Faculty referendum shows “no confidence” vote in Workgroup No. 7

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

A majority of faculty members, 71.78 percent, who voted in a referendum voted “no confidence” in Workgroup No. 7’s process and outcomes during the vitalization project.

The referendum, sent out by the Faculty Senate, asked faculty members to answer 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.”

It was voted on by 202 out of 433 possible voters, for a 45.5 percent response rate.

Of the 202, 145 voted no confidence and 57 gave a vote of confidence.

Faculty Senate Chair Jemmie Robertson said the referendum reflected the Faculty Senate’s concern over the process that Workgroup No. 7 was asked to carry out in a short time frame.

This Workgroup made recommendations for academic programs during the vitalization project.

Of the several programs the group suggested be eliminated or consolidated, four are now being considered.

These are the bachelor’s in philosophy, Africana studies, career and technical education and adult and community education.

Robertson said the information from the referendum will now be shared with the faculty and Eastern President David Glassman.

The Faculty Senate sent out a letter with the referendum last Monday, which detailed several concerns it had with the Workgroup’s process, including the fact that the university already has ways to review academic programs.

“The part that sets the Vitalization Project model apart is the inclusion of the profit and loss summary in the assessment, as well as the inconceivably short time frame in which to carry out the task,” the letter said. “Both of these factors, separately and together, riddle the conclusions from Workgroup 7 with flaws and cause worry and concern.”

In the letter, the Faculty Senate wrote about its issues with the profit and loss statements given to the Workgroup and the lack of transparency during the process.

“It appears that most of the decisions were made individually and not through committee deliberation. Even though the meetings were open to the public, observers merely witnessed the placing of notecards that were already filled out prior to the meeting and were not given insight to the rationale of the comments or decisions,” it said in the letter.

Faculty Senate member Jeff Stowell mentioned that several colleagues in his department had concerns of their own on how the referendum was phrased and framed.

“It’s pretty much set up to dissolve any confidence in the process, and I think the results are reflective of that,” he said.

Faculty Senate member Grant Sterling said he does not want to sound cynical, but if he had been asked to come up with a document listing reasons why someone should have confidence in the process, he would not be able to write one word.

“I can’t think of a single reason to be confident in the process,” he said.

Workgroup No. 7 member Scott Stevens said he is proud of the work the group did, though he understands people impacted by the recommendations are upset, as “change is not easy.”

“I totally get it,” he said. “It’s totally understandable.”

However, he said without state funding or steady enrollment, the university cannot operate the way it always has.

“(Workgroup No. 7) came to a consensus…we got results,” he said. “We evaluated every program, every major, every minor. It was a daunting task; we did quality work.”

Attempts to reach Workgroup No. 7 chair Cindy Rich for comment were unsuccessful.

The Faculty Senate’s ad hoc committee to review Workgroup No. 7’s recommendations has received feedback from the programs that are up for elimination or consolidation.

Faculty Senate member CC Wharram said all of the programs are interested in sharing their thoughts.

“They’ve already shared a lot of their concerns; we already knew some of their responses,” he said. “We’ve talked to some, we’re still arranging times to talk to the others. We want to make sure we’re not misrepresenting the facts as they know them.”

During a meeting of the committee after Faculty Senate, Faculty Senate member Stefan Eckert said with the university being in the situation it is in, it does not make sense to ask for the elimination of programs and faculty members without a tangible benefit.

“If we’re going to go to the time and effort and energy and costs quite frankly of actually deleting a program or department, there should be obvious positive benefits to the university to doing that,” Wharram said. “The most obvious positive benefit of deleting a program is financial benefits (and) significant cost savings.”

However, it did not seem clear where the cost savings would come from if the university were to cut a program.

“It seems quite clear from looking at budgetary information that these programs are getting back in tuition as much as they’re giving out,” Wharram said.

While Wharram does not want to give the impression that his mind is made up and he does give credence to the idea that cost-cutting could help, looking at the numbers, he said he does not see the benefit cutting programs could have.

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