Three programs up for elimination at next BOT meeting

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

UPDATE: This story has been updated from last night’s article with quotes and information from Eastern President David Glassman

The university administration will ask the board of trustees to consider the elimination of three degree programs at its meeting Friday.

These programs are the bachelor’s in Africana Studies, career and technical education and adult and community education, according to a board report attached to the meeting’s agenda.

Philosophy was originally slated to be considered for deletion, but following an agreement between the administration and philosophy faculty, the administration will rescind its recommendation for elimination of the philosophy major to the Board, Eastern President David Glassman said in an email.

The agreement includes philosophy faculty going down from seven full-time faculty to four full-time faculty through attrition by the Summer of 2019 and getting 20 majors in the philosophy program by 2020.

If either of these conditions are not met,Glassman said the administration will bring back the recommendation that the program be eliminated to the Board of Trustees.

“I am very pleased that this agreement could be made through collaborative discussions between the administration and the dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, the chair of the Philosophy Department and the philosophy faculty,” Glassman said.

Workgroup No. 7, which looked at academic programs during the vitalization project, originally recommended seven programs be considered. After further administrative considerations, this was narrowed down to four programs.

The only program of these that would potentially lead to faculty layoffs would be philosophy. Because of this, it was contractually mandated to be reviewed by the Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee. The committee received information on all four of the programs and so did the Faculty Senate, the Council on Academic Affairs and the Council on Teacher Education. The Faculty Senate studied all four programs, the CAA looked at philosophy, Africana Studies and adult and community education, and the CTE looked at career and technical education.

It is possible that non-faculty members could be laid off because of program eliminations, Glassman said, but it has not been planned.

Vicki Woodard, Eastern’s coordinator of public information, said since program elimination was put under action items, this means the board will vote on these recommendations at its meeting Friday.

Even if eliminated, students currently enrolled in these programs would still be able to finish their degrees. Any program approved for elimination would not take any new students after the tenth day of school for the fall 2017 semester.

Jonelle DePetro, chair of the philosophy department, chose not to comment except to say that they hope the philosophy department will not be eliminated.

Jerry Cloward, program coordinator for career and technical education, also declined to comment, and James Ochwa-Echel, coordinator of the Africana Studies program, was not available for comment.

“Eastern needs a program array that is competitive in the marketplace for students and attracts them in sufficient numbers to justify the expenses, both human and operational, to support them,” it said in the board report. “This is not the case with the programs presented here.”

There will be three faculty departures in philosophy in the coming years, but even with these, the board report stated.

According to the report, the “low level” of interest in the degree program determined the original elimination recommendation.

The Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee, the CAA and the Faculty Senate recommended the administration retain the philosophy program.

In its report, the Faculty Senate wrote that philosophy is an academic program many consider central to the university’s mission.

“(Eliminating the program) could lead to a loss of credibility as a university, especially in our commitment to comprehensive liberal arts education,” the senate wrote.

The Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee also wrote in its report that philosophy is an integral part of a broad education and an essential part of developing critical thinkers and responsible citizens.

Philosophy is included in the curricula for nine minors and seven majors.

According to the committee’s report, faculty in philosophy have also developed curricular proposals that will “strengthen and sustain philosophy and the numerous programs served by the department.”

Richard Jones, chair of the Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization committee, said he thinks the committee did a good job with its report, but they knew the final decision was ultimately up to the board of trustees and university administration.

The Africana Studies program has associated with the Latin American, Asian and women’s studies minors to consider how to consolidate current offerings, focusing on develop a broader program in an area such as multicultural studies, according to the board report.

The Faculty Senate wrote that it would be better to let affected parties work together to change as opposed to having an enforced elimination.

“Faculty Senate anticipates these current discussions will soon bring about innovative and productive transformations in these programs, and they should be encouraged to continue,” they wrote.

However, in the board report, the administration wrote that continuation of “the existing Africana Studies programs is not warranted” at this time.

Like philosophy, Africana Studies would have a role in providing general education and elective courses even if eliminated.

The Faculty Senate report stated that it would be hard to predict the potential impact on student recruitment if Africana Studies was eliminated.

“Africana Studies, with the positive changes currently underway, may serve our students of color in ways that exceed even the reach of its courses,” the Faculty Senate wrote. “For some, Africana Studies represents an assurance of EIU’s commitment to the African-American student body, a constituency that has risen rapidly over the past ten years such that it now accurately reflects Illinois demographics.”

In a response to Workgroup No. 7’s recommendation, Africana Studies wrote that research shows there is market demand for Africana and cultural studies and that the program promotes Eastern’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

For career and technical education, the board report stated that its future is ambiguous based on declining student interest.

“At this time, faculty resources need to be deployed to areas showing greater student interest,” the report said. “This academic unit and Eastern generally does not have the luxury of waiting to see if interest improves in this particular degree program.”

The Faculty Senate wrote that while career and technical education has seen low enrollment, demand from the field has shown that there is a labor shortage and need for people with a career and technical education skill set.

“Such strong numbers of graduating students (until very recently), coupled with promising job prospects, would indicate that eliminating CTE is premature at this time,” the senate wrote.

The adult and community education program stopped admitting new students and has already decided to “teach out” the students currently in the program.

According to the board report, if the higher education climate changes in the future and Eastern could hire more faculty, the program could be reinstated.

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