2003 English Department External Review Self-Study

Department of English: Cost and Fiscal Management of the program

1. Adequacy of resources

Without whining unduly, it does seem important to point out, and indeed to emphasize, that we exist in an underfunded college in an underfunded university in an underfunded higher education system. We have lived for a number of years now in a wider political climate that has been relatively unfriendly to public higher education. Until the current fiscal year, Minnesota has run, for about five consecutive years, annual budget surpluses ranging from about $1 billion to more than $3 billion. At the same time, tuition costs for Minnesota state universities have substantially outpaced the general rate of inflation, as the state's proportionate share of support for public higher education has diminished. MnSCU , the governing board for the seven state universities and twenty-seven community and technical colleges (the University of Minnesota system is a separate entity), has found it increasingly difficult to gain funding from the legislature that even keeps pace with inflation. As the largest institution in the system, SCSU has systematically been disadvantaged in the MnSCU funding formulas based on the assumption that we achieve economies of scale because of our size. Hence, our funding per student FTE from MnSCU is the smallest in the system. Indeed, we are one of the lowest regionally and nationally as well. And, within the campus, as demonstrated by the costs per student-credit-hour, noted above, the College of Fine Arts and Humanities struggles to compete for funds within a campus and a system that privileges career-oriented programs that are the centerpiece of its utilitarian, careerist appeals to the public.

Now the budget surpluses have given way to record budget deficits, and the state government in St. Paul is looking to higher education for a disproportionate contribution to the solving of the state's deficit. SCSU is already lean in its administrative staffing. A significantly higher percentage of our budget institutionally goes into instruction than is the national norm. There is less opportunity for trimming the budget on the administrative side than at most public universities. Hence, it appears certain that the impact on instructional staffing will be severe. Across campus, we have an almost total hiring freeze, and administrators are attending MnSCU workshops on retrenchment procedures. Operating budgets across campus are on the block. The impact of this crisis on the campus and the department over the next two years, and very likely beyond, promises to be severe, and it makes all the more urgent our concerns about preserving our major and graduate programs in the face of the combination of this budget crisis and substantially greater numbers of students seeking enrollment at SCSU. This crisis in resource scarcity colors not only everything in this immediate section but the entire report.

2. Cost Efficiency of the English Department

The English Department is a relatively low-cost generator of student credit hours. The latest institutional research report calculates that for the academic year 2001-2002 the cost per credit hour for the English Department at $146.50/credit, which is about 8% below the overall SCSU average of $158.11 and almost identical with the overall College of Fine Arts and Humanities average of $146.70. We are not the most efficient generator of credits, as can be shown in a comparison of our costs with those of, for example, Philosophy ($74.72), which achieves remarkably low costs by way of very large lecture sections for its general education classes. At the same time, we are far from the most expensive in producing student credits. For example, Electrical Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering cost $384.49 and $653.30 respectively per student credit hour generated. As noted under the discussion of enrollment management, our class sizes are increasing and are certain to continue to increase. As a result, even assuming a modest increase in faculty salaries and TA stipends, it appears that our costs per student credit hour generated are likely not to rise significantly in the near term, and indeed, it seems likely that they may even fall.

Faculty Staffing. Our most important resource is our excellent faculty. We have been fortunate in our new hires the past three years, gaining able new directors for the composition program and for the Write Place, as well as excellent new colleagues in rhetoric-composition, English pedagogy, linguistics (two), and medieval English literature. Part of our success in recruiting and retaining excellent young colleagues, even in an underfunded institution, we believe, can be attributed to our highly functional departmental governance, grounded in personal and professional collegiality and respect.

To a significant extent, our staffing decisions, like our enrollment management decisions, are frequently so tightly constrained by circumstances outside the department and even the college as to be determined for us. For example, the president's public pledge a few years ago to provide a seat in first-year composition for every new enrolling student led to the emergency hiring of ten fixed-term instructors who taught primarily ENGL 191, the composition course. The impact of the coming and going of this cohort of fixed-term faculty can be seen both in the table below, charting faculty numbers, and in the tables on credit hour production and distribution in the department in the discussion of enrollment management.

English Department Staffing: Headcount and FTE

Academic Year

Headcount Faculty

FTE Faculty

2002-03

34.44

2001-02

42

37.00

2000-01

51

44.95

1999-00

51

42.57

1998-99

42

40.03

The FTE numbers noted in this table, however, do not represent the faculty teaching resources available. As is noted elsewhere in this document, the English department makes a disproportionate contribution to the overall governance of the institution. At one point, three years ago, the department was contributing 5 1/4 FTE positions to the wider campus. English faculty were serving a full-time reassignments as the associate dean, director of the American Indian Center , as an associate vice president for academic affairs, and as president of the Faculty Association. In addition, two other members of the department were serving, respectively, a 3/4 reassignment as faculty director of the SCSU advising center and a 1/2 reassignment as chair of the campus-wide strategic planning committee. The current number of 3 1/4 FTE is still substantial: associate dean (1), associate vice president (1), director of advising center (3/4), and coordinator of the campus mediation program (1/2). In addition, the management of the department itself entails a significant administrative overhead. The chair, the director of composition, the director of graduate studies, the director of the IEC, the director of the ESL program, the director of the MATESL program, and the internship director all have reassigned time. In addition, at any given time, 10% of the department's permanent faculty can be expected to have sabbaticals. Hence, the net FTE positions available for instruction are as shown in the table below.

English Department Staffing: Reassignment and Net FTE

Year

FTE

Reassigned

Sabbaticals

Net FTE for Instruction

2002-03

2001-02

37.00

4.92

3.23

28.85

2000-01

44.95

7.44

1.00

36.51

1999-00

42.57

7.28

2.00

33.29

1998-99

40.03

5.46

1017

33.40

However, it is noteworthy that even with this very substantial contribution to the maintenance of the wider institution, the ratio of reassignments to FTE faculty is not significantly different from the same ratio for the institution overall, as shown in the following table.

English Faculty Reassignments Compared with SCSU Faculty Reassignments

Year

SCSU FTE

SCSU Reassign

SCSU % Reassign

English FTE

English Reassign

Engl. % Reassign

2002-03

2001-02

575.61

87.44

15.2%

37.00

4.92

13.3%

2000-01

610.97

77.57

12.7%

44.95

7.44

16.6%

1999-00

560.87

86.51

15.4%

42.57

7.28

17.1%

1998-99

537.17

84.45

15.7

40.03

5.46

13.6%

The current financial crisis limits departmental staffing options even more than the norm. Of five positions initially authorized for searches this year, only two remain, both rhetoric-composition positions. If it were not for the terms of an arbitration agreement last year, these two searches would also be gone. A particularly difficult loss, and one that we even yet hope to recover, is a linguistics/TESL line that we urgently need to cover the burgeoning demand in TESL, both undergraduate and graduate. The other search that is particularly difficult to lose in light of current staffing demands is a creative writing line.

Campus-wide, research grants, sabbaticals, and other institutional support for scholarly and creative work and faculty development has steadily diminished in recent years. The most recent faculty development initiative, assessment grants and an assessment director, was eliminated this past year. In a recent departmental discussion assessing the quality of our professional lives, this issue of intramural support for faculty scholarship, curriculum development, and reflective practice in general was identified as a significant concern.

TA Staffing. We offer an unusually rich range of well supervised, mentored teaching experiences as a part of the education of most of our graduate students. These experiences, which are complemented by seminars in pedagogy and enhanced by close mentoring , supervision, and ongoing formal and informal conversations among the TAs themselves, include the traditional first-year composition instruction, writing center tutoring in the Write Place, and second language instruction in both the college ESL program and the Intensive English Center (IEC). These enthusiastic apprentice instructors provide excellent, committed instruction in each of these four programs, and they are an essential part of the instructional resources of the department, and the instruction is among the most cost-efficient on campus. Yet, there has been a perennial institutional lack of financial support for the graduate assistantships. This lack of institutional support for graduate teaching assistantships, at both the local level and the system level, is a perennial problem and threat to the synergy between the graduate program and the undergraduate, especially the first-year composition course, English 191. This lack of support is manifested in two different ways. First, the amount of the financial support that we are able to offer graduate teaching assistants has put us at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting graduate students. In the past four years, the SCSU graduate dean has secured a commitment from the administration to raise the stipend $500 each year, so that our stipend is now $7500 campus-wide, and we have even been allowed to boost the stipend for TAs teaching 191 by an additional $1,000, to $8500. This has closed the gap between SCSU and our nearest competitor, Minnesota State University-Mankato, which now offers a stipend of $8,000. However the gap is not as narrow as it first appears. MSU-Mankato now gives a full tuition remission with its TA-ships, while we still offer only one-half tuition remission.

The second manifestation of institutional lack of support has been an almost predictable annual call of alarm from the central budget office that the English Department/College of Fine Arts & Humanities have overspent their TA allocation by amounts that have ranged from $100,000 to $200,000. The figure for the current year is approximately $200,000. The department (and indeed we believe the dean also) views this annual rite with increasing perplexity. Allocations or promises of allocations from a series of Academic Vice Presidents have consistently been lost or deflected somewhere in the communication network of the central administration. And the call of alarm has generally included a clear implication that the college and department are profligate in their TA spending. This implication is all the more puzzling when one considers the cost-gain ratio of a first-year composition or ESL class taught by a TA. Based on the tuition revenue alone, factoring out the state allocation, a 4-credit FYComp course with 24 students generates over $11,000 for a TA salary cost of approximately $4,000. No other instruction this institution can offer provides the combination of low cost, flexibility, high-quality, and high-contact, with such low student-teacher ratios. We now have a new provost-both the person and the position. We hope that the greater stability and authority and wisdom residing in the administration of academic affairs will lead to a more secure and clearer commitment to our graduate program and recognition of its important synergy with and contribution to the 100-level service courses.

Offices. The most significant recent development with respect to department offices has been the transfer of all our teaching assistants from the abysmal office space most of them occupied in the basement of Shoemaker Hall, an undergraduate student residence hall. The whole department, faculty and TAs, now occupy Riverview and Eastman Halls, side by side, with Riverview the main departmental site. This propinquity is certainly convenient for both faculty and graduate assistants, and it enhances the professional working relationships in the department. As the self-study noted ten years ago, Eastman has significant drawbacks as a faculty office and classroom space, given its initial design and continued use as a multi-purpose building, with three gyms and a swimming pool. Those who work in Eastman, though, have adapted fairly well to the heat, noise, and humidity-well enough, in fact, that some senior faculty have preferred to remain in Eastman when given the opportunity to move. Riverview and Eastman are both old buildings that have not been remodeled in many years. Neither is air conditioned, for example. Increasingly faculty in Riverview are purchasing their own window air conditioners for their respective offices. Because of the heat-sensitive equipment, the Write Place, the Riverview student computer lab, and one of the technology-rich classrooms are also air conditioned. The department is scheduled to move to Centennial Hall, the old learning resources center that was vacated by the library in the fall of 2000, but that move will not occur until after a substantial remodeling of Centennial, which is not likely to occur now for at least a half dozen years given the budget crisis. In the meantime, current quarters are reasonably functional. We have high-speed Ethernet cable in all offices, classrooms, and, of course, labs. Climate control is reasonably manageable for most of us most of the time. The tackiness of the old buildings has a kind of retro ambience that has its own charm.

Classrooms. Historically, the department had enough classrooms to accommodate almost all classes in Riverview or Eastman. With increasing enrollment pressure, this has become less and less the case. Growth of programs within the department, particularly ESL and the IEC, has led to the need to dedicate three rooms, the two classrooms in Eastman and one classroom in Riverview, specifically for those second-language programs, making them unavailable for our other classes. The greatly increased numbers of ENGL 191 sections of recent years forced us into a campus-wide search for classrooms.

While enrollment pressure from increased numbers of sections of ENGL 191 appears likely to have abated for the foreseeable future, we are now seeing a new kind of enrollment pressure on our classroom resources as we move incrementally toward more large lecture-style classes in our general education literature classes. Until last year, our largest class was ENGL 184, the introduction to literature, at 45 seats. Last year, some faculty began to experiment with sections of 184 in sizes approaching 200 seats, and this year, we have offered the popular American Indian Literature, ENGL 215, in an auditorium lecture format of over 200 seats. As the table below shows, our largest classroom has 49 seats. For any class we offer larger than that, we must find a venue elsewhere on campus. But the pressure to move toward larger lecture-format classes is campus-wide. From 1998 to 2001, the number of classes at SCSU larger than 50 seats doubled, from 3% to 6%. At this moment, we are gridlocked with several other departments in our efforts to find venues for large lecture classes that are already scheduled for fall 2003.

In addition, the pressure for greater capacity in ENGL 191 remains, even though the attempt to solve this pressure by adding fixed-term and adjunct faculty is out of the picture for the foreseeable future. Currently, we are being asked to consider raising the enrollment in ENGL 191 from 25 to 28 seats. We discuss the pedagogical ramifications of this change elsewhere in this study, so we only speak briefly here to the ramifications of the request in terms of physical plant capacity. Note again the seating capacities of the rooms controlled by the English department, catalogued in the table below. Raising the enrollment cap on ENGL 191 to 28 seats would eliminate three of the six rooms we control that are appropriately sized for the course.

English Department Classrooms

Room Location

Seating Capacity

Layout

Equipment

R-2

25

U-shape Tables/Chairs

"Smart" classroom

R-102

49

Desks

VCR/Monitor, Overhead projector

R-115

30

Desks

VCR/Monitor, Overhead projector

R-201

45

Desks

Projection Unit/VCR, Overhead projector

R-202

49

Desks

Projection Unit/VCR, Overhead projector

R-206

25

Desks

VCR/Monitor, Overhead projector

R-210

30

Desks

VCR/Monitor, Overhead projector

R-215

25

U-shape Tables/Chairs

VCR/Monitor, Overhead projector

R-218

36

Desks

VCR/Monitor, Overhead projector

R-205*

30

Desks

VCR/Monitor, Overhead projector

*R-205 is controlled first by Foreign Languages, and English uses only the times not scheduled by Foreign Languages.

Equipment. In our department, the equipment budget means, for all practical purposes, the computer budget. System-wide and campus-wide programs in response to the Y2K anxiety created a huge windfall for the English department. Before Y2K, we were operating with grossly inadequate computer equipment, much of it two or three generations obsolete, and much of it castoffs from other departments. The Y2K funding, reflected in the table below, lifted the entire department into the realm of contemporary computer hardware. At the same time, we were also the beneficiaries of a campus-wide project bringing Ethernet to every office and classroom on campus. Having achieved a truly satisfactory computing capacity in the department with Y2K, we have been able to maintain this level with our subsequent budgets. Realistically, though, the chances of being able to maintain this level appear slim. Equipment budgets will almost certainly be cut. At the same time, technical support is also almost certain to diminish.

English Department Equipment Budgets 1998-2003

Year

Allocation $

Spent**

2002-03

12,000

2001-02

10,000

2000-01

13,000

1999-00

2,200

20,877.33

1998-99

4,628

20,495

**The department received supplemental Y2K funds during the 1998-2000 budget cycles

Supplies and Student Help. As a context for looking at the budget for supplies and student help for the English department, it may be useful to look for a moment at the trend in the supplies and student help budget for the overall institution:

2001-02 (most recent available) 3.786 million
2000-01 4.557 million
1999-2000 4.790 million

Given this unfavorable trajectory for the institution overall, it is not surprising that the department's budget, shown in the following table, is also on a downward trajectory. And, given the state budget deficit projections, we can expect this trajectory to turn down still more sharply. The department has already begun to respond to the diminishing supply budget by reducing copying, using WebCT and other paperless means of presenting class materials, and cutting back on miscellaneous office supplies. The effect of the budget cuts may be more significant with respect to student help. In recent years, we have tried as much as possible to use students who are on Federal Work-Study grants, thereby reducing our departmental expenditures and using these funds for supplies. It appears that Federal funds for students may likewise be diminishing and that we may be forced to pay students increasingly out of our departmental budget. This is particularly a concern with respect to student technical support. As our computers age, it is reasonable to expect that maintenance requirements will rise. This combination of reduced equipment budget, reduced supply budget, and reduced student help budget may at some point in the next two to three years combine to create a substantial threat to the department's ability to perform our core instructional functions.

English Department Supplies and Student Help 1998-2003

Year

Supplies $

Student Help $

Supplies and Student Help Total $$

2002-03

< 20,806 **

1,194 to date

29,000

2001-02

26,695

2,195

28,890

2000-01

32,664

4,283

36,945

1999-00

21,335

7,265

28,600

1998-99

28,100

7,614

28,100

** This number represents the total allocation minus the amount spent to date for student help. The amount ultimately available for supplies in the current year will depend on the amount spent for student help.

Library. Ten years ago in our self-study report, we made the following comments: "At the undergraduate level, our library book holdings seem about average for many areas of English, given the type of institution we are. .However, with regard to our graduate program, the holdings-especially periodicals-are quite inadequate." By and large, these comments hold true today, although the problem of periodical holdings has been significantly mitigated by technological developments of the past ten years. In the fall of 2000, we formally opened our new library, the James C. Miller Learning Resources Center, a highly technologized , computerized, wired-to-the-world 21 st Century center of learning and instruction with extensive, attractive, ergonomic computer stations, computerized classrooms, and computer labs, all in a comfortable, welcoming setting. Many serials are available electronically either as abstracts or, often, as full-text documents via a range of proprietary services to which the library subscribes. Databases available include MLA International Bibliography, Expanded Academic Index ASAP, Humanities Index, JSTOR, Project Muse, Book Review Index, Contemporary Authors, ERIC, EDRS*E- Ssubscribe , PoemFinder , and Arts and Humanities Citation Index. These databases are available both on the campus network and, via proxy server authentication, for students and faculty off-campus. Articles not otherwise available are generally available via MINITEX, our statewide interlibrary loan system, and these materials may arrive even the same day as electronic PDF documents. Statistics (rounded to the nearest thousand) for current holdings for academic year 2001-02, the most recent available from institutional research, are as follows:

SCSU Library Holdings, Academic Year 2000-01

Volumes

631,345

Current Print Serials

1,454

Current Electronic Serials

9,619

Government Documents

1,283,000

Microforms (includes the following)

525,000

Library of American Culture

40,151

Library of English Literature

42,424

ERIC

431,650

periodicals

151,549

A-V Materials

21,000

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