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.

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.

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.

Status quo is still not an option

In 2012, an SIU committee looking at programs raised a number of questions related to “complimentary practices and academic efficiencies.” They included:

  • Are there programs that could be combined administratively to eliminate redundancies?
  • Are there programs that would be better suited in another college?
  • Are there course redundancies that could be eliminated by requiring that course offerings be offered by the discipline department?

Exploration of these and other questions led to a 2013 task force report that included suggestions for academic reorganization. It recommended organizing some programs under a school structure as well as moving some programs to new colleges. For example, the report suggested that life science departments could be combined into one department or school. The College of Liberal Arts might be organized into four schools: arts, humanities, social sciences and interdisciplinary studies.

TIME FOR ACTION

The 2013 report discussed exploring “programmatic and administrative changes in order to promote collaboration and cost savings in the medium to long term.”

While our proposed reorganization is focused less on cost savings, and more on generating funds that we can reinvest in our programs and people, promoting collaboration is a core driver.

The report also states that “the status quo is not an option.” I think that most of us would agree with this statement today.

It’s clear that we have been talking about reorganization for some time. Unfortunately, we have not acted on it for a number of reasons — ongoing leadership changes among them — putting us in the position to have act more rapidly today than any of us would like.

Even with the need for speed, we cannot lose sight of the goal: to build a collaborative, innovative academic community that will lead to new and reinforced academic programs. It’s time to take action and reaffirm the SIU difference.