Department reorganization proposal raises mixed responses from faculty
An administrative proposal to cut academic departments from 12 to six has triggered a variety of responses from faculty, the individuals most affected by the campus-wide reorganization.
The proposal released April 4 is to take effect fall 2018.
Response from faculty has been mixed.
CPSW Assistant Professor Richard Kenney said he doesn’t foresee a substantial impact on the social work department.
“I believe in this college and the way it is run,” Kenney said. “Our purpose here is to help students learn as much as they can, I think that is always what we consider first.”
Professor and Department Chair of Music Una Taylor said she has received comments toward the negative side of the spectrum.
Taylor said one of her main concerns was the administration cutting the number of department chairs, resulting in an increased workload for them.
“They [the administration] need to provide more compensation so that people don’t feel overworked,” Taylor said.
Faculty Senate President and Education Professor Lorie Hunn said she has “heard positive things about it as well as negative.”
Hunn said the administration’s delay of the reorganization until fall 2018, and the objectives being sent to faculty after the proposal was created, were prompted by backlash from faculty. She said that with the delay, Faculty Senate will be able to “implement it [departmental reorganization] in a more strategic fashion.”
A liberal arts instructor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was concerned about the proposal being implemented in fall 2017 and said they believe it was a smart decision to allow another year of planning for the reorganization as it will reduce confusion for faculty and students. They also had concerns about reducing the number of department chairs.
“I’m concerned that by reducing the department chairs, you’re reducing the faculty voice on committees that are a shared governance,” the instructor said. “Just because they are reducing the departments and department chairs does not mean the work will be reduced. Others will be helping with the overflow, but not getting compensated for it. I don’t think they [administration]have totally envisioned what the workload for chairs will be.”
Another liberal arts instructor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “I feel there are other ways to save money, not the least of which might be making the administration take a pay cut. I actually don’t feel that way about the deans, because I think the deans have a lot to do. I’m really talking about the upper administration.”
Justice Studies Associate Professor Department Chair James Wada said the two biggest concerns are whether the departments will get too big switching from 12 departments to six and if the departments that get connected will be good fits for each other.
“Although we’re not real happy with it, I think that the administration is doing it in the best interest of the school,” Wada said. “They’re looking at it for the cost savings, for the best interest in the school and for the students. So, everything will be fine. Whatever happens will be fine.”
Other faculty members were not as optimistic.
“It [the reorganization] redefines our identities as departments,” a tenured faculty member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. “So communication from administration was not in the spirit of co-governance.”
“Second concern is the rationale has been attributed to a bunch of different concerns but there really was not a very clear and concise cost-benefit analysis that demonstrates the faculty the real savings of the shift,” the faculty member continued. “There has been some discussion of that in some faculty forms sent, but I think we’re still left wondering what are the real cost benefits. It’s really vague when the administration talks to us about budgets and revenues and as specific as they get, it has to come from somewhere.”
HPER Professor and Department Chair Scott Ritzen said his department will not be affected much.
“We are very similar to the FCS program with the health and education things that we do,” Ritzen said. “Range obviously is a little different for us but I think that it really will be an opportunity for us to maybe grow in a new direction. So we are looking forward really to the opportunity to see what ideas they may have for us and some things that we may have for them.”
Physical and Life Sciences Professor and Senate Faculty Vice President Joyce Hardy said that she was happy that the administration sought faculty input because they were not required to do so. However, she said the administration can organize the schools and departments in any way they see as most efficient.
“It’s management’s responsibility and I’m pleased that they asked for input,” Hardy said. “You know, do you like it? Do I like it? No, but I still have students to teach. I still have good colleagues to work with. We can make it work.”
A liberal arts instructor expressed concerns about administration asking for faculty input but not taking the input into consideration. “There’s more unhappy than happy,” the instructor said regarding the reorganization proposal.
Nathaniel Gallegos, assistant professor and department chair of business, said that the reconfiguration is a big deal for other departments on campus, but the business department isn’t really changing.
Communication and Social Sciences Professor Kathleen Kirsch’s attitude toward the proposal was that it is coming and faculty will have to make the best of it.
“It is what it is,” Kirsch said. “The plans are out. They need to be detailed a little bit more and support needs to be put in the right places to get the plans to function.”
Including this proposal, it will be Kirsch’s fourth department in 15 years.
“For many of us, we will continue to serve the students in the same way we have before, and make sure they are our number one priority,” Kirsch said.
An E.H.P.C.P.S.W. instructor said there were several things that he/she is concerned about regarding the department reorganization, including a lack of reasoning.
“Since the initial decision we have since received information about why the institution believes the restructuring will be a benefit to the campus in a variety of ways,” the E.H.P.C.P.S.W. instructor said. “I think while several of the points are useful, I have yet to see like actual evidence or support that suggest that those assumptions are accurate. I know one of my biggest concerns with moving forward with this is what it means to assume that by putting other departments together you’re going to create a sense of interdisciplinary especially when it seems like at least among the faculty it seems like there is a level of hesitation for making the shift depending on your discipline, which also determines your methodology and your approach.
“I think that we are very lucky to have a campus with faculty that actually get along which is good, but I think the assumption that putting together a bunch of people from different disciplines is actually going to create any type of disciplinary that is going to benefit our student body is an entirely different question and to a certain extent I think a misunderstanding of interdisciplinary. I don’t necessarily agree that just because different departments have similar terms it means that they all belong together in a lump where that they have similar goals.”
Other areas of concern include where the money saved from the reconfiguration will be allocated, the balance of deans and department chairs following the reorganization, lack of administration seeking student feedback on the topic, exploring other options to reduce spending, and transparency as to why the reconfiguration is being done.