AKRON, Ohio — University of Akron interim present John Green sent out a letter on Tuesday pausing reorganization talks.
The plan, presented last week, would change the structure of the school’s engineering and science programs. The chemistry, biology, and math departments would no longer reside within the College of Arts of Sciences, moving to different departments. The College of Applied Sciences and Technology would disband.
Faculty Senate introduced a measure at Thursday’s meeting to ask the administration to delay reorganization talks until a new president is in office, but didn’t vote due to time. The vote would take place at April’s meeting.
Green, in the letter, said the university still needs to accomplish a list of goals, including new programs in “areas of strength” like polymers, corrosion, biomimicry and cybersecurity, decreasing the amount of money used to subsidize research from the general fund and making it easier to work across departments and colleges.
See a full list of these goals in the full text of the letter at the bottom of this post.
Green maintains in the letter that there need to be changes at the university, and thinks the talks around reorganization might motivate people to work on them.
“Perhaps now – with the acceptance of our challenges and the willingness to engage in intensive and focused efforts in key areas that can change our trajectory – we can still accomplish our goals by pausing the current discussion concerning the reorganization proposals and collectively establishing meaningful ways to meet those objectives and holding ourselves accountable.”
Green wrote he expects progress in six months to be implemented at the beginning of next academic year. If the goals aren’t met, Green would want to revisit reorganization.
UA’s faculty union president Pamela Schultze agrees with the decision to put the reorganization on hold, but thinks that the goals listed in the letter don’t have the right focus.
“Because the most pressing challenges we face have to do primarily with undergraduate enrollment, persistence and graduation — in short, promoting student success and growth in enrollment — I believe these matters must be addressed first,” she wrote in an email.
“Faculty members are willing and eager to develop and implement common sense approaches to supporting our students. The Akron-AAUP remains ready to work with the administration on initiatives that directly address the University’s critical challenges.”
The full text of the letter sent out to faculty and staff (a shorter version will go to students) is below:
The feedback I have received from our continuing conversations has been useful and instructive on the key challenges of making UA’s academic programs more distinctive, fostering greater faculty collaboration, and addressing our enrollment challenges to achieve financial sustainability.
I heard numerous comments from deans, chairs, and school directors at Faculty Senate describing a collective belief in the scope and nature of our challenges as well as a willingness to confront the difficult realities we face, build on the strengths we have and pull together in a collective, campus-wide effort. They noted that we have made progress already, through the hard work that was done during Academic Program Review, the Administrative Activities Review, the preparation of the Three-Year Action Plan and laying the foundation for developing next year’s fiscal budget.
The revised reorganization proposals I circulated were yet one more step along that path. Many of the comments I have heard indicate that there is substantial support for achieving the objectives contained in the reorganization proposals without attempting to reorganize portions of the institution at this time.
While that sentiment is hopeful and encouraging, it is tempered with the reality that efforts along these lines have not succeeded in the past or have taken an inordinate amount of time to accomplish. As I noted during my comments to Faculty Senate last week, simply maintaining the status quo for its own sake is not an option.
Perhaps now – with the acceptance of our challenges and the willingness to engage in intensive and focused efforts in key areas that can change our trajectory – we can still accomplish our goals by pausing the current discussion concerning the reorganization proposals and collectively establishing meaningful ways to meet those objectives and holding ourselves accountable. This would help us accelerate progress in implementing the Three-Year Action Plans.
The following are some examples of the goals I believe we need to set for ourselves. The specifics will be developed in consultation with deans, chairs, school directors and Faculty Senate that are realistic and actionable.
- Propose new and enhanced undergraduate degree programs in at least these areas of demonstrated strength and distinctiveness (polymer, corrosion, biomimicry, cybersecurity) with the goal of offering them in Fall 2020
- Better align curriculum in chemistry and chemical engineering with polymers and biology
- Increase faculty participation (both graduate and undergraduate levels) in delivering current and new curriculum across college and department boundaries
- Facilitate easier, seamless movement of students within related degree areas (e.g. engineering technology and engineering) across college and department boundaries
- Significantly decrease General Fund subsidy of research activities
- Significantly increase research grant awards, especially from cross-college faculty collaboration in areas of excellence and strength
- Better connect faculty in Wayne College, Developmental Programs, Applied General and Technical studies and General Technical Studies with main campus departments based on academic discipline
We do not have the luxury of extended time to engage in this work. I believe that it is realistic that we agree to complete this work during the next six months, for the start of the coming academic year. If we are unable to achieve these goals, we will need to revisit the reorganization proposals.
I look forward to this collective effort.
Dr. John C. Green
The University of Akron