Skip to main content

Update for faculty and staff

McGovern College faculty and staff:

As we approach the end of the summer and the fall semester is upon us, I write with an update on where we stand on several important topics and initiatives.

Town hall meeting with the Dean

A reminder that I will hold a town hall meeting with the Dean tomorrow, August 6, at 1 PM on Teams. You should see this meeting on your calendars. If you did not receive the invitation with the meeting link, please contact me directly. I plan to discuss the items that I am addressing below in this email, and I plan to allow time for a free discussion with a question-and-answer session. I look forward to seeing everyone then.

Fall enrollment

I know you have been in dialogue with your Directors and Division and Area heads on the critical subject of fall enrollment. As of this writing, enrollment in the schools and programs varies widely, while total enrollment college-wide (in terms of student head-count) is down over 10% from the same time last year.

The President and the Provost have both stated that if we are not able to address the decline in enrollment, there will be further budget reductions. As this is not a scenario that any of us want to have to consider, I thank you in advance for your close attention to recruiting and communication to our fall 2020 class of incoming and returning students. We know that so much of recruiting, and matriculation, in the visual and performing arts depends on the close relationship that faculty mentors establish with their students. I understand that there are numerous factors under the current circumstances that are out of our control. But if your students are hearing from you regularly--what will fall instruction look like? what can students expect?--we know that this raises the probability that they will decide that the McGovern College of the Arts is a place in which they can continue to make their academic home, whether instruction is occurring remotely, face-to-face, or in some combination of the two formats.

I thank everyone sincerely for all the work you are doing to address the needs of our students and maintain a healthy and substantive instructional environment for the fall semester.

Task Force on Antiracism

As I have announced in a separate communication, I have appointed a Task Force on Antiracism in the McGovern College of the Arts. The Task Force has been charged with achieving two primary outcomes: a recommendation on whether the Task Force will become a standing committee in the College, with elected members; and a comprehensive five-year strategic plan for achieving diversity and equity in the McGovern College of the Arts. I thank Task Force Chair Michael Ray Charles as well as every member of the Task Force for their commitment of time and expertise to this critically important work.

Inclusive Teaching Workshop

The Inclusive Teaching Workshop with Prof. Marcia Chatelain of Georgetown is scheduled for Friday, September 11. The workshop will occur remotely. Please sign up for the workshop here, so that we know how many we may expect. 95 people are registered for the workshop as of this writing.

In advance of the workshop, Prof. Chatelain will administer a short climate survey to the entire faculty and staff of the college. The survey will be anonymous, and the results will inform the workshop as well as the report she delivers to me after the workshop. Right now we are planning for the survey to be available on Tuesday next week, August 11, one month in advance of the workshop itself.

Summer Read Program

Our 2020 Summer Read Program continues, reading Ibram Kendi's How to be an Antiracist and very ably led by Performing Arts Librarian Madelyn Washington. We meet for discussion every other Tuesday from 10 to 11:30 AM, on Teams. Copies of the book are still available, and curbside pickup may be arranged. Contact or call 713-743-3197, Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, to reserve your copy. You may also contact Madelyn Washington directly with additional questions.

Staff changes

There have been several significant changes in staff personnel in the McGovern College over the last several weeks. I would like to summarize these here in order to make everyone aware either of changes that have occurred voluntarily or of difficult changes that we have been forced to make. These changes have collectively helped us to meet the 7.5% (nearly $1.2M) budget reduction threshold that I have discussed with you on numerous previous occasions. The changes include a combination of resignations, elimination of open positions, and reductions in force.

One staff member has resigned: Director of Facilities Paul Rousse has left the McGovern College to return to his passion for teaching and to be closer to his immediate family. Paul is now running a high-school band program in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We all wish Paul every success in his new position. His position will remain unfilled and his duties have been transferred to other staff members in the College or the schools. You are welcome to contact me or your Directors with questions or for more information about those duties. 

Five staff positions in the college will be left unfilled and eliminated. These include one position each in the Offices of Academic Affairs and Student Success, Development, and Business Operations, and two positions in the Office of Marketing and Communications.

And four staff members are no longer with the McGovern College as a result of reductions in force and elimination of their positions. In every case, their responsibilities have either been eliminated or transferred to other staff members in the College, the schools, or other University of Houston divisions; again, you may contact me or your Directors with questions or for more information about those duties. The staff members include Rhonda Pitts, Program Coordinator in the University Bands in the Moores School of Music; Neal Petz, Lighting and Sound Supervisor in the School of Theatre & Dance; Melisssa McCrimmon, Associate Director of the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival in the Moores School of Music; and Julie Anderson-Smith, Senior Director of Philanthropy in the McGovern College of the Arts. Regarding Julie's position in particular, I will be working directly with Associate Vice President Russell Dunlavy to address Julie's responsibilities, to continue to set development priorities for the McGovern College, and to support the remaining members of our development staff in the College.

Every one of these individuals was a valued and skilled member of the College team, and they are no longer with us through no fault of their own. These decisions were painful but necessary, and I know that all of you join me in supporting these individuals and wishing them every success in their future endeavors.

Travel restrictions

Please be aware that the University of Houston has extended a restriction on all University-sanctioned travel through at least December 31. No travel on university business may be taken during that time, and no travel will be reimbursed on University funds. Any requests for exceptions to this restriction--if an exception can be granted at all--must first be emailed to your Director, who will forward the request to me. Responsibility for approval of any exception to the policy lies first with the Deans and finally with the Provost.

Reopening plans

President Khator announced this week that we will move on Monday August 10 to phase 3 of the University's phased reopening plan. This is the stage in which all staff offices are to be reopened. While we do not plan to have all staff return to work in the College--some staff will continue to fulfill their responsibilities remotely--I am working with the Directors as we speak to ensure that we have a plan for continuous services in the administrative offices in each of our buildings.

I am very much looking forward to the start of the fall semester and to once again implementing creative and innovative solutions to carrying on our research and delivering arts instruction to our valued students. I hope everyone is healthy and well, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Andrew Davis