Affirming Our Promises in the Post-COVID World: Update #1

Posted May 4, 2020 | See video of President Gary L. Miller delivering these remarks.

RELATED: Provost John Wiencek's proposal for FY21 budget framework and academic structure (May 6, 2020)

Greetings colleagues, students and members of the greater University of Akron community.

I hope everyone continues to do well in this most unusual of times. Please take care of yourselves and each other as we work through the many challenges that await us.

Last week I outlined in some detail the path we must take to adjust to our current environment and to the realities of the post-COVID world. 

As you know, all University revenue sources have been significantly diminished by the pandemic. Taking into consideration real and anticipated loss of revenue, this is at least a $65–$70 million challenge for the University. This challenge must be met in the coming fiscal year. Thus, we must adjust immediately.

Since my video message to campus a little more than a week ago, a great deal has been done by many members of the University community to draft plans and recommendations and develop potential timetables.

I want to take a few minutes to review with you the results of some of that work and to provide additional details about the planning process, including how you can become involved.

First, I want to remind you of the change we made in our organizational structure last fall when we began the search for the Executive Vice President and Provost.  This change is even more important at this time.

Our goals in establishing the EVP/Provost position were:

  • To consolidate all vice-president-level planning through the work of the most senior cabinet member (the EVP/Provost) and, relatedly,
  • To ensure the academic mission of the institution is always represented in all University budget decisions. 

Our new Provost Dr. John Wiencek is working closely with the CFO, and all other cabinet members, to conduct the work we have before us in an integrated manner.

Dr. Wiencek will communicate directly to the University community in the coming days about the nature and progress of that work.

Now, to the status of our current planning.

The Athletic Director and I are working to significantly reduce the Athletics budget and we hope to have some announcements about those efforts in the next week or so. 

One area receiving a great deal of attention is the reorganization and staffing of our colleges.

I called for a dramatic reduction in the number of colleges in order to reduce administrative costs, match long-standing enrollment trends and build on our strengths.  But there is another reason to do this:  to bring about a greater level of integration among our academic programs in order to support interdisciplinarity and innovation. 

I am happy to report that, our deans, working together, have developed a first approximation of a five-college model that has features meeting many of these goals.  The provost will provide a description of this new model when he communicates with you soon.   I’m sure you will recognize the underlying efforts to reduce academic silos, encourage the sharing of resources to build stronger collaborative partnerships, and more agile administration.

Now we need to come together as a campus community to refine this five-college model to fit our financial constraints and our goal to continue as a strong urban public research university. 

We want to know how you think we can improve this plan to move ahead with five colleges, which we must do. Once Provost Wiencek provides details of the plan, we invite you to respond in two ways. First, visit with your department chair. The chairs will be very much involved in working out the details over the next several weeks. Secondly, add your comments via the feedback tools Dr. Wiencek will share in his communication to the campus community this week. All comments will be cataloged and considered as we refine the plan.


Posted May 6, 2020

Provost John Wiencek's proposal for FY21 budget framework and academic structure

Our commitment to shared governance is firm. We will be engaging the University Council and the University Council Budget and Finance Committee in the planning process. I will brief the student government leaders in the coming days and seek their input. We will present a draft of the plan for review by the Faculty Senate as soon as possible.  

The reality of our situation is that the majority of what we have to do must be represented in the FY21 budget.  We will deliver a plan to the Board of Trustees at their June meeting.

Please keep in mind that working fast does not mean you can't participate.  It just means we all have to work faster than in the past.

I want to add a few words to our present and future students. Your University is undertaking one of the most important tasks in its history. We are applying all of our skills and our creativity to guide this great University through a terrific storm. We are doing this because we want to be an even better partner in making your life’s dreams come true.

I appreciate the efforts of all who have contributed thus far. These are not easy times, but our actions are essential for a successful future. And, we will have a successful future.

Thank you.