A Status Report on Academic Reorganization

The reorganization process continues to move forward. We are finalizing and distributing program change plans that take into account feedback from stakeholders, which we continue to welcome.

There are many steps and touch points in the academic reorganization process, some spelled out in our collective bargaining agreement, some defined by constituency group and college operating papers, some rooted in our standing campus practices, and others required by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. For example, faculty have a contractually-defined time period of 90 days to review and discuss proposals for reorganization – in this case, the creation of schools. This can be extended to 120 days upon a vote of the faculty who would be affected. Such an extension occurred for six of the administration-initiated proposals that were under review.

Following the discussion and consultation period, we are developing “program change plans” (to use the terminology of the collective bargaining agreement’s Article 9), which reflects the final version of the proposal after review and consideration of all feedback received during the discussion phase.  Each program change plan will include a “reasonable and moderate extension,” or RME, form. Many on campus will be familiar with the RME process, which is defined by the Illinois Board of Higher Education for modification to an existing program or administrative structure.

We have sent RMEs and Program Change Plans for three proposed schools to the affected academic units, Faculty Senate, Graduate Council, and the Faculty Association for the second phase of the review process. You can see the status of the proposed schools here.

Another nine of the proposed schools have passed the first 90-day review period and program change plans are in development. And seven schools are still in the discussion and consultation process, either because the faculty voted for an extension, or are still within the initial 90-day window.

Once both phases of review have passed and feedback provided, the RMEs will go to the Board of Trustees, at its request, and then the Illinois Board of Higher Education for approval.

Adjusted timeline

Clearly, not all of the proposed schools are moving along at the same pace, which is to be expected. While I had hoped to have them all in place July 1, I now believe that some will move forward later. This means we will likely have a mix of schools and departments at the same time for at least the first half the next academic year. This is fine and reflects the time required for thoughtful campus deliberation. It’s the movement and commitment to the process that are most important.

It has been incorrectly reported, in fact, that we would be taking RMEs to the April board meeting for review. We will take them to the board following the “phase-two” review, without rushing the process.

Whenever they receive them, trustees have indicated that they will make their review a priority. Typically, the board is not involved with the process of RME approvals. However, trustees have a critical role in the review and approval process given the significance of our bold path forward.

We are assessing the impact of the review timeline, as well as our enrollment projections, in our budget planning for the next year. We need to remember that reorganization is not about cutting budgets, but about reinvesting the funds we can save by reducing administrative costs. It is also about realigning faculty interests, curriculum and students with the goal of advancing existing and new programs, research, scholarship and creative activities. The sooner we can save, the sooner we can grow our programs.

As an aside, I should note that it has also been inaccurately reported that we have asked deans to prepare for budget cuts. We have asked deans to plan efficiently for the 2018-2019 academic year, but have specifically said we are not asking them to plan for cuts at this time. This should not be misunderstood as a signal that we believe we will not have significant budget challenges in Fiscal Year 2019, but that we are working carefully to assess our situation. To assist in this process, we will be convening shortly the Chancellor’s Budget and Planning Committee for its input and perspective.

The college structure

Even as we work through the school reorganization process in compliance with our contractual and campus-policy obligations, we can move forward with some pieces that do not require the same levels of review.

For example, we can rename the colleges prior to the creation of the proposed new schools. We are planning to move forward with college name changes so they can be in effect by July 1. Here are the changes as they currently stand:

  • Agricultural Sciences becomes Agricultural and Life Sciences
  • Applied Arts and Sciences becomes Health and Human Services
  • Business becomes Business and Analytics
  • Education and Human Services remains a college until whatever time the School of Education were to be created
  • Engineering becomes Science, Technology, Transportation, Engineering and Math

The proposed changes in the names of the colleges will be accomplished via the established campus RME process, which includes review by the colleges, Faculty Senate and Graduate Council.

You’ll note that there are three current colleges missing from the list. Please keep reading.

The Financial Sustainability Plan approved by the Board of Trustees in July 2017 committed to reducing the number of academic colleges by one. The plan spoke to several possibilities for merging the College of Science with other colleges.

In keeping with goal of the Financial Sustainability Plan, we are preparing an RME that would administratively move the departments in the current College of Science into two renamed colleges: one is Agricultural and Life Sciences and the other is Science, Technology, Transportation, Engineering and Math. These academic units will remain independent departments pending the outcome of the broader review of program change plans.

In light of the proposed change in name from College of Applied Arts and Sciences to College of Health and Human Services, we will also propose, as part of the RME, an administrative move of several of the current CASA departments to colleges that provide a stronger programmatic fit (e.g., School of Architecture and the departments affiliated with the School of Transportation).

The Financial Sustainability plan also indicated that we were exploring creating a new college by merging our current college of Mass Communication and Media Arts with the fine and performing arts as well as architecture and design. While the administration’s reorganization proposals brought all of these units into two schools within the College of Social Sciences, Humanities, Media and Arts, I understand that faculty are coming forward with a proposal for a separate college much like what was suggested in the Financial Sustainability plan. I welcome the opportunity to discuss this proposal with the faculty and other stakeholders. Should such a plan come to fruition, the current college of Mass Communication and Media Arts would be renamed to align with this new structure. We will delay renaming the College of Liberal Arts pending the outcome of this conversation.

There may be some departments that will be concerned about their college locations given the new college names, but we anticipate that these concerns will be addressed through the school program change/RME process.

Moving forward

Again, please recall that the renaming and merging of colleges is separate from the program change plans that would create the schools. But we need to begin now to move forward with student recruitment, marketing and fundraising initiatives and to set the stage for the future. And we need to start thinking about the staffing and space needs for those units that will move July 1.

I know this is a lot to digest. Academic reorganization is complex and has many moving parts. Whatever the outcome of the reorganization process, I am committed to working with the campus community to ensure a smooth transition that places service to our students front and center. Please remember that the proposed reorganization is administrative and does not change the programs we offer. It is essential that we inform and assure our current students that the programs they enrolled in will be there for them as we continue to change, innovate and grow.

I continue to be grateful for the thoughtful discussions taking place as we revitalize SIU, and I remain excited for the opportunity it presents for our students and faculty.

Author: Carlo Montemagno

Carlo Montemagno is chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Learn more about him at chancellor.siu.edu.