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SUNY Oneonta Institutional Planning

Posts: 26
Darren Chase 2022-03-02T10:43:04-05:00

2/17 Dialogue Session Notes, Governance

Sixth Dialogue notes: February 17, 2022, 9 AM ET, MS Teams

107 people present

Brief description of these dialogues

Four questions:

  1. What are three challenges that will be facing the challenges?
  2. What are three opportunities at the college’s disposal?
  3. What are the existing documents or initiatives that can helps us address challenges?
  4. Who are the stakeholders that should be around the table?

First question: Challenge

  • With budget cuts and raised minimum wage, we’ve had to cut back on student temp services; not able to offer as many programs (e.g., Sundays no staffing). Future: may lead to issues with evening programming
  • Changing population of students coming to the college: their needs, desires, how they want to interact in and out of the college; moving away from silos – the need for cross collaboration and communication
  • Knowledge from different offices helps, but not all of us have that. We’re creating double workloads; students get frustrated getting passed around.
  • Because of COVID, need to help drop the frustration level
  • Student retention, school reputation, communication outside of silos
  • Mental health guidance for employees and students; college psychiatrist that can prescribe meds
  • Growing class consciousness across our workforce becoming increasingly corrosive
  • Students are letting parents advocate for them in ways they should be learning to do for themselves; we do need to work with parents to help them encourage their children to communicate on their own behalf
  • Sometimes we’re not communicating, even though that’s the intention. These dialogues are a start to that. We don’t have enough resources to help people who need help; college-related initiatives consume depts (ITS); how do we prioritize and decide what projects we work on and where we spend our time? When ITS can’t get to something, that potentially manifests as “we don’t want to help you” – a negative framing that doesn’t help, so then folks go off and do things on their own technologically that have implications for other systems. Planning and understanding priorities and how they relate to the college is going to be extremely helpful
  • As part of the great shift in employment, there are long time gaps in areas that need to be filled. We don’t want to see a decline in services; many of us have been doing more than one full time job to keep services going over the last two years. Would love to see the college embrace mental health more (e.g., it’s 4 pm and you’re done mentally: go home)
  • Need more comprehensive and inclusive retention strategies, a cross-divisional building of care with mental health, better focus on teaching integral skills
  • Burnout is all around us
  • Collaboration takes longer and more work
  • Employee morale is an issue which can impede goals for collaboration
  • We lump too many things into “morale” – mental health is part of this, yes. Sometimes a trickle down when employees aren’t at their best; makes it hard to accomplish goals. In Student Development, we don’t stop doing things; we just keep adding things. We need to take some time and consider some real goals for our division/cross-divisionally; allow us to focus on what needs to be done; ‘this’ doesn’t meet this goal, let’s stop
  • Consistently told we need to collaborate, but then the people with the expertise to get that work done aren’t being included or consulted
  • Modeling our own mental health for our students and setting the standard to take a sick day because we have a mental health day, quitting work at 4:30 because we want to go to the gym/take care of ourselves/etc. American culture has not accepted mental health days. Really bringing that forward is important. Important to model this for our students and for each other.
  • Been doing surveys with students and employees: a lot of issues related to mental health, stress, anxiety. One of the things: employees seem to be holding onto distress more than our students. Students seem to be improving. Employees seem to be holding on to the stress.
  • Burnout/morale: we should be modeling for our students how to deal with things in a healthy way. Part of this is that it seems our job never stops (emails at 2 am, etc.). Can we start a culture in our community where we don’t send out emails at 2 am, and share that with our students? Can we create a culture of understanding that we have boundaries and sometimes that is personal? Engagement/retention of students: we need to have something SUNY Oneonta becomes known for (e.g., every student here has ____ before they graduate [applied learning, internship, research project]). Something that we can talk to parents/students as a selling point, but also as a point for seniors. Something that will differentiate us from other SUNYs.
  • Resources and access to resources needs to be at the top.
  • Telecommuting policy is too conservative and restrictive, even during bad weather
  • Sometimes collaboration means one/two people doing the work and everyone else talking at them
  • A lot of initiatives were pet projects from former administrators who are no longer here, but we still follow them. E.g., scheduling policies 7% from 2 provosts ago
  • Would be great to see administration and professors at other events beyond the big events
  • Identity of the college: we have an opportunity to make this college more about sustainability, operations are focused and well known in the SUNY system, students/faculty/staff working at it – all students should be able to take a course focused in sustainability
  • Create a degree of distinction (engaged learner award) – the work is already there. Encompasses what’s being talked about re: involvement. If they want to do it in sustainability, great. In research, great.
  • How do you balance faculty and admin at events with balancing with 24/7 workloads?
  • Employees are the people who stay, who hold institutional memory (students leave every 4 years) – showing our appreciation and acknowledging how hard this has been is important.
  • Students want to see their faculty and mentors as humans; students don’t want to be seen as just a cash cow for the institution
  • 7% rule for scheduling causes commuter professors to be on-campus by 8 am; there’s no way to come back at 6, 7, 8 PM to be at their extra curriculars. 7% rule causes small departments to spread their faculty across the day and stretched us very thin. Also makes scheduling department meetings challenging because no one is available at the same time.
  • Having faculty on-campus 4 days a week is similarly problematic.
  • No common hours on our campus (lunch/dinner/meeting times)
  • Need to be mindful that we are all stretched thin across campus
  • Institutional priorities should also attend to what graduate programs are looking for
  • Do not like the way it feels when we use the language “human capital” – it may be meant to infer people have value, but it reinforces feeling that we are “instructional widgets”

Second question

  • COVID care calls were great; need to continue this for a more general approach
  • Collaboration
  • Training for Mental Health First Aid for Adults and Youth available through EAP
  • Meditation Space in Lee Hall is in soft launch
  • Show our employees collectively that we are a caring community; build something that specifically involves employees; initiative or project that better support the employees. Simply stating as a goal would be a start; care about the people who work with us.
  • Strong infrastructure that we have developed over the years for applied experiences. I do foresee that sustaining this will be a challenge because it requires human resources, time, and money. Staffing is a challenge across the institution, which makes offering those experiences more difficult because they require investment of faculty/staff time
  • We have the opportunity to foster connection and sense of belonging in and out of the classroom through many of the topics touched on today
  • Using this dialogue model on a more general broader scale once or twice per semester to hear what other people are doing and what challenges there are.
  • There may be some urgency, but we are not in a devastating/desperate space as an institution

Third question

Fourth question


  • Why the need for collaboration? students see us as one entity, but we don’t think that way. When we get ideas and approach other folks, there’s a perception of straying from your lane. This goes to communication – we all need to know what each other are doing; mostly need to know where to access each other; so many opportunities for cross-divisional collaboration (leadership, student success, first year experience)
  • Is there a way to re-prioritize so that we can let go of some pet projects and initiatives that are not working to free us up a bit? The importance to give individuals the opportunity to feel like they are part of the solution and are being listened to. Hoping these initiatives will help trim; some pet projects could have good and lasting impact.



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