It illustrates quite well the problems and conflicts arising out of budget cuts and program streamlining initiatives many U.S. Universities are being forced to undertake.
Administrators and faculty are at times working together to limit the damage and at other times the two are at loggerheads, often decisions are being taken by Administration without involving faculty. The Faculty especially worry that programs are being evaluated using only one measure like enrollment number that might lead to programs considered by faculty as essential for a well rounded education to be eliminated.Or by completion rate which might put pressure on academic programs to lower standards to push up graduation rates.
Here is a nice glimpse into the different priorities of those involved:
The 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (which does not include the Pennsylvania State University system) have been ordered this spring to review all of their "low completion" programs—that is, those with fewer than 30 graduates during a five-year period. The campuses are being encouraged to consider consolidating or suspending those programs.
"With the limited resources we have, we want to be sure that our academic programs are appropriate to our universities' needs and to the needs of the commonwealth," says Kenn Marshall, a spokesperson for the system. "We are looking long-term, to make sure that we can operate within a balanced budget."
And the faculty view:
Several of the small departments that have come under scrutiny are philosophy programs. Wendy Lynne Lee, a professor of philosophy at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, has been leading a campaign to protect those departments.
"A university without a robust philosophy major ... is simply anathema to the mission of a university," she wrote on Leiter Reports, a philosophy blog, in March. "This is not about enrollment; it is about what distinguishes a trade/professional/technical school from a university. Every single minute we are willing to play ball according to the chancellor's rules, which fallaciously link enrollment to program quality, we are in point of fact conceding to play by these rules."
At my Alma Mater Florida State University the geology program has been eliminated as an individual graduate degree program and has been merged with Oceanography and Meteorology. Several of the faculty I knew have had their contracts canceled.
Its a painful situation. Some feel that involving faculty in the program evaluation process might help mitigate the sense of marginalization faculty feel..there have been small success stories where faculty persuaded administration to retain a program..that however is no consolation for those who do get sacked. And often the manner in which lay-offs have occurred rankles. Prof. Froelich Jr. of Florida State University points to oceanography in which he has been tenured since 1978. The University recently encouraged the department to hire two new tenure-track appointments and then fired them 6 months later.
Meanwhile Robert C. Dickeson, a higher-education consultant and a former president of the University of Northern Colorado has come up with a list of factors to consider when evaluating programs:
- History, expectations, enrollment demographics. (For instance, does the program cater to part-time, older students to help them complete degrees?)
- Demand from incoming students
- Demand for program's courses to fulfill distributional requirements
- "Inputs," such as quality of faculty members, students, and curriculum
- "Outcomes," such as test scores and scholarly research
Size, breadth, and depth
- Overall impact and "essentiality" to college's strategic plan
- Opportunity for saving or growing the program