Faculty FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions from faculty about the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on MICA's operations and move to remote learning.

Questions are organized into the topic areas below.

Academics

 Q: What is MICA’s plan for the fall if the COVID-19 situation does not clear up? Does the college have a strategy in place to facilitate the development of our distance learning capacity? 

 MICA is currently working with a range of scenarios for the fall and the start of the 2021 Academic Year. These scenarios include regular start with social distancing still in place, delayed start, mid-year disruption to classes, etc., and plans to develop and support “next phase” distance learning strategies will be part of this. 

MICA will soon use the current program organization of Chair and Director meetings, as well as faculty shared governance organizations of committees and Faculty Assembly leadership, to engage faculty in this process.

Q: Since students will be evaluated by Pass/Fail in spring 2020, is it necessary to continue with curricular assessment or request student evaluation in the same way as before? 

Although most students will receive pass/fail as their grade, faculty do still need to evaluate and grade student work. Some students may request a letter grade and all students need feedback.

Given the extraordinary circumstances under which faculty are working this semester, MICA will not require department/program assessment reports this year. Student course evaluations be be conducted with an abbreviated window of April 20-May 4 for completion.

 Q: As a strategy for maintaining enrolments at MICA, will the College consider running a greater number of academic courses in the fall with low equipment-needing studios, followed by high equipment-needing studio courses in the spring when conditions may be more favorable to group gatherings? 

This question relates to the different scenarios MICA is considering for the 2021 Academic Year, and this is one strategy that may be considered if the scenario is a need to maintain social distancing at the start of school. While there are other possible scenarios, a lesson from the current year is that access to fabrication and studio facilities for the entire 2021 Academic Year may not be guaranteed, and the College will need to adapt its work to optimize use when these facilities are available.

This kind of approach will require much closer coordination between classes/curriculum planning and fabrication studios than we’ve been used to in the past, and this will need to be an area of prioritized work and planning.

 Q: Has MICA considered giving students whose on-campus experience in spring 2020 was cut short access to fabrication studios after graduation to make up for missed time with those resources?

 At this point in time, MICA does not know how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact fall 2020. The College, however, is open to giving 2020 seniors access to resources once on-campus activities are back to normal. Planning considerations around this subject have not yet begun.

 Q: What are the plans to support our international students? Some of them have left the US. What do retention plans look like? 

 MICA’s Office of International Education has been in contact with international students and has encouraged international students to check in once a week, if possible, so that the office can field questions and solve issues. VISA paperwork processes are happening remotely, and International Education staff has been available to meet with international students using Zoom, Google Hangouts and other online modes of communication. MICA has also made VPN licenses available to international students who need them.

Regarding retention, Student Affairs is modeling an array of scenarios, but the fact remains that no one knows what kind of travel restrictions will be in place later this year that will restrict international students from returning to the U.S. The office is maintaining communication and engagement with students and is being as adaptable as possible.

 Q: Have summer programs plans been finalized? Will any programs or courses be online?

 There are a number of programs offered over the summer by the Office of Open Studies, including classes for undergraduate students, Young People’s Studios, Pre-College, and the International Student Cultural Orientation, and short term international programs. All programs that involve international travel for students have been canceled. Summer programs will be impacted by ongoing federal and state decisions about opening campus to the public. Open Studies is currently looking at undergraduate offerings and will be making final decisions about what courses are essential for students who might need credits for completion of their studies at MICA. These courses, particularly liberal arts courses, may be taught online. Information about those courses will be available soon. The status of other Open Studies summer programs will be communicated to campus in May.

Regarding the MFA in Studio Art low residency graduate program whose students attend MICA for six weeks each summer, a contingency plan to launch the summer 2020 session as a remote alternative educational experience should the decision be made that the program cannot be run on campus as usual. Plans are also moving forward for an on-campus launch of the summer session.

 Q: What is the status of Commencement, Artwalk, and the remaining art shows?

 Deeply aware of their importance to the Class of 2020, MICA’s planning on Commencement and year-end exhibitions are guided by the following:

  • We remain committed to protect the health, safety, and wellness of our community members.
  • We are doing the utmost to not allow COVID-19 to take away the celebration of our Class of 2020. A genuine and meaningful set of related activities has become paramount to help alleviate some of the shock, grief, and sense of loss that the abrupt developments of the past month have caused our campus community — and most notably, our student body. For staff and faculty, our work in fashioning a creative celebration of the graduating class helps address the loss we also feel.
  • The diverse needs and circumstances of our graduating students require a range of options that begin with this May and extend into 2021. There is a strong desire to both celebrate online this May and to physically gather and exhibit at later dates when in-person convenings are possible again.  
  • Ideas and input from the Class of 2020 should play an integral role in shaping the events and activities that will appropriately celebrate and honor them as well as best position them for professional success. Some key perspectives have already been gleaned through discussions with students and student leadership. MICA is committed to further involving the graduating class in rethinking the culminating elements of their MICA educational experience.

With all of this in mind, below are the following decisions and general framework for reshaping the celebrations with and for our Class of 2020:

  • The traditional May 2020 in-person celebrations of Commencement, ArtWalk, and remaining Grad Exhibitions are cancelled. We will, instead, celebrate the graduation of our seniors and showcase their work through an online mean – giving us all an opportunity to virtually gather, connect, rejoice, and view work. To help shape this initiative, we will be launching a website next week to engage with the Class of 2020, their families, and the broader MICA community to solicit feedback, ideas, and proposals around key elements of this online celebration.
  • A Commencement Care Package will be sent to graduating students to offer physical items that Class of 2020 members have identified to be of emotional and symbolic significance. Such items include Commencement tickets, programs, honor cords, etc.
  • MICA will also use the website mentioned above to solicit ideas for physical exhibitions and celebrations of student work to take place once large, in-person gatherings can happen again. We are hopeful that this can be as soon as the Fall of 2020. Some emerging possibilities include launching the 2020-2021 academic year with these exhibitions, organizing events around the MICA Weekend in October when many parents and alumni visit the campus, and holding exhibitions in different cities in a linked set of events.
  • Finally, all members of the Class of 2020 and their families will be invited to join the next physical MICA Commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 17, 2021. Those who wish to partake in an in-person experience will have that option.

Q: Is the administration considering smaller class sizes for AY21- With consideration of the possible continuation of social distancing into the fall and in order to offer more employment opportunities to faculty if the incoming class is reduced? 

We have not yet actively begun considering different measures that might need to be in place for holding classes under social distancing restrictions, but making changes to our course sizes and/or the location of courses could definitely be a consideration.

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Faculty

Q: An extraordinary amount of work is expected from the faculty by going online and delivering classes and meeting student expectations in an unprecedented way. Can faculty be assured that the annual step increase, COLA, salary, etc. will be maintained.

 MICA’s leadership is immensely grateful for the work that the faculty—and all members of the College community—are doing at this time. The College’s commitment to its community and its members is absolute, and is the foundation for everything leadership is doing to navigate this situation. 

 While the enrollment picture for the 2021 Academic Year is unclear at this point, there are many reasons to expect that we will be faced with extraordinary challenges due to the social and economic repercussions of COVID-19.

 Leadership at the College is currently working on a range of possible scenarios, all of which assume significant reductions in net revenues and thus, significant cuts in expenses, in order to balance our budget. In terms of principles for decision-making, the College is concerned, first of all, to protect the integrity of the educational experience (its mission) and people and jobs (its community).

 Because these are not normal times, at this point it is not possible to offer guarantees regarding COLA, step increases, furloughs, etc. The Faculty Handbook addresses this kind of situation specifically in section 3.7.9: Changed Financial Circumstances, and contemplates a specific role for faculty and faculty leadership in this process of institutional decision-making.

MICA’s intent is to work with the appropriate representative groups—in this case Faculty Empowerment Council (FEC) and the Committee for Remuneration and Budget (CRAB)—to ensure full and appropriate participation by faculty as College leadership navigates the different scenarios that may be faced next year.

 Q: If a furlough is coming, when will faculty be told about this?  How would this affect faculty on year-long sabbatical in terms of their salaries?

It is premature to say what may or may not happen yet because next year’s budget is still being shaped. If a furlough is coming, the goal is to work with faculty and staff so that we can achieve a one-team effort to protect as many jobs as possible with an equitable sharing of burden. Therefore, the administrative leaders would propose a set of possible scenarios with plenty of notice and work with staff and faculty leadership to co-design a way forward. The commitment is to do the right thing with and for each other, and not to have a top-down decision that is done to people. 

Q: In the current system of shared governance, the faculty’s voice is heard in an advisory capacity through committee service. Is there, or will there be, a faculty committee weighing in on MICA’s short-term and long-term curricular changes stemming from the COVID-19 response? 

 Because now is the time to have this discussion and that the Governance Committee—the Joint FEC/Administrative body that works on issues of shared governance—is the place to have it, this item will be put on the agenda for the next meeting of that committee, which takes place on April 22nd.

 Q: Given the significant amount of additional work involved in transferring to on-line teaching, what provisions are being considered for adjunct faculty who are often the most vulnerable financially? 

 In recent weeks, MICA’s focus has been on provisioning part time faculty technologically and pedagogically to make the transition to Keep on Teaching (KoT) strategies. Through Educational Planning and Development, we conducted a survey of part time faculty’s readiness to move to remote platforms. Laptops have been provided to several part time faculty who needed them, issues of expanded wi-fi have been addressed, and the College has  provided honoraria for part time faculty to attend the workshops hosted by Instructional Technology/Educational Planning and Development.

MICA has also asked undergraduate chairs and graduate directors to fully include part time faculty in all program planning during this period.

Going forward, MICA anticipates at least the following measures:

  • In collaboration with part time faculty leadership, MICA has opened a channel of communication specifically for part time faculty to communicate issues and questions, and the College will use this and the Labor-Management Collaboration Committee (LMCC) of the SEIU to address these issues and questions as they arise
  • As a part of this, MICA anticipates the need for additional professional development and areas where additional work—work outside of what is expected as part of the normal teaching of courses—will be required. The College is committed to fairly compensating part time faculty for this work.

Q: What is the plan to cover classes for faculty who fall sick? 

There are special provisions with regard to leave for both faculty and staff, and there are federal provisions under COVID-19 as well. 

Any faculty who is ill should first contact their chair or director and should also let their students know they are sick. If a faculty member is out sick for longer than one week, MICA will hire a substitute. However, faculty are also encouraged to add another faculty member to their course(s) as co-teacher so that if sick time is needed, there is already someone in place to take over instruction of the course. 

Q: What will MICA do to preserve part-time faculty employment in the coming academic year? Will MICA commit to preferentially rehiring AY20 part time faculty members for AY21?

 MICA’s commitment to “good faith consideration” already gives part-time faculty some preferential protection. Whether and how MICA would extend that for next year has not yet been discussed. This subject should be brought forward as an interest to the SEIU leadership so that they can raise it at the next meeting of the LMCC, which takes place on April 22nd.

Q: Given the extreme financial stress that the College is under, are faculty hires going ahead? Who is deciding what future positions are “essential”?

All of the faculty searches for which we have offers out were completed prior to the move to close the campus. All of these hires were approved as critical to the programs they are joining. The College sees these hires as part of the core academic enterprise and our commitment to develop the faculty in line with the agreements with FEC/CRAB and our DEIG principles.

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Finances

Q: Over the past five years within the yearly operational budget, what has been the increase (in dollars and in a percentage of the entire operating budget) of administrative salaries and faculty salaries, respectively? Additionally, what portion (in dollars and as a percentage) of the operating budget is devoted to administrative costs and what to instructional costs? Does this challenge the fiscal viability of the school post-crisis? 

Over the past 5 years, overall faculty salary costs have increased by 16%, which is about 3.2% per year. Administrative salary costs have increased by 19%, which is about 3.8% per year. As a part of the total budget, faculty salary costs have increased from 18% to 19% while administrative salary costs have increased from 24% to 26%. The slightly higher increase in administrative salary costs have been primarily due to significant investments in areas of campus safety, international education, DEIG, research, creative citizenship, and educational planning and development.

Academic and instructional costs make up 61% of the overall budget, and administrative costs make up 39%. 

 MICA has a strong financial foundation. Its endowment peaked at over $100 million before the recent downturn, and its cash flow is good. Its only debt is tax exempt bonds which paid for construction of dorms, and fees for those rooms pay for that debt (this is a common way for colleges and universities to fund construction for residence halls). MICA’s bond ratings with Moody’s and Fitch remain consistent and strong at BAA1 and BBB+ for the past 15 years. By continuing to manage the budget as it has done in the past, MICA will be in good shape after the COVID-19 crisis.

 Q: What is the impact of COVID-19 on major initiatives at MICA?

 The College is moving forward with major initiatives with special consideration to the reality of current circumstances. The delivery date of MICA’s Strategic Plan and Campus Master Plan will be extended from May 1 to October, 2020 to allow more time for campus members to work thoughtfully on the content of these plans. The 81 Mosher project has been postponed due to the pandemic, potential restrictions on construction, and the unknown timing of campus reopening; the state grant that covers a portion of the project's costs provides a seven-year window for completion, so the funding will not be jeopardized, and MICA remains committed to completing the project in time for the 2022-23 academic year.

Q: Will the federal government’s $2 trillion stimulus package impact MICA? What other governmental relief support does the College have from city, state, or country?

There is a higher education relief fund included in the federal government’s $2 trillion relief package that will be used to provide grants to colleges and universities on a formula-driven basis, and MICA is expecting some funding from that fund. There is also a governor’s emergency education relief fund, which is primarily for k-12 schools, but there may be some funding available for higher education. Other funds are possible through the employer retention credit program.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, the Maryland General Assembly had increased funding for the 13 MICUA colleges by about $10 million, the largest increase in 15 years, about 500k of which is MICA’s share. It is unlikely the state will provide any additional funding to colleges and universities. MICA is continuing to work on this issue and will know more in the next several weeks.

Q: What is next in College planning now that some of the most urgent decisions around plans for spring 2020 are in place?

MICA’s leadership is now focusing on preparing for the next set of circumstances. At the top of the list are the needs of the College’s community no matter where we are physically. The COVID-19 pandemic is still unfolding, the administration is planning on potential wider outbreaks in our region and how that impacts our community. That includes a rebuilding and strengthening of our community care program. MICA is also looking closely at the financial projections for Academic Year 2021 and for the current fiscal year. There are multiple scenarios regarding budget planning for the Academic Year 2021. 

Q: What financial issues are emerging for MICA in the near future that need to be addressed/planned for in next year’s annual budget (and, what impact will that have on existing programs and expenses)? What long-term financial impacts will the College experience? 

 The primary foreseeable issues that impact next year’s annual budget are related to enrollment. It is likely that the College will enroll fewer new students on both undergraduate and graduate levels due to a combination of factors including prolonged restrictions on travel, preference for a gap year due to psychological/emotional fatigue or fiscal circumstances, preference to attend a college closer to families, etc. In addition, it is anticipated that more new and returning students will need institutional financial aid due to the financial disruptions caused by the global pandemic.

 This kind of impact on tuition revenues materializes will be felt across the higher education sector and experienced by many, if not all, MICA’s peer art schools. 

 In light of these circumstances, MICA’s leadership has been undergoing a thoughtful budget planning process that includes work with Admissions on recruitment projections and with Student Affairs on retention projections. Leadership is building multiple enrollment projection scenarios, as well as the related revenue and expenditure projections. In May, the President’s Council will plan a balanced 2021 fiscal budgion despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the last quarter.

 MICA is learning from and innovating through the COVID-19 pandemic, and is focused on coming out stronger and smarter as a team and as a college.

Q: There has been a lot of discussion about diversifying revenue streams (such as greater support for outside grant funding). Is this goal being strongly prioritized, and is the Research Office being given the resources needed to be successful in these efforts? 

Since 2016, the number of staff dedicated to the research operation has gone from .5 FTE to 3 FTE, we have hired a Director of the Research Office, and we have established additional resources for research cultivation and faculty support through the Office of Strategic Initiatives. In addition, since that time, we have more than doubled the amount of internal research money we award to faculty on an annual basis 

Thanks to the work of the Research Office and the Research Committee, we now have a fully functioning, model IRB process, a federally negotiated indirect cost rate that contributes to our funding for research support, and a much better functioning process for pre- and post-award grants management. We believe this is an area where we have seen some significant progress over the past several years.

Q: How is the Office of the President building the endowment and held accountable for fundraising? 

During President Hoi’s time at MICA, just over $40 million has been raised, with approximately $14 million going directly to the endowment. Due to a combination of fundraising and robust market growth, the College’s endowment broke the $100 million barrier just before COVID-19 impacted the stock market.

While fundraising is a large part of the president’s job, the College’s Office of Advancement is charged with this task, that the Advancement team has been diligently growing fundraising efforts and has steadily built the College’s endowment. MICA’s donor base is expanding to those outside of Baltimore and fundraising results have grown from year to year. Even with the COVID-19 crisis, MICA expects to raise approximately $10 million this year, with $3 million of those funds going into the endowment. More is expected to be raised next year to support the Strategic Plan, the growing financial needs of students, scholarships, the endowment, and more.

Q: Now that both the graduate and undergraduate students have filed petitions for tuition remission and lab fees, how will this be handled by the administration? What are the talking points for us as faculty? 

MICA is providing prorated refunds for housing and meal plans. As a next step in this process, we have put together a spreadsheet of the materials fees within the different programs and are currently assessing what these are and whether some of these fees can be refunded to students.

Regarding tuition, we are committed to providing a continuous educational experience that will allow all students to complete this semester and, for graduating students, to complete their degrees. All of our faculty and educational support staff are working hard to pivot their courses into remote and alternate means of instruction, to redesign assignments so they can be completed without access to the campus facilities, and to develop new approaches to the documentation and exhibition of work that will provide culminating experiences and portfolio materials that are appropriate to the learning goals for their courses. We recognize that this situation is not ideal, but the entire MICA educational team is fully committed to the creative construction of this alternative path of learning and degree completion. We believe that students will be rewardingly engaged as we move to make guest visits virtual, develop planning for the senior books across programs, and work collectively to plan the end-of-semester online exhibition. As a College, we intend to keep on teaching and ensure a quality education for our students to keep on learning. Accordingly, tuition refunds are not being contemplated.

Q: How is the Office of Strategic Initiatives initiating strategies to help us through these difficult financial waters? 

Strategic Initiatives is, by design, meant to be flexible and nimble so that it can respond to campus capacity needs.  Major foci are new revenues exploration, community partnerships and soon, DEI.  Since the question is about financial resources, I will focus on that aspect.  Part of Strategic Initiatives' work is to fill in the capacity between the Advancement office and the Research Office, to initiate and maintain relationships with foundations and to work directly with faculty, staff and graduate students to think about and build the aspects of their work that would be attractive to external funders, help write the proposals and manage the successfully funded projects.  We are often part of a campus team and we fill in at the points in which more capacity is needed.  

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Student Support

Q: If a student wanted to withdraw from classes at this point in the semester, could they receive a prorated tuition refund (with no course credit)? 

The College has been working with the goal of completion of the semester, and with our ordinary deadlines for withdrawal. We have not contemplated this nor received requests, but can look at this issue further. 

Q: What additional resources are available to students who are struggling with their mental health? What initiatives are in the works to maintain a community for our students/staff/faculty outside of coursework? 

Student Health Services and Student Counseling remain up and running to support, assist, and triage students. Because of limitations in their ability to legally provide active counseling across state boundaries, Student Counseling can assist students who have left Baltimore by helping to coordinate or transition care at home. Faculty who have concerns about a student’s mental health can and should use and refer to all of MICA’s normal resources - ART, BIT, Student Counseling as well as individual staff such as Judi Kinney and Louise Cracknell. These resources remain viable support mechanisms. 

Student mental health is also largely driven by the health of the surrounding community and sense of engagement and belonging. To that end multiple offices are already hard at work doing everything imaginable to recreate the vibrancy of the MICA community in a virtual world. Wellness Wednesdays, engagement platforms with Baltimore community arts partners, online coffeehouses, and regular student community gatherings are just some of the examples we intend to provide to help maintain the sense of connection to the MICA community.

The College is also convening a Community of Care committee, with representation from various areas of campus, now including faculty and students as well as staff.  The committee is the think and feel tank that is looking and thinking of campus caring initiatives. For example, work is being done with Strategic Communications to turn the MICA Events page into a site where individuals who are holding or know of wellness, caring, or just playful online meetings can invite the MICA community to join in. Go to mica.edu/sharecare and then drop down to “community of care”.  We are also working to launch at a campus Minecraft site where a number of activities can happen, as well as a plan for a collective MICA memorial event if needed.  

Q: Who makes decisions regarding the allocation of the Angel Fund, and what is the process by the allocation team? How quickly are the Angel Funds distributed to a student once they are approved? 

MICA’s Angel Fund, which provides support in case of urgent hardships, is not intended as a tuition fund, but instead  for unexpected hardship where a few hundred dollars can make a difference. It has received an overwhelming amount of requests since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

MICA staff are currently processing requests. Students can receive up to $300 in funds, and the average reward has so far been approximately $220. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, requests were reviewed on a weekly basis. Currently, requests are reviewed almost as soon as they come in with the goal of getting approved funds sent within a matter of days.

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