduct an assessment of the connection between faculty-led scholarship and the educational experience at SF State, and ways to improve that connection.
- The Online Education Committee will study and report on a campus-wide Online Education policy that will make the university a force in faculty-driven, high-quality, accessible online education, especially for under-represented students.
- The Teaching and Learning Commons will be operational and producing its own quarterly reports and publications.
- The University will sponsor a campus-wide retreat aimed at assessing the past two years of pedagogical innovation and making plans for institutionalizing effective practices.
- The University will by this time have adopted an Online Education policy consistent with our mission and practices.
- The University will recognize, encourage, and support the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
A committee of the Academic Senate, together with Academic Affairs officers, will assess progress made in strengthening the educational experience at SF State in terms of pedagogy, online education, the program review process, and connecting teaching and scholarship.
Big Idea #2
In an age and a region where technology has become central to work, leisure, and education, the University must fundamentally re-think the relationship between learning and technology. [ See especially appendices 1.1, 2.4, 3.1, and 3.7] This will require a shift from thinking of technology simply in terms of “delivery” and passive consumption and consumers. Like the world around it, the University must embrace technology as a medium of creativity, knowledge-making, and socializing. The goal of endowing students with technological literacy is no longer sufficient; instead, the University will cultivate technology as the infrastructure of maker-cultures that empower faculty and students to innovate and create.
- In conjunction with the Online Education Committee, Academic Technology will prepare a plan to provide all SF State students and faculty with their own domains on easily accessible server space, along with flexible and extensive technological tools with which to manage and represent their work and interact with peers and colleagues. (This approach moves beyond antique and static notions of the “e-portfolio.”) Students will carry this domain-of-one’s-own beyond graduation and into the worlds of work and civic life. Faculty can, for instance, use this server space for their electronic retention, tenure, and promotion documentation and public-facing projects and work.
- The Division of Information Technology will assemble a task force to explore and design a social media platform to provide a virtual campus commons for faculty, staff, and students. The goal of this commons is to increase communication and socializing across campus.
- The Academic Senate will develop policies to open-source the university’s teaching and research activities and resources.
- Within each College, technology committees, with support from the University, will be responsible for designing and planning maker spaces, incubators, and/or fabrication labs that support flexible, disciplinary uses of technology in teaching, learning, and professional activity.
- The university will begin a pilot implementation of the domain-of-one’s-own for faculty and students. The university will implement its social media platform.
- With policies in place, the university will provide incentives (assigned time, stipends, etc.) to encourage faculty to open-source their work.
- As maker-spaces, incubators, and/or fabrication spaces come on line, the University will sponsor faculty interest groups to participate, demonstrate, and promote their use.
- The University will launch a virtual showcase of its maker-cultures and their products.
- The University will connect its maker-cultures to local businesses, communities, and organizations to create new hacker-spaces that address community and civic issues and problems (from housing to schooling to transit) and that invite collaboration among faculty, students, and businesses.
- Academic Technology and the Division of Information Technology will convene symposia and working groups to reflect on and further develop the University’s efforts.
The University, with the aid of University Advancement, will launch a national prize for civic hacking.