Review committee offers feedback on restructuring plan

Brooke Schwartz, Administration Reporter

Since Provost Jay Gatrell revealed a plan to reorganize the structure of the university just over one week ago, discussions have been taking place across campus.

The Workgroup Review Committee, which met earlier this year to review and make their own suggestions for reorganization based on the final recommendations of last year’s vitalization project Workgroups No. 8 and 9, gave some of their own thoughts on the restructuring.

Some parts of the plan the provost put forth last Monday, which included the addition of a College of Health and Human Services and the combination of the College of Sciences and College of Arts and Humanities, deviate from the suggested plan the review committee proposed in its final recommendations.

The committee recommended a five-college plan. While this plan also included the addition of a College of Health and Human Services, it also suggested the moving of schools to create a focused College of Business and STEM college.

This plan would open a dean position by removing the dean of the College of Continuing Education, which the provost said was not feasible as that position was previously dissolved.

Given Eastern’s reality, many members of the review committee were happy with the provost’s plan, including Stephen Lucas, the chair of the department of secondary education and foundations, who was excited about the addition of a new college.

“The biggest positive to me is (the provost) found a way to create that College of Health and Human Services,” Lucas said. “I just think as we were talking in (the Workgroup Review Committee), we needed to have at least one big splashy thing come out of that. We couldn’t just be rearranging some of the current stuff and not have anything big and flashy and new. I think (proposing the creation of the health college) was a fairly bold thing to do.”

The combining of the College of Sciences and the College of Arts and Humanities into the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was appealing to members as well, said English professor Jeannie Ludlow, who is also the coordinator of women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

“The thing I think is most positive, from my point of view as someone in the humanities, is that I’m hoping the reorganization into liberal arts and sciences will allow a lot easier collaboration among faculty in different departments,” Ludlow said.

Another member of the Workgroup Review Committee, Doug Klarup, the interim dean of the College of Sciences, said he also thinks the plan will lead to new cooperation between faculty members.

“In terms of the combination of the arts and humanities and the sciences, (a benefit is) in how general education is treated and some of the synergy that might develop between departments that otherwise haven’t seen a lot of each other,” Klarup said.   

Ludlow said she was worried at first about the size of the combined college, but she does not think it will be a problem in the long run.  

“My first thought was, ‘Oh no, that’s a big college,’” Ludlow said. “Then I thought, ‘You know what? When I got here, we had 12,000 students and a lot more faculty in the College of Arts and Humanities.’ (It was) almost as big as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is going to be, and we did fine as a college then. We did just fine.”

All interviewed committee members said the change will bring some challenges, but overall, they believe the reorganization is going to be beneficial to the campus as a whole.

Denise Smith, interim chair of the Lumpkin School of Business, said she is happy the provost proposed a fast timeline of having the colleges implemented by July 1.

“Change is hard for everyone, but I think anticipating change and worrying about it is a risk. If you take too much time, people get demoralized or they worry, and that was going to happen (with this plan),” Smith said. “I think it’s like pulling off a Band-Aid; just get it done. It’s time.”

Biological sciences professor Billy Hung, who was the chair of the Workgroup Review Committee, said he thinks the plan is a good step for Eastern.

“I think there are definitely good points that will move (Eastern) forward in the right direction,” Hung said. “There are obviously a lot of details to be worked out, and I think the overall success of the plan will rest a lot on how those details get decided.”

Ludlow said she is glad to be out of the defensive position that Eastern has been in in the past couple of years because of the budget impasse.

“We don’t have time to screw around here. We have been in a mode of ‘hunker down and defend ourselves’ for three years now, and it is time to get out of that bunker and to move forward and to become positive and forward-thinking and proactive again,” Ludlow said. “(Gatrell’s) decisions were not the same as some of the ones (the review committee) made, and some of them were the same. I feel like stasis is not our friend, and I really want to work at a place again where we feel excited to go to work, where we don’t feel always defensive and afraid.”

Management professor Michael Dobbs, who was also a part of the Workgroup Review Committee, declined to comment.

Brooke Schwartz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].