Talking with the chancellor: the year in review

As the year draws to a close, UW Tacoma Chancellor Mark Pagano sat down with The Ledger for an interview to share his thoughts on how the quarter went, how the school year went, what he is most proud of this past year, what he wishes went better and what the future for UWT looks like.

“I’ve been very proud of the team and the faculty, staff, and students and the way folks have responded to the quarter,” said Pagano regarding the transition to an all-online quarter.

“Spring 2020: it’s going to go down in history with everything going online, student services — everything — was done remotely. I had a lot of anxiety about that. There were so many questions, but all you can really do is take it a day at a time … one of the things that I was most proud of that our team did was the surveys of the students. We didn’t just assume we knew how to do it best.”

In transitioning everything to online due to COVID-19, Pagano expressed that faculty and staff have come away with valuable knowledge of the online operation, and hopes that UWT can further expand its online and hybrid options for students. 

Pagano also addressed the recent events regarding the protests around the nation surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police. Pagano stated that students were already struggling with the pressures introduced by COVID-19 and that with the protests, police and government reactions there are even more stressors students, faculty and staff have to deal with. He added that he supported the June 1 email titled “Lifting the veil” sent out by UW President, Ana Marie Cauce, regarding COVID-19 protesters wielding guns wanting to lift state stay-at-home orders along with the nationwide unrest and protests in the wake of police brutality against African-Americans.

Several buildings were vandalized along Pacific Avenue — including The Harmon Brewing Co. and Indochine — after protests on June 1. Pagano stated that he does not believe the protests were the reason for vandalism, but rather those who took advantage of the protests to loot and vandalize local business.

“It wasn’t the demonstration that went awry,” Pagano said. “I think other people quickly joined in and caused some of [the] damages. The demonstration was all day long, and it was so peaceful.”

Pagano affirmed that he and all of UW Tacoma stands with those in marginalized groups against any and all forms of discrimination and, in a June 3 email, reaffirmed UW Tacoma’s commitment to the UW Race and Equality Initiative.

As for looking back over the whole school year, Pagano highlighted some of the achievements which UWT has achieved. UWT was awarded the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification back at the start of winter quarter. Pagano stated he was happy with the progress made in solidifying UWT as an urban serving campus and one that works with the community. He noted that the Office of Community Partnerships has become a fully staffed department and will help to continue UWT’s goal of serving its community.

Pagano also stated that he has been happy with the progress made on the sustainability plan — which includes the budget primer, the faculty’s academic plan and the campus master plan. 

“Here we are 5,400 students, and we only have campus housing for 300 of them,” he said. “We still do not have a dining facility on campus. As much as I enjoy Jimmy Johns, I wouldn’t call that a dining facility. We believe we need a traditional space, a student hub.”

Regarding something which Pagano wished he and his team handled better was the class cancellations which happened over the summer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, calling it an “unfortunate situation.”

“I still can’t understand how that happened or why that happened,” Pagano said. “I’ve never got a clear understanding of how that actually occurred or why we let that occur. I worked with the chair of the Faculty Council Ellen Moore in that school and asked together for an investigation to [look] into that. I know that is ongoing, but COVID-19 impacted that office … so we haven’t received that report.”

Pagano then discussed how communications within the administration to faculty, staff and students, and vice versa, has been a weak point overall at UWT. He went on to say that they had hired a consultant this year to evaluate the communication structure. UWT administrators are now taking the consultant’s feedback on better understanding how to address and better cater their information to their intended audience.

Looking toward the future, Pagano commented that UWT will remain consistent with the values it has been promoting over the past few years.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, so the future is a little bit unknown but I know we aren’t going to change our values,” he said. “So, as a campus, our values will be intact. We’re going to be there with equity, care for our students, so the culture on our campus needs to be solid, open and welcoming to everybody. We need to be conservative financially. We’re going to take those values and move into the future. I’m really eager to get back to something a little more normal, things that we’re a little more used to — seeing each other. But it will definitely be adapted and changed due to this virus that happened.”