Academic Reinvention Initiative
I write to share the results of plans set forth during the Academic Reinvention initiative
of the Magis Operational Excellence Program (MOE). This message follows my April
27 message (https://www.slu.edu/the-office-of-the-provost/communications-from-the-provost) in which I described some specific actions and important themes. Our goal was to
maintain or improve academic excellence to create a distinctive SLU academic experience,
delivered in a financially sustainable way. We have started this journey with some
important decisions and plans.
To date, academic units have committed to actions that will realize $13.3 million
in value (the combination of cost reductions and new revenue) by FY 2020 -- and that’s
approximately 95% of the target we were charged to achieve as part of the Academic
Reinvention initiative. Furthermore, academic units contributed significant additional
savings to MOE in the organizational redesign initiative that led to the staff and
administrative reductions announced by President Pestello in March.
Our progress to date is the result of several interrelated actions:
- We streamlined curricula and reduced faculty costs in programs with significant capacity;
in doing so, we have ensured stronger, more stable enrollments in courses, and significantly
reduced the number of courses with very small enrollments. From a financial standpoint,
this was by far the most powerful driver of cost savings. Nearly 80% of the roughly
$10.6 million in cost-savings we will achieve by FY2020 is directly related to this
effort. About $1.5 million will come via personnel cost savings associated with the
non-tenured faculty who received notices last week that their contracts will not be
renewed, faculty resignations, phased retirements, contract term changes, elimination
of graduate assistantships, and anticipated faculty attrition in the academic units.
We have accomplished all cost-savings under MOE without terminating any tenured faculty,
and all notifications of contract non-renewal for non-tenure track faculty have been
conducted in full compliance with the Faculty Manual. The loss of faculty through
non-renewal is very difficult for our academic community; we remain grateful for the
hard work of all faculty, but especially the few whose positions have been eliminated
and will be moving on to employment elsewhere in a year from now, or possibly sooner
in some cases.
- We solicited proposals from the faculty and deans for new, sustainable revenue resulting
from new programs or the expansion of existing programs. Examples include summer online
courses in the College of Arts and Sciences and expansion of the Physician Assistant
program in Doisy College of Health Sciences. Financially, new revenue from these
proposals accounts for about 20% of that of the total value of $13.3 million.
- In some areas, organizational re-alignments of academic programs or departments are
being implemented. For example, the Center for Health Care Ethics is moving into the
College of Arts and Sciences, effective July 1st. There are others, which I highlighted
in my April 27 message, and additional re-organizations are under consideration.
For example, the Aviation program, in Parks College, is developing a business plan
to operate as a financially self-sustaining unit.
- Cost-savings related to program disestablishments account for less than 5% of the
$10.6 million in projected savings identified to date. But program disestablishment
allows us to continue our efforts to streamline our academic portfolio and focus on
excellence throughout. The Faculty Senate played an instrumental role in designing
the process by which programs were disestablished. The process, shared openly with
the faculty, was consistent with the Faculty Manual and reflected my commitment to
shared governance. The list of all programs affirmed by the Board of Trustees for
disestablishment can be found at: https://www.slu.edu/operational-excellence/docs/academic-reinvention-tracking-document-may-2017.pdf. While program disestablishments are a reflection of strategic priorities, we must
remain fully committed to seeing that all students enrolled in our programs are cared
for through the completion of their degrees. The deans and faculty will connect with
students to assure them that teach-out plans of program disestablishments will meet
their needs without compromising rigor or academic quality. There are 47 undergraduate
and 28 graduate students currently enrolled in programs to be closed over the next
It is important to understand these transformational decisions in the context of one
of our top priorities for the University: investing in and supporting faculty and
staff. Even though we have not yet achieved a surplus via our MOE efforts, Dr. Pestello
and the Board are evidencing their good faith commitment to investing in our people
by using annual savings from MOE for compensation increases for faculty and staff
in the upcoming fiscal year. Dr. Pestello recently announced the Board’s approval
of a budget for FY2018 that includes just over $450,000 for faculty rank and tenure
promotions, as well as an additional 2% increase in the total pool of compensation
available for faculty and staff.
For FY2018, the 2% compensation pool is comprised of the following:
- 1% merit pool for faculty and staff to be distributed based upon performance, and
- An additional 1% for:
- Faculty and staff who are most contributing to advancing priorities in our strategic
- Faculty most at variance to market or peers (as identified by the Gender Equity Task
Force and other compensation data).
The deans and I have agreed to allocate these pools of money for faculty according
to the following guidelines:
- Raise base salaries of meritorious faculty with a fixed dollar amount (rather than
a percent increase).
- Raise base salaries of faculty with the largest gap between their current actual salaries
and their predicted salaries as identified in the Gender Equity Task Force Report
and other compensation data.
- Cover all increases for rank and/or tenure per the same standards used in prior years
(5-10% increases in base salary depending on the type of promotion).
Staff performance increases will be determined based upon evaluation of individual
performance by each dean or unit vice president. Additionally, none of the above
applies to the School of Medicine or SLUCare, both of which will be addressed separately
by Vice President and Dean Kevin Behrns.
We may be at the conclusion of the academic year with important decisions made that
will contribute significantly in reducing the operating deficit and restoring a surplus
that will enable investment in the academic enterprise. However, any initiative worthy
of the name “academic reinvention” will necessarily require a multiyear effort that
creates the structures and support needed to attract the students, faculty, and staff
who want to be part of a SLU engaged in some of the most significant challenges in
St. Louis and the world. In Fall 2017 we’ll hold more face-to-face meetings to discuss
our planning and ongoing reinvention efforts. Until then, I thank everyone for their
commitment to the stewardship of the University.
Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.