Referendum results to be announced at next Faculty Senate meeting

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

The results of a referendum asking faculty to vote on whether or not they have confidence in the process and outcomes of vitalization project Workgroup No.7 are set to be announced next Tuesday.

The referendum asks the faculty to vote yes or no to the statement “I have confidence in the process employed by Vitalization Workgroup No.7 in the program review mandated by the President.”

Faculty Senate Chair Jemmie Robertson said the senate wanted to use the referendum to give faculty a voice in the vitalization project process.

He said some people questioned the way the Workgroup was directed to carry out their work, as well as the data used.

Workgroup No. 7 was charged with looking at academic programs during the vitalization project.

The group recommended, among other things, the deletion or consolidation of seven programs.

Four of these – philosophy, adult and community education, Africana studies and career and technical development – are now being considered for elimination or reorganization.

The deadline for faculty to vote in the referendum is noon on Monday, Feb. 20.

Results will be announced the following day at the Faculty Senate meeting 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, Jeff Stowell, Faculty Senate Elections chair, said.

At the meeting, Stowell said, the senate will discuss the results of the vote and who they want to directly inform.

“The Faculty Senate determined we wanted to express our concerns about the process that was employed by vitalization Workgroup No. 7, maybe even more broadly other groups, but particularly group seven and how they arrived at their recommendations and their timeline,” Stowell said. “It’s an opportunity for us to make a statement from the faculty about the process.”

All those considered faculty in the senate bylaws, which is all Unit A and Unit B employees, including department chairs, had the referendum emailed to them.

Stowell said the referendum results could go to Eastern President David Glassman, the Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review committee, the Board of Trustees or some combination of those groups.

The Faculty Senate does not want to mandate what these groups should do, Robertson said, but the results could be valuable information, especially if the faculty leans one way or the other.

In an email, Glassman said the results of the referendum will be taken under consideration, but he does not know at this time if they will affect any decisions he makes going forward with the vitalization project.

On Jan. 13, faculty members were invited via email to send the senate their own comments on the vitalization project process.

Stowell said these comments were distributed among the senate and were generally in alignment with concerns senate members had discussed in previous meetings.

In a letter sent to faculty with the referendum, the senate detailed several of its concerns, including the use of profit/loss analysis when assessing the academic programs.

“The impact of academic programs and the value they bring to a broad-based liberal arts education in a regional comprehensive university are not so easily reflected in profits and losses,” the Faculty Senate wrote.

The Faculty Senate wrote in the letter that the time constraint the Workgroup was under did not allow for a “systematic review of the holistic performance of each program.”

Another concern addressed in the letter was the Workgroup’s transparency.

“Even though the meetings were open to the public, observers merely witnessed the placing of note cards that were already filled out prior to the meeting and were not given insight to the rationale of the comments or decisions,” the letter reads. “Although this process was efficient and appropriate to the limited time available, it did not create dialogues or conversation with the campus, and it assuredly did not inspire confidence.”

Glassman said any process as large and complex as the vitalization project will have critics, though members of Workgroup No. 7 worked hard and were committed to their charge of evaluating academic programs.

“The process was designed to have transparency built into it, and it appears that the level of transparency may have varied between different Workgroups,” he said in the email. “Some members of the campus community had hoped for a greater level of transparency and are sharing their concern, which they have the right to do so.”

Glassman said Workgroup No. 7 did not make any decisions on any academic programs; they only made recommendations.

“Any decisions within the Vitalization Project that would call for an academic program to receive more resources, be asked to provide a plan for greater efficiency, be consolidated, or be eliminated are made by the administration and the Board of Trustees in the case of a program elimination,” he said.

For now, Stowell said the senate is still working through the process of the referendum.

“Each step leads us to generate questions on what we should do next,” Stowell said.

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