Workgroup 7 replies to departmental criticism

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

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After turning in their preliminary draft recommendations for the vitalization project, Workgroup No.7, looking at academic programs, discussed the responses and feedback they received from academic departments.

After seeing some of the responses, workgroup chair Cindy Rich said some of the departments were supportive, while others approached the recommendations in a defensive way.

What surprised Rich about the defensive responses is she does not see the first two recommendations the workgroup needs to make as negative, as these focus on what programs should be continued with increased resources and what efficiencies or changes could be made to enhance a program’s marketability or enrollment.

“The first (recommendation) is for additional funding, the second one is for in their own house coming up with plans,” she said. “The third is in their own house, but with support from the university and other people (asking) how can we make this work?”

The third recommendation is how programs or services can create a plan to improve their viability and efficiency.

Though the fourth recommendation calls for the workgroup to suggest programs for outsourcing or deletion, Rich said they added in an option for consolidation.

“The programs don’t need to be deleted completely — maybe they can join in with another department that would help with what’s going on there,” she said.

In their responses, Rich said people defended their department’s enrollment, staffing and programs.

“Several of them wrote about the qualities of their program. We never questioned the quality of their programs,” she said. “We feel like all of our programs are quality programs.”

What was mainly looked at, Rich said, was a program’s enrollment and marketability, with the profit/loss sheets being a small piece of what was looked at.

She said they used all the data the university made available to them when looking at these factors, such as databooks and enrollment management documents.

“I can’t speak for (the departments), but it just felt like everyone thought we were being very critical,” Rich said. “That’s not how we intended it to be.”

Rich said in recommending efficiencies, the workgroup was not saying the departments were doing anything wrong.

“We’re saying you got a good thing going; how can we get more students from that?” she said.

Business professor Scott Stevens said he saw a lot of defensiveness and “turf protection” in people’s responses.

“What people fail to grasp is that there are far too many faculty, far too many programs for our enrollment,” he said. “It’s not sustainable.”

Scott said though there was a lot of verbiage around not being able to eliminate anything, there is a problem to deal with of not having enough students.

“As far as faculty go, yes there are many on this campus (that) have this thing called tenure. We have to let attrition take its course; (there are a) lot of part-time adjuncts who you can get rid of,” Scott said.

He acknowledged the workgroup would have to make recommendations that are not going to make some people happy, but resources need to be used in a more efficient way.

“There’s something to be said for simplification,” he said. “Colleges need to decide what they want to do exceptionally well, pick a couple things and market the hell out of it.”

Rich said the workgroup is not saying to let all the faculty go and never bring them back; instead, they are looking at how to make these academic programs work.

None of the workgroup members want to see someone hurt in the vitalization project process, she added.

“We all feel for people who may lose their jobs and things like that, and that makes us sad,” Rich said. “We don’t want to say bad things about the university. We don’t want to tear it down.”

However, she said if the university tries to be “everything to everybody,” it will get nothing.

“We have to figure out how to stay afloat,” she said.

Accountant Joyce Schumacher pointed out the workgroup was just sending their recommendations, and not a finalized decision, in the vitalization project.

“Somebody above us has to sort through everything,” she said. “These are just our opinions.”

Rich said both departments and the workgroup were able to do what they had to.

“We had our job to do, to look at what they had. They had their job to do,” Rich said. “We’re not adversaries in this; we both had a role to play.”

 

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]