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Editorial: Press and protest are not to blame

In pressuring the University Senate to pass all recommendations to eliminate a handful of degree programs, university president Gary Roberts referred to the amount of publicity, protest and push back as a “well-orchestrated and massive highly public lobbying campaign.”

Such criticism is invalid and the characterization was in poor taste.

The University Senate is set up to be a shared governance body of Bradley to oversee curriculum and faculty related issues. Senate procedures should be conducted through a democratic process and for the process to function, free press and protest are inevitable and necessary.

Though the University Strategic Planning Committee (USPC) has been working on the program prioritization for about two years to produce the scores and rankings for each of the degree programs, the complete results were only announced in late January.

A pages-long email with multiple documents, including one spreadsheet that has over 10 tabs and hundreds of rows in each tab, was only sent out to full-time faculty the day before the Jan. 30 Senate meeting.

For many, this was the first time they saw this large amount of information. Information overload sets barriers for people to understand the situation.

In the culmination of two years of work and information, it should not be hard for Walter Zakahi, Bradley’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, to present his recommendations in a timely manner and allow faculty the time to comprehend the circumstances proposed.

Alternatively, he could make these recommendations with the consensus of the USPC and forward the recommendations as a committee to the Senate at large. Ultimately, USPC is the one tasked with the program prioritization as a committee, not Zakahi as an executive administrator.

Roberts disregarded the rejection vote of USPC to push the recommendation to cut the theater degree programs; he also introduced the recommendation as an individual senator. This was an act that overrides the very process that he claims to protect. Not to mention the committee, chaired by Zakahi, missed an important procedure. This was not helpful to establish public faith in this process.

And the public was already frustrated. Students were caught off-guard by the initial news of the proposal. Many learned about the proposal through their professors or news media outlets days before Zakahi sent out his email to all students on the afternoon of Feb. 3 with redacted information.

Students were not given the proper chance to learn about the situation from the direct source, and as such, speculation and panic was the reaction. The protest organized on the morning of Feb. 3 outside the Hartmann Center was a result of this.

The Scout is in no position to determine if these proposals will solve Bradley’s financial issues in the long run. Only time will tell. But at the moment, if Roberts is claiming his decision to push through the process is to protect the integrity of the Senate, lack of communication with the students and mischaracterizing outside efforts will only undermine its process.

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