VP recommendations put online now under review
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Editor’s Note: This story looks at some of the recommendations made in regards to academic programs during the vitalization project. Other Workgroup’s recommendations and how they pertain to and affect the Eastern community will be explored in future stories.
After being posted online, the final recommendations made by all the vitalization project Workgroups will now have to be reviewed, according to Eastern President David Glassman.
Regarding academic programs, Workgroup No. 7 recommended the bachelor’s degree in adult and community education, the bachelor’s degree in Africana Studies, the bachelor’s degree in career and technical education, the master’s degree in chemistry, the bachelor’s degree in philosophy, the pre-engineering program, and the master’s degree in special education be deleted or consolidated.
Glassman said even if the university were to consolidate or eliminate some services or academic departments, it does not necessarily mean these employees will be laid off as the classes could still be taught as a general education course or minor.
“It’s about how we would reconfigure it,” he said, explaining that it was not so much an “employment” issue as it was looking at what the right programs the university has for students are.
The administration is required to tell the Board of Trustees if it is going to delete an academic program.
When it comes to updating the board on the recommendations, how much the administration tells them at the next meeting will depend on how much they were able to review the recommendations.
Jonelle DePetro, chair of the philosophy department, said a question that needs to be answered is whether or not deleting an academic program will even end up saving the university any money.
“(There are) ripple effects to deleting a program,” DePetro said. “Is the amount of money it would save significant enough to make it desirable?”
Workgroup No. 7’s preliminary recommendation for the philosophy department, which they submitted last semester, was the same as their final recommendation, DePetro said, and the fact that it had not changed was “disappointing and surprising.”
“We thought there would be a better consequence,” she said after meeting with members of Workgroup No.7 before final recommendations were due.
DePetro said they had philosophy professor Grant Sterling as a departmental representative in the meeting to provide the group with data about the cost of the program.
“We’re in the black, we’re not in the red,” DePetro said. “The data we provided them with at the second meeting showed that our upper-level courses are also operating at a profit.”
Douglas Brandt, the coordinator of the pre-engineering program; Kathlene Shank, the chair of the special education department; and James Ochwa-Echel, chair of the Africana Studies department, declined to comment.
Rebecca Peebles, chair of the chemistry department, said she was not willing to comment on the situation on Tuesday and Stephen Lucas, department chair and program adviser for adult and community education was not available on Tuesday.
A phone call left for Jerry Cloward, program coordinator for career and technical education, was not returned.
DePetro said she does not know whether the philosophy department is recommended for deletion or consolidation.
“I can’t imagine people don’t think we’re a high-quality program and central to the mission of the university so that’s what makes this final recommendation from the committee disappointing and surprising,” DePetro said. “But I hope that the academic leadership will recognize the consequences of deleting or consolidating us would not maximize the general good here.”
Glassman said being recommended to be eliminated or consolidated does not mean a discipline is not important.
“That’s why many of these disciplines would continue to teach even if they weren’t going to have a major,” he said.
In regards to consolidation, Glassman said it is “not uncommon” for programs across the country to combine disciplines.
However, DePetro said consolidation would be difficult for the philosophy department, because the program is integrated in so many different places across many different colleges and because of the amount of work the chair already has to do.
“Chairs are busy, hardworking people,” DePetro said. “I can’t imagine them taking on another program if it’s just consolidation they’re talking about. It takes a lot to run a program.”
Looking at the number of majors, the program is small, she added. However, DePetro said it is growing and graduates are successful.
“You cannot consider a university a robust center of learning if there’s no philosophy department,” DePetro said, adding it would be hard to see a university go without the philosophy department or the other ones recommended for deletion, such as the Africana Studies program.
All of the Workgroup’s recommendations will remain suggestions until the administration potentially decides to implement them.
In the report on the final recommendations, Glassman said the administration will also consider implementing more actions not already included in the Workgroup’s recommendations.
If there was an administration decision to do this, it would be a consideration shared with the university and feedback would be asked for, he said.
The administration would then decide whether or not to implement a new decision based on this information.
“Nothing will be done out of view of others,” Glassman said.
Glassman said administrators have seen the recommendations individually but they have not come together to discuss them. Now that the new semester has arrived, he said these discussions will take place on an ongoing basis.
The first step will be for the administration to decide which of the recommended programs should be considered for elimination or consolidation.
“Could be one, could be none, could be all of them,” Glassman said.
He said if the administration decides to consider eliminating some programs but not others, they will only meet with ones being considered for deletion.
Workgroup No. 7 Chair Cindy Rich said even if a program is deleted, it is possible interest in it could build and the program could possibly come back.
“This isn’t forever,” she said. “Our curriculum is a living creature.”
She said because of jobs and careers, some are not needed, but others come in.
“We’re evolving as what students want to do evolves,” she said.
DePetro said the process should not be hurried.
“We have already made a lot of changes,” DePetro said, referring to personnel, “I would like to see those changes to shake out before we make more.”
Because of issues such as lowering enrollment, lower state appropriations for universities across the country and other factors, the university cannot just keep adding classes, Glassman said.
DePetro acknowledged low enrollment is a problem but said it is not anyone’s fault.
She said the philosophy department is being as active in recruitment as they can to be attractive to students.
“We have to adjust, but we have to keep in mind our mission,” she said.
Workgroup No. 1 through No. 7 will no longer change anything in the reports.
Rich said the group’s role is done.
“Whoever makes decisions and does things moving forward, if they want to do it they can,” she said.
Some Workgroup recommendations have already been implemented over holiday break, such as the addition of staff to the Office of International Students and Scholars, improving facilities and addressing infrastructural issues in Coleman Hall, furthering the use of the Literacy in Financial Education Center and improving the university’s marketing strategies.
The implementations were able to take place already even among a budget stalemate because the university “continues to manage (its) budget very efficiently,” Glassman said.
When it came to bringing back another staff person for the Office of International Students, it was someone who had previously been laid off, not a new position. To improve the university’s marketing strategies, the university created request for proposals for an outside agency to provide information on how they could help with marketing and advertising.
“We are weighing all the recommendations very heavily,” Glassman said, but at the same time, the administration and he have to make sure any recommendation implemented is beneficial for the future of the university.
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or firstname.lastname@example.org.