Members of the chancellor’s cabinet provided updates on construction, virtual commencement and responses to BSU’s demands.
Chancellor Mark Pagano and members of his cabinet provided updates to the student body and faculty regarding how UW Tacoma has been adapting to online learning despite COVID’s grip on campus operations.
Pagano kicked the town hall off by recognizing how much of a toll the pandemic has taken on the UWT community and reminded everyone to make sure they take time to maintain physical and mental health.
“I encourage everyone to take a breather,” Pagano said. “I encourage all of you to take some time to go outside and enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest weather in the springtime. I think it can do us some well. However, stay socially distant, be masked up, be safe, and get yourself some rest.”
This spring will likely be the last of total remote learning as more and more people are becoming vaccinated and others will soon be eligible. Students can expect to come back to campus with a bit of a makeover. Changes to the library, new laboratories and updates to the Milgard School of Business are on the way.
The library will include new help desks, an expanded reading area and a new space called the learning commons. The basement of the academic block behind Pacific Avenue will have four new engineering labs.
He then gave updates on the school budget. Pagano said that the state had surpassed its monetary expectations and that all signs are pointing toward good news.
“The revenue forecast for the state was outstanding,” he said. “It essentially was 1.3 billion [dollars] higher than it was in November … I believe reductions to our campus are not going to happen.”
Two stimulus packages have directed money toward higher education. The third, which was recently signed into effect by President Joseph Biden, will be dedicated to supporting all UW campuses. The funds are on their way, but campus funding’s priority will depend on which campuses faced the most budget reductions.
Before passing it off to the rest of his cabinet, Pagano gave updates regarding this year’s commencement ceremony. He said that, in short, the commencement ceremony would again be online.
“There’s no way we can equitably have an exercise in the Tacoma Dome because everybody won’t be vaccinated,” he said. “They won’t let us in there right now anyway, so we won’t be having the traditional ceremony in the Tacoma Dome.”
Dr. Marian Harris updated students about the search for a new chancellor and how the process has gone thus far. Recruitment began a few weeks ago with advertisements being posted around online job marketplaces. The search team is keeping their eyes out for an ethnically diverse candidate, emphasizing Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) along with gender diversity.
Thus, job postings have been placed in diverse venues such as Asians in Higher Ed., Diverse Jobs, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Outlook, Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, and Women in Higher Education.
“The response has been just great in terms of recruiting,” Harris said. “The search team reached out to approximately 2,700 individuals, and many of these individuals are sitting presidents, provosts, and deans at research institutions.”
So far, the search has reached 19 applications and 58 nominations. The search firm is actively working with 40 applications and having conversations with these individuals. The semi-final confidential interviews will occur on the 13 and 14 of May, and the final interviews will be held later that same month.
Students may be relieved to hear that this quarter although mostly remote, will have looser restrictions, and a few RSOs will be holding small-scale on-campus events granted that proper social distancing and mask procedures are put in place.
Students may be even more relieved to hear that this fall quarter will be mostly in-person learning. However, it will be subject to change based on state health guidelines.
“We’re very hopeful and look forward to seeing you back on campus again, more regularly and in a manner that is safe,” said Dr. Jill Purdy, the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
According to Chief Executive Officer Joe Lawless, things are looking good. Spring enrollment and Autumn applications are up. Since Inslee announced that Washington will soon be entering phase 3, a significant rule in place during this phase will be the availability of telework flexibility through Sept. 10.
In closing things out, Pagano publicly addressed their response to the demands of the Black Student Union and explained what they’ve been working on behind the scenes.
“I know there’s been a concern circulating that we have never really properly adequately responded to the 2015 BSU demands, and I wanted to clarify what we’ve been doing,” he said.
He said that some of the demands such as additional Black student representation on campus, a higher number of Black faculty and a higher number of Black staff that more closely matched the ethnic ratios on campus weren’t able to be accomplished overnight.
“While we could make progress on those, we couldn’t immediately ever achieve the demands as they were written, we could just report on progress … so we worked closely with that group of students that academic year and made another detailed response in 2016, a written response to their faculty advisor,” Pagano said.
He said that as they moved forward, they thought about other goals in addition to the longer-term goals placed in 2016.
He said that by thinking about what they could do today at the present moment, they were able to seek and receive more permanent funding from the institution to fund events like the Martin Luther King breakfast. The Executive Budget Committee agreed to put forth $5,000 a year to help the program.
“That would allow the students to focus mostly on the programming and not mostly on the fundraising activities, and I believe that was very well received,” Pagano said.
He then said they’re working to meet more of the new extended and short-range demands as well, and mentioned that they submitted a written response to their request.
“I hope that’s a clarification to our campus community, and we really appreciate all of our students, our student leaders, our students that are studying here, and we do everything we can to help them be successful in their careers here at UW Tacoma,” Pagano said.
Before closing things up, Pagano spoke out against Asian-American violence due to the recent violent acts against Asian-Americans. The Center for Equity and Inclusion has set up talk forums to express their feelings toward racial inequality.
“This is horrible, the xenophobic violence against Asians and Asian-Americans continues, and we as a campus leadership team including the President and all of us at UW Tacoma we stand-in solidarity with our Asian-American friends and loved ones on our campus,” he said.