Committee to start reviewing philosophy

Jason Hardimon, Staff reporter

The Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee met with Jon Blitz, president of the EIU-UPI Monday to hear his advice and perspective as the committee moves forward in reviewing four programs.

The programs submitted to the committee for review include the bachelor’s in philosophy, Africana studies, adult and community education and career and technical development.

Of these programs, only the bachelor’s in philosophy would result in the reduction of Unit-A employees.

Blitz said from a EIU-UPI standpoint, he recommended the group simply review philosophy and leave the others alone.

A shared governance committee, such as the Council on Academic Affairs, should review the other three programs, he said, since their reorganization or elimination would not result in layoffs.

He suggested that the committee consider adhering to its contractual mandate.

According to article 18.1 of the EIU-UPI Unit A Agreement, “the sole purpose of [the committee] shall be to provide recommendations to the Provost concerning academic programs/departments being considered for elimination or reorganization which would result in the layoff of an employee.’”

The committee resolved to begin reviewing the philosophy major and to reach a decision concerning review of the other programs at a later date.

Frances Murphy, a representative of the Lumpkin College of Business and Applied Sciences, voiced concern about Blitz’s recommendation to not review the other three programs.

“I’m really taken aback that you don’t think its beneficial or that it would serve a purpose for us to look at the other programs since they’ve been sent to us,”

Murphy said.

Blitz said that he was not sure if reviewing the other programs would be beneficial or not, but that the committee certainly has the right to.

Blitz sent a letter to the Faculty Senate concerning the findings of Workgroup no. 7, which looked at Academic Programs during the vitalization project last semester.

It was this workgroup that originally recommended the programs be eliminated or consolidated. The workgroup had a preliminary draft of recommendations and then a final report that was published online. Departments were able to offer rebuttals to the preliminary draft.

“I don’t think that Workgroup no. 7 had the ability to do a decent job given the time frame that they had,” Blitz said. “…It’s clear that they didn’t make any substantive changes from their initial draft to their final draft. And we know that there are problems in the (profit and loss) sheets, which weren’t addressed.”

Blitz said members of the philosophy department whom he knows personally said they believe their profit and loss sheets are faulty and that the department is actually turning a profit.

Jeanne Okrasinski, an at-large member of the committee, said in the philosophy department’s rebuttal to Workgroup no. 7, they mentioned that a spreadsheet was available upon request, which the department believes is more demonstrative of what is occurring within their profit loss margins.

Blitz recommended the committee examine the qualitative merits of the programs being reviewed.

“Think about what message it sends to the overall institution to eliminate a program that is so central to critical thinking,” Blitz said.

Western Illinois University eliminated its philosophy major for the 2016-2017 academic year, but suffered no faculty losses.

“I’m not understanding… If no faculty positions are in danger from eliminating these other programs, where is the cost savings?” Murphy asked.

Blitz said the argument Eastern President David Glassman gave was that when there is a program in which few students major, professors would be teaching upper division courses with fewer students.

Glassman’s argument, Blitz said, is that the credit units are being used up for classes of a half-dozen students when the university could have somebody teaching a general education course with 40 students instead.

“So, you’re generating more student credit hours and more dollars that way,” Blitz said.

However, committee chair Richard Jones said there are a lot of assumptions involved with that theory.

“There are other things that we don’t equate with an education at an institution of higher education. Are we the new technical school now instead of a university?” Murphy asked.

Blitz urged the members of the committee not to feel pressured by the administration in any way.

He also asked the committee to see what the implications would be for current students and how much alumni gave to the department.

 

Jason Hardimon can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]