On Thursday, the University Senate postponed the voting on three recommendations that would eliminate some degree programs in family and consumer sciences, and programs in the physics and theater departments to March 26.
The delay resulted from a realization that an operational procedure in the Faculty Handbook was not followed by the University Strategic Planning Committee.
The handbook, a binding document for the Senate, states that the committee shall provide a written notice to the Senate body before a recommendation for program elimination can be considered. The handbook also states that the affected department shall have a chance to provide a written reaction to accompany the committee’s recommendation.
The recommendation to eliminate all theater majors was introduced by President Gary Roberts as a senator, after the committee rejected the recommendation, with 7 to 6 votes, last Friday.
The two recommendations to eliminate all physics degree programs and half of the family and consumer sciences degree programs were brought up by the committee.
“I decided that it is important that the Senate consider all of these recommendations, and not just the ones that the strategic planning committee got voted to send forward,” Roberts said at Thursday’s Senate meeting, before the voting was postponed.
Roberts explained that the decisions were difficult, but need to go forward.
“We have to make, sometimes, painful and gut-wrenching decisions … Saying ‘no’ to a four-year phase out to only two percent of chronically underperforming programs from our own financial standpoint is not being a good faith partner in seeking solutions to our huge and growing financial plate,” Roberts said. “Eliminating programs that drain resources are not about their academic merit or integrity, it is about financial viability.”
Roberts said he had concerns that publicity surrounding the issue had imperiled the Senate’s ability to act on the issue, and believes all three recommendations deserve the full consideration of the Senate.
“Once the provost’s recommendations were announced to the world last month, they then became very highly publicized and then did the recommendation, with respect to theater, became the subject of a well-orchestrated and massive highly public lobbying campaign,” Roberts said. “In my mind, it became imperative that the Senate be allowed to weigh in on this issue.”
Roberts said that if the Senate rejects the recommendations, it will send the wrong message to the Board of Trustees and eventually harm the faculty shared governance concept.
“I’m not afraid that the board will not do what is necessary to save the university and then create a business model that will allow it to survive and thrive,” Roberts said. “What I fear is that the concept of shared governance will be damaged, and the faculty voice diminished or maybe even lost if the board loses its faith in the faculty’s judgment and courage.”
Even though the elimination recommendations introduced by Roberts is not technically constituted under committee’s procedure, he suggests that to be treated the same as the other elimination recommendations and delayed the voting to March.
The committee will now prepare its written responses for recommendations and present the recommendations on Thursday, March 26 at 3:10 p.m. in the student center ballroom.