Empty Campus | Photo by Soham Parikh | The Wright State Guardian
The Wright State University (WSU) Faculty Senate met virtually on Monday, March 29, where they welcomed Interim Provost Dr. Oliver Evans and learned about an alarming budget issue by a presentation from University Librarian Sue Polanka.
Joining his first Faculty Senate meeting since taking over as WSU’s Interim Provost on Feb. 22, Dr. Oliver Evans presented Senators with a short yet informative report detailing his background in higher education and his reasons for accepting the Interim Provost position before answering questions posed by Senators.
Evans informed Senators that he has a method of deciding how he can best utilize his set of skills in assisting an institution meet its goals and operational requirements.
“This is what I always do, and this is the fifth of these positions [Interim Provost] I have held since retiring,” Evans said.
“The first thing I do is a Google search of the institution, to see what the institution’s issues seem to be as perceived by the media and in the public,” Evans said. “The second thing that I do is look at the institution and see if it knows who exactly it is. Does it have some kind of mission that is appropriate to its location, its size and so on,” Evans said.
Evans noted that WSU certainly seems to know its role in its geographic area.
“I look then at what the institution is asking for. What does it seek? What does it seek to accomplish? The institution does not so much ask me to define where it wants to go, as it says we are on this track, and can you take us further along this direction we are going,” Evans said.
Evans described his prior experience taking institutions through change, as he identifies WSU as an institution doing just that.
“I have had the experience of taking institutions through those situations of change and then into periods of growth and what I would describe as enriched opportunities,” Evans said.
Evan’s resume boasts more than 30 years of experience working in higher education, spending more than 18 years of his career at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he held numerous administrative positions before retiring in 2012.
“I have a clear sense of where this institution is, and I have a clear sense of where I think the institution can go,” Evans said. “I believe I can contribute to that.”
Library budget crisis
In a call for attention, WSU University Librarian Sue Polanka presented Senators with alarming news of a budget crisis that has seen a 47.5% decrease in overall funding over the last 11 years.
Polanka said that over this same time frame, the library has additionally seen a 42.5% decrease in full-time equivalent (FTE).
“Looking at the staff that we have to serve you, in 2010 we were at 66 FTE, we are now down to 38.07,” Polanka said.
“During this time, we have closed and absorbed the services of a medical library, we have merged our special collections and archives with our digital initiatives departments together to save funding for a department head, we have lost electronic course reserves services, we have reduced instruction outreach and workshops, etc.,” Polanka said.
Polanka reiterated that the library is stretched thin in regard to staffing, and in order to meet the 2020 budget, eight or nine library staff members stepped forward and reduced their FTE to help the library meet its budget so that colleagues would not lose their job.
“One of the biggest problems with the library budget is that even a flat budget is a cut for us because of the inflation on our journals, databases and anything that is an annual expense,” Polanka said.
At this current moment, inflation rates and WSU’s library budget are as far apart as they have ever been.
“The reality is that if we want to keep every resource that we have now, we can’t have a flat budget. We have to have an increase to cover inflation. This is obviously problematic in this tougher budget environment,” Polanka said.
Polanka went on to detail the vast amount of journals, databases and resources that have been cut in the past 11 years, most notably the cut of 1,379 journals and 41 databases totaling $300,000, and a book/media budget that has decreased by $530,000.
“I call these what we subscribe to locally, meaning things that Wright State University subscribes to just for Wright State University affiliated people. This is not anything involved in state-wide collections,” Polanka said.
Polanka went on to state that if the current budget crisis doesn’t change, by fiscal year 2035 all ‘local’ subscriptions will be completely wiped out.
Upon completion of the presentation, Senators expressed immense gratitude for Polanka and her library colleagues who work diligently to assist both students and faculty on a daily basis.
“I love our library and wonderful staff,” Senator John Martin said in the meeting chat.
Senator Sarah McGinley echoed the admiration for WSU’s library and staff, saying “our libraries and library staff are fantastic.”
The WSU Faculty Senate will convene again on April 26.