UMD AAUP Concerned about Elements of University’s Ten-year Strategic Planning Process

11 October 2021

Dear Provost Rice,

We write in reference to the Strategic Planning process that you announced to the UMD community in your recent email on 23 September 2021. We recognize the importance of this periodic exercise, especially given the new leadership on our campus. We are concerned about some aspects of the process, which we outline in this letter, and we ask you to consider measures to remedy what we view as shortcomings.

We are concerned, in the first place, about the composition of the Steering Committee of the Strategic Planning Committee; this is where we expect critical recommendations to be made. The under-representation of students, faculty (both tenure- and professional- track), and staff, is glaring, as is the over-representation of highly paid members of the upper-echelons of the administration. This imbalance is starkly reflected in the following: A preliminary analysis based on published salaries reveals that the annual average salary for members of the Steering Committee is above $300,000. Clearly, a committee with this current composition, and compensation, is unrepresentative of our campus community and our broader constituencies as a State of Maryland land-grant university. A Steering Committee should ideally involve a meaningful mix of stakeholders from all constituencies. Given the depth of talent on our campus, this seems like a missed opportunity and a misguided choice. 

Second, we are concerned about the involvement of the Huron Consulting Group. This measure breaks with a well-established and effective precedent in which strategic planning was conducted by members of our campus. We have full confidence in the wide variety of expertise found in our campus, and we see little justification to outsource such a key activity.  More importantly, we are concerned about Huron’s modus operandi. Like other educational consultants, Huron is known for its recommendations of aggressive cost-cutting. While we recognize the need for a reduction in bureaucracy and more efficient operations, Huron’s track record suggests that many cuts are often not justified, and may come at the cost of academic programs, further erosion of tenure, and worsening work conditions for faculty, students, and staff.

Third, we would advocate for more transparency. We appreciate the website devoted to the planning process, which we have consulted on many occasions. We note that the timeline for the planning process has not been specified. Further, what are the steps in this process, what data and progress reports will be shared, and what are the opportunities for community feedback? 

We therefore respectfully ask that you consider the following measures:

  1. That the composition of the Steering Committee should adequately reflect core campus constituencies of students, faculty, and staff.
  2. The Steering Committee should include a member of the AAUP campus leadership.
  3. That you provide greater transparency on the website including timelines, access to data and progress reports, and information regarding the work of the subcommittees. 
  4. The planning process should take place in-house and without costly outsourcing. Alternatively, we advocate for greater transparency of the outsourced component: 
    1. What are the broad terms of the Huron contract? 
    2. What information and services will they provide?
    3. Will Huron’s role be limited to an advisory capacity, or will it play an active role in making decisions and preparing the final recommendations in the plan?

We are excited by the prospect of a more robust university, one that better prepares students not just for the job market but also for full civic participation; one that creates cutting edge solutions to social problems of all types; one that is a responsible partner to the College Park and Prince George’s communities and the State of Maryland; one devoted to enhancing the quality of life for all and caring for our planet. Let us ensure that our planning process facilitates those contributions.

We look forward to hearing from you and we are also happy to meet with you to discuss this process and our concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Holly Brewer, President

Karin Rosemblatt, Vice-President

Louiqa Raschid, Treasurer

Luka Arsenjuk, Secretary

Solomon Comissiong, Member at Large 

Nate Beard, Member at Large

University of Maryland Chapter

American Association of University Professors