Fast Forward Syracuse

Provost Michele Wheatly spearheads funding efforts for Academic Strategic Plan

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Syracuse University Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly has been tasked to develop and implement a funding plan for the Academic Strategic Plan's programs and objectives.

Syracuse University Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly has begun developing the budget and a funding plan for SU’s Academic Strategic Plan, one of three components in the university’s Fast Forward Syracuse initiative.

Syverud announced in a speech to the university community on Jan. 17 that Wheatly, Interim Chief Financial Officer Gwenn Judge and incoming CFO Amir Rahnamay-Azar will cooperate on developing and implementing a funding plan for the ASP’s programs and objectives. They will also play a role in ascertaining the funding required in the short- and long-term for the plan to meet its goals.

The ASP sets an academic vision for the university and outlines plans to meet that vision in the coming years. Some members of the University Senate said they have raised questions to Wheatly and other administrators about the plan’s funding that have gone unanswered.

Wheatly said she has been meeting with various relevant university stakeholders to seek input on the funding and is currently building a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1. The university’s budget, she said, is going to support elements of the ASP, meaning a separate budget created exclusively for the ASP will not be needed.

what-is-asp

She said it would be impossible to accomplish all ASP goals in the fiscal year and she has been tasked to support the top priority of the year: invigorating the Office of Research to provide research support to faculty.

“It’s very hard when you say where we are with short-term and long-term goal planning because this is actually a very big process, and I would say we are making our way through at the normal rate,” Wheatly said.

The ASP identifies six focus areas: providing SU students with a “world-class learning experience,” advancing the university’s research capacity, prioritizing internationalization, becoming the premier university for veterans and military students, nurturing an entrepreneurial culture and pursuing excellences in areas across the university.

The ASP was submitted to SU’s Board of Trustees in May 2015 and currently exists in draft form as a “living, breathing document,” subject to changes and updates.

Wheatly said each college and school is working on its own independent academic plan as well. All academic deans, she said, need to align their own strategic plan and steer their funds into the direction of the ASP. She also called for using strategic initiative funds to promote cross-college activity.

“What we’ve got to do is make informed decisions about aligning the money we have with the best purpose and so actually there are a lot of people at various stages within the administration that can make that decision well,” she said.

Samuel Gorovitz, a member of the University Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee, said each department in each school or college thinks differently about its priorities. This could generate tension among competing values, he said, even though the university agrees that it supports all of the values listed in the ASP.

Bruce Carter, chair of the University Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Affairs, said there is a great deal of frustration within the University Senate about specifically from where the source of funding for the ASP will come.

“It’s clear that it’s going to be expensive undertaking, and it can’t happen without the money that is devoted to it,” he said.

Gorovitz said it is important that the university openly discusses the budgetary aspect of the plan. He said a model for transparency could be Syverud’s comments on the sanctuary campus movement made during his address to the campus. Syverud was mindful in explaining that the university needs to understand the specifics of becoming a sanctuary campus before declaring itself one, Gorovitz said.

The university should be as rigorous in assessing the academic plan as its approach toward the sanctuary campus issue, Govoritz suggested.

Syverud said during his address to the community that the university will also develop new funding resources, a process he said will include: a review of SU’s advancement goals; a look at its historical and current tuition as well as the room and board rates; and an analysis of how those rates compare to SU’s current and aspirational peer institutions.

Such processes, he said, “will require candid and tough conversations” about priorities and choices.

Wheatly would not say whether Syverud was hinting at further tuition increases. She also clarified Syverud’s statement, saying it was not meant to be taken as a blanket statement that the leadership unilaterally decides what to support and what to forego. Rather it was supposed to be interpreted as promoting fiscal responsibility, she said.

The university receives its revenue primarily in four ways: tuition, room and board fees, philanthropy and grants and contracts. Wheatly said all options are to be examined and that there are plans to grow fundraising and expand contracts.

“What we are trying to do is to be very open and transparent with the appropriate (University) Senate committees,” she said.

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