Departments, programs respond to referendum, vitalization project

Abbey Whittington, Contributing Writer

Following the Faculty Senate’s referendum last Tuesday, programs considered for elimination or consolidation reflected on how they are being affected by the vitalization project.

Last week, 145 faculty members voted ‘no confidence’ in Workgroup No. 7’s process and outcomes in the vitalization project.

The Workgroup looked at academic programs during the project and recommended several of them for deletion or consolidation.

Of these, four programs- philosophy, Africana Studies, adult and community education and career and technical education- are now being considered.

Jonelle DePetro, chair of the philosophy department, said she was happy that people took the time to vote and were also dismayed by the process.

In response to the Workgroup’s consideration, she said the department has been going to the Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee, among others, to learn what it can change to make the program more attractive for students.

The department has been considering lowering the amount of credit hours required for philosophy majors and offering an ethics certificate.

DePetro said lowering the required credit hours would assist those who are double majoring in philosophy.

“We’re not going to have 50 majors, but we have data that shows we’re operating at a profit,” DePetro said. “A small profit, but a profit. Even our upper-level classes.”

She said there is an assumption that the only profits the program makes come from the department’s general education courses, but if those classes were taken away, the program would still make a profit.

“We’re integrated into a lot of other programs,” DePetro said. “We’re part of eight disciplinary minors, our logic class is an option in the critical thinking and quantitative reasoning component in the School of Business and six of their programs. Philosophy is really the foundation.”

She said the program does not just serve its majors, but also those who have philosophy courses on their transcripts.

DePetro said despite the vitalization project process, the department has recruited a new major and three students who visited Eastern for Admitted Student Day showed an interest in philosophy.

“One thing I do want to make clear is that our program has not been eliminated,” DePetro said. “It’s a consideration for elimination that has been recommended by one Workgroup and it’s not at all certain that that will happen.”

She said philosophy’s student credit production is among the highest in the college.

“It seems to me that the Workgroup should be asking us what we are doing instead of trying to eliminate us,” DePetro said.

Philosophy professor Grant Sterling said he was disappointed on several occasions when Workgroup No. 7 made considerations to eliminate the philosophy department.

Sterling said this is because even after informing the group of how the data used in the process was misleading, they still did not change a single word in their final recommendations.

He said the data used suggested the faculty was producing less credit hours, which is one of several pieces of misleading information the group had.

“I think the referendum only put a number on something that I had already heard from many people,” Sterling said.

Despite the referendum’s results, Sterling said he does not expect Workgroup No.7 to reach out to the department because the group “ceased to exist” after December when it turned their recommendations in.

The Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review committee, Council on Academic Affairs and the Faculty Senate are now weighing in on the Workgroup’s recommendations and making their own regarding the programs.

“Now it’s a matter of the three committees giving their recommendations and (Eastern President David Glassman) deciding what direction he wants to go in,” Sterling said.

Stephen Lucas, department chair of secondary education, said the adult and community education program was already planning to go on a hiatus before Workgroup No. 7 had made its recommendations.

The program was approved about three years ago to train students who want to work in educational or training development but not in a school setting.

Lucas said the reason the program was created was because about six or seven years ago, the state of Illinois increased the testing requirements to become a teacher.

As a result, he said, a lot of Eastern students in the education programs were excluded from passing the basic skills requirement since the state raised the bar for the tests.

“We had a lot of students who were being told they couldn’t go on by the state and their program and yet they still wanted to be in something like teaching,” Lucas said. “So, we developed this program to tap into that need for them.”

Lucas said the reason there was already discussion about putting the program on hiatus before the vitalization project was because the numbers of students in it is going down, and the program’s faculty members are not specialized in the area of non-school education.

Lucas said the budget impasse also affected the program, along with students changing their majors.

Maintaining the program became overwhelming since it did not have experts in the area and used part-time faculty from other departments with an interest in the program, he said.

“We finally just came up to the point of saying, ‘Understandably, the campus cannot go ahead and do a search to get us a tenure-track position,’ ” Lucas said.

Despite the resources given to adult and community education, Lucas said it was not making progress.

“We understand that the campus has to cut costs and everything and so we volunteered to put this on hiatus,” Lucas said.

Because of this, the adult and community education program is not recruiting any more students, but Lucas said they are still working hard with their few remaining majors, who are expected to graduate in December.

Lucas said the group of students currently in the program have been flexible and understanding about putting the program on hiatus.

While Workgroup No. 7 was going through each department and program, Lucas said he went to the members personally to tell them that adult and community education would be an easy one to select for the consideration of consolidation.

“It’s a very challenging time for everybody,” Lucas said. “You know, Workgroup No.7 I think had a very difficult task to undertake, they had a very short amount of time to work with.”


Abbey Whittington can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].