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Washington State University
Office of the President

OneWSU System Evolution FAQs

As we continue our evolution of the OneWSU system, we are thankful for the thoughtful feedback we’ve received from the university community. Below, please find responses to some of our most frequently asked questions.

What does it mean that faculty will no longer be a part of the same department across the system?

This was mentioned as a possibility in the second white paper. We’ve received some strong concerns about this particular scenario, and, thus, for now we’d like to take that off the table. While it may be that over time programs on separate campuses will wish to seek greater autonomy in undergraduate programs or faculty strengths, we do not wish to undermine collaborative efforts that are currently working well. The goal of the OneWSU system development is to provide greater clarity for roles and responsibilities, and greater autonomy to campus locations in ways that are helpful to the system as a whole. We do not look to sever existing relationships where they support WSU’s mission, quality, and impact.

How will the proposed structure changes prevent duplicative academic programs and competition among the campuses?

Our goal is to ensure that each campus has the autonomy to take advantage of local educational opportunities and adapt curriculum to meet student needs and campus realities, while maintaining a quality educational experience throughout the WSU system.

We will work strategically with Vice Chancellors for Academic Affairs at each campus (Everett, Global, Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver) to ensure that new degree program proposals have been vetted appropriately throughout the system governance process. There will also be ample opportunity for engagement by the entire WSU community on potential program offerings to avoid unnecessary duplication or internal competition. It is also important to keep in mind that every new degree program does not need to be initiated a current college in Pullman.

We will work to assess and ensure uniform program quality throughout the WSU system through the use of system metrics and clearly articulated program outcomes, while recognizing that students may have different opportunities depending on program location. As an example, students on urban campuses may have more opportunities for in-semester work-relevant experiences due to local proximity to the business community.

What ways will you ensure that this system will continue to meet WSU’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion?

In many ways, creating a more autonomous campus structure will improve WSU’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Granting decision-making authority to the campuses will help WSU reach additional populations of prospective and current faculty, staff, and students. Campuses and locations will be able to target programs and activities that will best serve their stakeholders.

Additionally, all system development work will be guided by a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Throughout all our processes, we will strive to create and maintain a climate that enables underrepresented students, faculty, and staff to thrive in WSU communities that foster a sense of belonging in a culture of inclusion. Our ultimate goal is to create an institutional culture in which inclusion and equity are the norms, and that helps move the world toward a place in which all people are treated with dignity and respect.

If tenure/promotion is no longer controlled centrally, how will WSU manage workload for its faculty? How will the institution ensure equity in the tenure/promotion process?

The system provost will continue to ensure academic quality and impact across the system and will review all tenure and promotion cases, as is currently the case. Decisions will be informed by carefully developed campus- and location-based tenure and promotion guidelines that consider the realities of different work contexts and different job expectations, while at the same time maintaining the high standards of quality and impact of an Research 1 (R1) institution. The provost will work to ensure that available resources, access to graduate programs, and other campus-based conditions are considered carefully in tenure and promotion recommendations.

As a land-grant and Carnegie-Engaged university, our guiding principles for promotion and tenure will acknowledge the value we place on all aspects of our mission: teaching, research, and service (including leadership, outreach, engagement, and extension). It will state that evaluation of performance must be based on: (1) the position and disciplinary expectations for each individual case, not on a prescriptive “one size fits all” definition of productivity, and (2) the context in which each person works.

How will WSU maintain graduate and research programs at the non-Pullman campuses if academic programs are led at the campus-level?

WSU is an R1 institution, which is a status that is determined by our total research expenditures. As an institution our goal is to not only maintain but grow our research portfolio, and that means maintaining our strong research profile across the system. Any drop in our research expenditures would negatively affect our R1 status and our ranking as a high-quality research university overall. Therefore, we aim to maintain our research and engagement across the system and potentially grow our graduate programs as well. In the months ahead we will be looking for broad engagement about how best to support research excellence at each of our locations—providing local autonomy to grow in distinct ways—while at the same time maintaining the strength of our research connections across the system. We are not looking for a one-size fits all model, and we do not want to duplicate our Pullman structure and breadth across the state. Instead, each location will continue to develop its distinct research strengths and foci.

How will WSU support collaboration among faculty/staff at its different campuses if we develop a more autonomous campus structure?

Much of what makes WSU a successful land-grant institution is the partnerships among faculty, staff, and students not just in Washington state, but around the globe. We are actively seeking input from all stakeholders on which activities and services either currently working well, or have the potential to work well, at the system-level, and which work better at the campus-level. 

We have heard your concern that units with small numbers might get phased out if these units become completely autonomous on each campus. We have also heard that people are concerned about losing the benefits of disciplinary and college connections and losing the ability to support and serve graduate programs at multiple locations independently.

We want to assure you that there is no intention to downsize or phase out people or programs. On the contrary, we want to keep what’s working in our current “baseline” state and make it “baseline plus” to increase the ability of all campuses not just to stay healthy but also to grow, each its own unique ways. OneWSU system development will use a sustained approach to planning that builds relationships; aligns campuses, colleges, and units; and emphasizes a preparedness to evolve and change.

What will the WSU student experience look like under the proposed OneWSU model?

WSU’s Division of Student Affairs is currently working on a thought paper that will articulate the Coug experience under the proposed system model. We will provide ample time for our partners to engage with this thought paper and develop a shared vision for student success across all campuses. We anticipate many added benefits for our current and future students, including an integrated “back of the house” admissions and enrollment management plan that will support the entire OneWSU system, balancing the need for local recruiters at campus locations. Coupled with integrated student support services, this plan would provide the ability for students to transition smoothly between various virtual and physical WSU system locations.

Won’t these proposed changes to the University’s administration be expensive at a time of strained budgets and only add to administrative bloat?

We intend to implement these structural changes involving administrative positions largely by redeploying current WSU personnel. Creating job descriptions that clearly delineate campus-level versus system-level responsibilities will allow us to streamline many administrative functions.

Will these proposed changes mean that each campus will be separately accredited? Would considering some greater delegated authority for campuses mean jeopardizing our Research 1 (R1) status with the Carnegie Foundation and others?

WSU will continue its single, systemwide approach to accreditation—meaning that all campuses will remain part of a R1 university and that graduates of all campuses will receive the same WSU diploma, as is currently the case. As long as there is no proposal or movement toward separate accreditation, and WSU maintains its single Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) number, we will continue to report our research expenditures as a system, and, therefore, our R1 status would not be affected as long as we maintain or grow our system-wide research enterprise.

Why undertake this now?

With the completion of the system strategic plan last May and the roles and responsibilities report shortly thereafter—combined with all the lessons learned during the pandemic—it is an ideal time to move forward. Doing so will advance our ability to achieve a number of system-wide goals: (1) a high quality, seamless student experience, (2) administrative efficiency, (3) heightened accountability, and (4) greater nimbleness to support innovation and respond to external challenges.