May 1, 2009
Arkansas State University-Jonesboro

Is it possible another academic year is over? My, how time flies when one is busy and older! Looking back on the academic year, I tend to focus on all the campus has accomplished, but it is impossible to forget one's own shortcomings. This year I failed to manage my voluminous e-mail and correspondence very well, and I apologize to those whose notes to me were answered late or not at all. I plan to catch up over the summer and do better next year!

Likewise, as more and more duties take me away from campus, I feel I have not spent as much time as I should with campus individuals and groups this year. However, I did manage to conduct listening visits to nine of the 11 colleges this semester. These sessions were important because they give faculty members an opportunity to share and me an opportunity to hear unfiltered thoughts about campus issues.

Some of the major topics that were discussed were faculty salaries and the critical need for ASU to bring salaries to at least regional averages (and our Board of Trustees has asked for a plan to increase faculty salaries); internationalization of the campus through recruitment of students from other countries and the associated challenges with advising without adequate transcript evaluations and helping international students make a successful transition; the importance of continuing to develop and respect the shared governance process; distance learning and associated implications; proposed tightening of admission standards along with the benefits and costs; impact of the campus's research emphasis on teaching loads and the need for research labs; the state lottery scholarship program and its potential impact on enrollment; traffic pattern changes made necessary by campus development; ASU general education requirements and a new state law governing transfer of two-year degrees; implementation of the state's proposed new pay plan for classified employees; Web site appearance and functionality; and technology implementation that shifts more work to faculty members. Other questions pertained to growth in non-faculty positions; need for clarification on faculty advising and other duties; sharply increasing costs of library materials and subscriptions; equity adjustments and the need for counter offer-funds to retain talented faculty; marketing summer school classes; scheduling and parking conflicts at Fowler Center; use of federal stimulus funding; pay and promotion policies for University College faculty who have a critical role in improving student retention; graduate student stipends and pay for adjunct faculty members; bookstore ordering procedures and timely delivery of adequate numbers of textbooks for scheduled courses; development and impact of ASU System policies on the campus; restrictive policies on faculty consulting; post-tenure review procedures; and several other issues of interest to particular colleges. We are taking steps to address these issues as feasible.

On a personal note, I have spent too little time this year with my family, read too few books, and yes, had too little time to fish and hunt! So, my "mid-year" resolution is to manage my time better, beginning this summer, so as to discharge my duties to ASU in an exemplary manner, nurture friendships, and create adequate personal time to spend with Irene, our children and grandchildren, and my aging parents, to read more good books, and still have a little time for field, streams and lakes!

I hope you too will take time this summer to make sure your work/life balance is well-tuned!

Task Forces and Committees
During the 2007-08 academic year, many of you gave generously of your time and expertise to participate in one of the seven task forces that were asked to study and report on various issues facing our campus community. The reports were excellent and provided valuable insight and information about the various subjects. I continue to be grateful to each of you for your contributions.

During this semester, I asked the Executive Council to review the task force recommendations that have been implemented and what other recommendations might be feasible to follow. To summarize the recommendations and show what action steps, if any, have been taken, Tom Moore developed a table on each task force; the tables were then revised after review by members of the Executive Council. Links to the tables for each Task Force are listed below, with supplementary materials included.

I also want to use this opportunity to give further explanation about developments related to the work of three of the task forces.

First, in early 2008, shortly after the Task Force on Instructional Technology, Distance Learning, and Online Education submitted its final report, ASU-Jonesboro was presented an opportunity to use Higher Education Holdings (HEH) of Dallas as a course delivery service provider for a graduate education program. That relationship was explained in an open letter that was e-mailed to the campus on April 16, 2009, from Dr. Dan Howard and me. I am saddened by the continuing ad hominem attacks by a few of our valued colleagues on our shared governance system (which in my opinion under the leadership of the Shared Governance Oversight Committee has done an outstanding job on numerous issues this semester!), HEH and its principal owner, and alleged marketing techniques for the program being offered. I respectfully submit that the central issue here is whether the educational outcomes from students who complete programs offered under the HEH format compare favorably to the outcomes for students who complete similar programs in the traditional face-to-face format. As ASU and other well-regarded universities (e.g. University of Texas-Arlington) obtain more experience and evaluation data from students who complete these programs, the answer to this question will be provided. Until then, I hope our colleagues who oppose one college's pilot program will cool their rhetoric and work through any committee to assess distance learning issues that the shared governance system may recommend to be established. To do otherwise unnecessarily harms our University with the public.

Second, the Unifying Academic Theme Task Force recommended that ASUJ pursue the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Elective Classification. To further examine and consider this option, I will appoint an ad hoc committee next fall to further study the implications and opportunities associated with this suggestion.

Third, several members of the Task Force on How Better to Integrate Academic Affairs and Student Affairs expressed interest in pursuing a pilot project on integrating the work of The Honors College with programs of the new Honors residence hall to build an exemplary living and learning community. I agreed to appoint these individuals to an ad hoc committee, called the Academic and Student Affairs Collaboration Ad Hoc Committee. This group will help the university evaluate the best practices for further collaboration between Academic and Student Affairs, with the understanding that the committee will dissolve upon rendering its final report. (Copy of memo to ad hoc committee).

Most of these initiatives will need to be carried over to the fall 2009 semester. Here are links to the tables, in PDF format, which summarize the conclusions, recommendations and action steps concerning each task force. Supplementary information also is included.

Instructional Technology-Distance Learning-Online Education

Unifying Academic Theme
     Community Engagement, Documentation Framework
     Community Engagement, Driscoll article in Change magazine
     Community Engagement, Zuiches article in Change magazine

Background Checks
     Board of Trustees Resolution approving policy
     ASU System Background Checks Policy

How Better to Integrate Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to Enhance Learning
     Chancellor’s memo appointing ad hoc committee for collaboration project

Research and Teaching Balance: How to Reward Superior Teaching and Continue
to Grow Research Functions
     Revised ASUJ Role and Scope Statement (ASU-Jonesboro, page 7)

Summer Programs, Enrollment and Revenue
     MBA students’ Strategic Plan Powerpoint on Summer Enrollment
     MBA students’ Strategic Plan Powerpoint on Summer Programs

University Web Design

Thank you again for your interest in and contributions to the task forces. The task force participants’ cooperative spirit and sincere enthusiasm for making ASUJ an even better institution were outstanding.

On Saturday, May 9, ASUJ will observe its annual Spring Commencement with morning and afternoon ceremonies. I am delighted to say that Dr. E. Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University, accepted our invitation to be guest speaker for both ceremonies.  Dr. Gee, considered one of the most experienced and highly respected university presidents in the country, is serving as president of Ohio State for the second time, after filling the presidency at Vanderbilt and Brown Universities. Dr. Gee is an honors graduate of the University of Utah, and earned law and doctor of education degrees from Columbia University. He was law school dean at West Virginia University before becoming president of that institution in 1981. He also has served as president of the University of Colorado. I have had the privilege to get to know Dr. Gee through higher education circles. As of yesterday, 1,111 students are candidates for degrees during the May ceremonies.

Staff Senate Community Service Project
The ASU Staff Senate has asked me to let you know that they are actively supporting the National Association of Letter Carriers Annual Food Drive for the Community Food Bank. The drive, which will conclude on May 9, is especially important because the children of many Northeast Arkansas families, who depend upon the lunch and breakfast programs at their local schools, often do not have enough food during the summer months. The ASU Staff Senate urges the ASU community to donate to this drive during the next week by placing non-perishable food in non-glass containers in one of the collection points around campus, and then go to the ASU Staff Senate website and sign the “Help Stamp Out Hunger” guest book. Bins are located in the second floor Library lobby, the Facilities Management break room, the Dean’s Office in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, lower level of the Education Building, the Dean’s Office in the College of Agriculture, the lobby of the Administration Building, the Dean’s Office in the College of Science and Math, the lower level of Wilson Hall, and the Admissions Office in the Student Union. For more details, contact Cindy Bode at 972-3323 or

Summer Plans
Irene and I hope each of you and your families have an outstanding summer. I plan to give you a respite from these First Friday reports for the next three months, and resume their publication in September. Have a great summer!

Robert L. Potts

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