Moving forward: A new update on academic reorganization

Following are brief updates on the status of academic reorganization.

Votes so far

So far, 12 departments have voted on proposed schools. Overall, about 67 percent of the votes have been “yes,” 24 percent have been “no,” and 9 percent have been “abstain.”

Here’s a breakdown:

School of Biological Sciences

Microbiology: 4 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

Plant biology: 8 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

Zoology: 1 yes, 12 no, 1 abstain

School of Computing

Computer science: 12 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

School of Earth Systems and Sustainability

Geography: 4 yes, 1 no, 0 abstain

Geology: 8 yes, 1 no, 0 abstain

School of Health Sciences

Allied Health: 10 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

Rehabilitation: 8 yes, 2 no, 0 abstain

School of Human Sciences

Kinesiology: 3 yes, 4 no, 3 abstain

Social Work: 4 yes, 1 no, 0 abstain

Public Health: 4 yes, 0 no, 2 abstain

Agricultural Science, food and nutrition: 3 yes, 4 no, 3 abstain

Once all units in a proposed school have voted and plans are reviewed at the college level, the RMEs are forwarded to the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Council and Faculty Association in accordance with our outlined processes. You can see an update of where each school is in the process here.

New proposals

We have received a faculty proposal for a College of Social Sciences and Humanities and understand that a proposal for a College of Communication, Design and the Arts is forthcoming. I appreciate the efforts of the faculty to develop and submit these proposals. The provost’s office will continue to be on point for managing the process to vet proposals and communication with faculty on their status.

The votes and the new proposals are all part of the feedback and give-and-take processes that continue to shape our reorganization.

Departments

We remain attuned to the ongoing feedback on the use of the term “departments.” Some faculty feel strongly that the term, especially in some fields, is important to disciplinary identity. I understand this view. However, as I have said earlier, the term “department” has a very specific meaning in university policy and in our collective bargaining agreement. I have also indicated that we are happy to work to address this terminology issue in compliance with existing bargaining and policy procedures.

To start this conversation, we reached out the Faculty Association with a proposal to collaborate on a Memorandum of Understanding that would allow us to use the term “department” instead of “division” within the context of the new school structures. The school structure would not change: departments would be nested within schools headed by a director who has fiduciary and administrative responsibility for the school.

The association has indicated that it would prefer to take this issue up during full collective bargaining, which begins later in the spring. While we were disappointed, we look forward to the opportunity to work on this issue in the future.

Eight months of progress

When I arrived on campus nearly eight months ago, I knew I was coming to a university with strong faculty and staff, loyal alumni and friends, and a welcoming community. I also knew that that we had a lot of intense, meaningful work to do to fulfill the promise of the university’s mission.

Looking back at the last eight months, we have accomplished a great deal toward the revitalization of this great institution. Today, I am sharing an update outlining the progress we have made as a campus community. We have much to be proud of, and much more to do. Thank you for all you do to position us for the future.

Collecting input on college-level changes

Aerial shot of Student Services Building

We have received a number good questions and thoughtful feedback following last week’s post announcing that we would move forward with the renaming of the colleges as well as the movement of some departments to new homes as a consequence of the proposed renaming and refocusing of colleges.

As a reminder, the proposed restructuring and renaming of the colleges is separate from the process we are currently engaging in to create academic schools, although the intent to do so was signaled in the school proposal RME’s submitted last October. Since then, we have had numerous suggestions, most from faculty, that have greatly influenced the suggested college names.

Modifications anticipated

The college-level RMEs were submitted to our colleagues in the colleges with the understanding that they might be modified based on discussion and input. Given the importance of consultation at the college level, I have decided to extend the timeline for review by the colleges to ensure that we can engage faculty in extensive discussion and feedback, much as we have throughout the academic restructuring process. I do so believing that we will all benefit from additional opportunities to share questions and information as we stay true to principles of shared governance.

To gather input and faculty ideas, as well as to help answer questions, I have asked Associate Provost Lizette Chevalier, Associate Provost Dave DiLalla, and Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Jim Garvey to meet with faculty in the proposed colleges about the college-level changes. Details about the meetings will be shared through our deans. Of course, you may also continue to send questions and thoughts by email.

Update on schools

Throughout the academic reorganization process, we have welcomed and benefited from faculty input regarding the best location for their programs, names of schools and other areas. This has resulted in many, many positive changes to the proposed school structure and in the development of strategies for effectively implementing and managing it. We have updated the chart showing where we are in the school-creation process to keep you posted on our progress.

Overall, your feedback has led to more than 100 changes to the original straw man proposal released in October. Together, we have created a proposed academic reorganization that belongs not to any individual, but to the greater university that shaped it.

We will continue to move forward as elements of the plan are approved. We have an exciting year of transition ahead. I deeply value all of the input received to date on both the school- and college-level proposals. Your engagement is essential. Thank you for helping us stay on the path to accomplish an ambitious, critically important revitalization of our university.

Embracing Accuracy

Following is a statement I have issued in response to a press release from the Illinois Education Association’s regional office and the Faculty Association.

Statement of Chancellor Carlo Montemagno

The Faculty Association’s continued efforts to mislead our community by misrepresenting information is a disservice to everyone who cares about the future of SIU. Here are some of the areas where the information provided is misrepresented:

  • Faculty votes to extend the time for dialogue are just that – a vote to create time for more information and discussion as allowed in our collective bargaining agreement. These votes do not reflect either positive or negative perspectives.
  • Straw polls are a normal part of the negotiation process among faculty to assess where they are starting from. They are not final votes, and many have been positive. In fact, the only final vote to date was unanimously in favor of creating a School of Computing.
  • Based on the comments of a number of individuals, including faculty, it appears that the referenced survey by the Coordinating Committee for Change was distributed selectively; many have indicated that they were never aware of it.
  • Averaging the enrollment of existing schools hides the fact that two schools in high demand fields – allied health and architecture – had more students in 2017 than in 2012 in spite of an overall campus enrollment decline. In both schools the most significant growth was in graduate enrollment. The total undergraduate and graduate enrollment increase from 2012 to 2017 for allied health was 11.6 percent, and the total for architecture was 20 percent. There are a number of factors that affect a school’s enrollment beyond the structure itself. It’s also important to know that the school structure, if implemented effectively, creates administrative efficiencies that can support the growth of programs within the school.
  • While my goal was indeed to have a finalized plan to the Board of Trustees in April, it was always dependent upon the speed with which our faculty reviewed and responded to proposals. I fully support and respect that some faculty want to take the time for discussion allowed in the process. Meanwhile, I have updated our trustees on the plan and its status.
  • It is highly inaccurate to state that there will be no major improvements until July 1, 2019. As I stated in a recent blog post, we will move forward as things are approved through the process.

The chancellor’s office continues to be attuned to input reported in multiple ways – in meetings, in emails and in individual conversations – and stands by its assessment of the feedback it has received. This feedback has led to more than 100 changes from the original proposals. Faculty are engaged in the process and influencing significant change.

It is unfortunate that the union, rather than contributing to the discussion by forwarding constructive alternatives, chooses to misrepresent the process with misleading rhetoric. I support our collective bargaining agreement and continue to hope that we can move forward collaboratively rather than divisively.

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.

An updated look at academic reorganization

A number of people have asked for the most current version of our proposed academic structure. While it continues to evolve thanks to ongoing input from our faculty, I’ve posted the current version on the Vision 2025 website.

You’ll see a lot of changes. Most significant among them are in the schools:

The former School of Accountancy and Finance in the College of Business is now two schools: a School of Accountancy and a School of Analytics, Finance and Economics.

We’ve added a School of Computing to the renamed College of Science, Technology, Transportation, Engineering and Math (or ST2EM, our own version of STEM). In this college, we have also divided the School of Transportation and Applied Technology into a School of Applied Engineering and Technology and a School of Transportation.

And we have created a new School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences in the renamed College of Health Services and Human Science.

Evolving plan

A number of programs have been moved to new schools or even colleges at the suggestion of faculty. In fact, over the course of 70 meetings with faculty and other stakeholders – and counting – we have made more than 100 changes in the plan to date, including changing the location of programs, adding schools and renaming both schools and colleges. And while I think we are close, I am sure there are additional changes to come based on feedback.

I continue to be grateful for the constructive engagement of our faculty in proposing changes that best address the needs of their programs. They are the ones who must and will own our academic programs regardless of the final structure.

Space exploration: A look at our campus

Aerial view of the SIU Campus

Space. We looked toward it in August as the center of a total eclipse. Now, it is time to look earthward at a different kind of space – our own facilities at SIU.

How can we use our classrooms and laboratories strategically to provide the best academic experience for students and faculty members alike? How can wise use of space maximize synergy, enhance communication and promote cross-disciplinary learning and research?

If we are to answer these significant questions, we need to undertake a long-overdue review of space utilization on campus.

Enhancing the student experience

In addition to looking at our academic spaces, we must also consider our student housing space. SIU has had great success with living-learning communities that bring together students who share similar majors or interests. What can we do to even further integrate our on-campus life with initiatives that promote academic success?

The housing staff is looking at ways we can enhance spaces such as study rooms to reflect each LLC community. Examples already in place are a drafting table are in the architecture LLC and an engine room for automotive technology students. They are also exploring a faculty-in-residence program to better integrate the inside- and outside-the-classroom experiences.

What more can we do optimize housing and other student-focused spaces, such as the Student Center, to enhance the student experience? One example currently under discussion: I have asked Jim Garvey and Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs, to look at creating a highly visible makerspace with funds made possible by an SIU donor. A makerspace allows students to get together to create and explore, providing the tools and room to do so. It will help attract students to the Student Center and add excitement to campus life. I’m looking forward to the outcome.

Efficient use of space

While our primary focus needs to be on using our space strategically to achieve our goals, we cannot ignore the importance of using all of our space efficiently. Currently, we use only 10 percent of our classroom space after 5 p.m., for example. Over last summer, we saved $60,000 in utility and maintenance costs by closing Lawson Hall, a classroom building. Our current infrastructure once supported nearly 25,000 students, and even when we reach our goal of 18,300 by 2025, we will still have plenty of room. This raises an additional question: How should we prioritize our investments in maintaining spaces across campus?

Finding the answers

I have asked Lizette Chevalier, associate provost for academic program; Jim Garvey, interim vice chancellor for research; and Judy Marshall, executive director of finance and administration, to engage the campus in a review of how we use our space and what we might do to make sure we are making optimal use of our classrooms, laboratories, studios and other facilities that support our academic mission. They will engage individuals from the colleges, administrative offices and housing, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Stettler, to help assess how we’re using space currently and offer recommendations for improvement. I look forward to their recommendations.

Thank you for your feedback

Pen laying on a survey form

Every day, on campus and off, people come up to me and volunteer feedback on our proposed reorganization. Feedback has also come in through hundreds of emails and the nearly 70 meetings with faculty and other stakeholders I have had so far.

I value all of it, positive and negative. While I always hope that feedback is constructive and on point, I take it seriously regardless. I thank every faculty member, every staff member, every student, every alumnus, every donor and every community member who has taken the time to share their views.

The board meeting

Last week, at the meeting of the Board of Trustees in Edwardsville, a number of faculty and staff members came to express their views. This is a welcome, important part of the shared governance process, and I again thank all who made the trip, regardless of their position.

I do want to give special thanks to those faculty and staff, including representatives of the Civil Service and Administrative Professional Staff Councils, who came forward with comments and resolutions of support for our direction. I am also grateful to others who came simply to show their support.

It’s important for voices representing multiple perspectives to be heard, and I thank you for adding yours to the public conversation.

From reorganization to revitalization

Desks in a row

Over the last couple of weeks I have been meeting with faculty in potential new schools that might result from academic reorganization. The conversation is constructive, the questions are thoughtful and the commitment to SIU is clear.

Many faculty are excited about the opportunities that reorganization will present. They recognize that reorganization is the vehicle, not the destination. It’s the platform for change, not the goal.

Reorganization will break down artificial administrative barriers, giving faculty more flexibility to build and revitalize our programs – to distinguish them in ways that will make us stand out and attract students. Faculty will have more capacity to focus on teaching and research, something I frequently hear they want and need to advance SIU and their own careers.

We can also distinguish ourselves from other institutions by re-envisioning our core curriculum. What is the hallmark of an SIU graduate, and how do we ensure that we deliver on that promise? Our faculty are hard at work envisioning a renewed core curriculum now. I’m especially excited that the Diversity Council has been actively looking at how we can ensure that cultural competency is a hallmark of every student.

Research and experiential learning

Reorganization is a platform for growing our research enterprise. Again, it breaks down barriers and creates more opportunities for collaboration. More collaboration, and more focus on our research strengths, will grow external funding and partnerships with industry. I look forward to sharing more about developing our research mission soon.

Reorganization will enhance experiential learning opportunities for our students. I am confident that it will translate into more hands-on creative and research experiences, more leadership opportunities, and more engagement across multiple disciplines. All of that means good things for graduates as they enter the workforce or continue their education.

Finally, academic reorganization puts the responsibility for academic programs exactly where it belongs: in the hands of our faculty. It gives them more freedom to grow and make meaningful changes without getting sidetracked by administrative barriers.

Maintaining focus

I appreciate the constructive conversation at our faculty meetings as well as all of the feedback I have received from students, alumni, friends and community members. The collaborative tone, even in the face of disagreement, helps all of us stay focused on what’s most important for our future: a revitalized SIU.

What it means to be a comprehensive university

water fountain

I believe that a comprehensive university does more than offer a wide range of disciplines. It’s also one that pays attention to the whole student, ensuring that graduates are well-rounded in terms of knowledge, competencies and skills including and beyond their chosen fields of study.

The results of the Vision 2025 survey conducted in the fall suggest that many who care about SIU would agree. When asked, for example, about the most relevant areas of study and research in 2025, their answers included not only business and science, but also education and the arts.

When asked about core skills or knowledge that every SIU graduate should have, they spoke of communication skills and critical thinking as well as problem-solving and leadership skills.

Cultural and experiential opportunities

Many of the responses focused on the total SIU experience. In response to a question about cultural and experiential opportunities for students, respondents mentioned not only culturally focused courses and international study, but also internships and the arts, including music and theater. The theme of expanding student activities emerged from open-ended responses to questions about our ideal campus culture and campus/student life in 2025.

Survey participants also mentioned internships, community involvement and service learning among the types of opportunities that can be developed in partnership with other organizations.

The importance of diversity and inclusivity came through clearly in responses to a number of questions.

Finally, those who participated reaffirmed our mission, indicating that we should continue to embrace, for example, outstanding teaching and innovation in research and creativity.

Being “comprehensive” doesn’t necessarily mean that we can be all things to all people, but it does mean that we can provide a full range of academic opportunities and a vibrant campus life to every student we serve. This is why it is so important that we are as strong in the arts and humanities as we are in engineering and business. This is why we must make sure we provide every student with the experiences that will help them be successful throughout their lives.

Make sure your voice is heard

The Vision 2025 survey gave our alumni, friends, community members, faculty, staff and students an opportunity to share their own visions for SIU in 2025. I’m grateful to the more than 2,900 people who participated.

The survey is just one of the many ways we have welcomed feedback on the future of the university. If you haven’t weighed in so far, and even if you have, you might review our Vision 2025 website and consider offering your feedback. Plans continue to evolve based on conversations with faculty and many others, so there’s still time to make sure your voice is heard.