As this semester comes to a close, so does the first step in the long process of prioritizing academic programs at the university.
The report of the deans ranking the various programs was released Nov. 11. Among the lower ranking programs listed were Appalachian studies and women’s studies, along with a number of education programs, according to a Nov. 19 article in The Appalachian.
While the process is not complete until the Chancellor’s report has been finalized, we have seen enough of this prioritization to reflect on how it was conducted.
Unfortunately, the process has been contentious, particularly over the role of faculty.
Throughout the program prioritization, faculty members expressed concern over their degree of involvement, to the point where the faculty senate passed a resolution in October requesting more involvement, according to the Watauga Democrat.
Following the release of the dean’s report, several professors commented that the handling of the process would decrease faculty morale, according to a Nov. 21 article in The Appalachian.
The faculty members’ claims in this case are totally valid. The Faculty Handbook states that “the basic and most important unit in determining curricula is the academic department.”
How can that department fulfill that purpose if they are not being heard?
Seeing that the academic and administrative components work well together is key for everything, from how the university is run to the type and quality of education.
This relationship appears to have been negatively affected by the process, and that is not a good thing.
Considering the academic and administrative components, it would seem safe to assume that the university would greatly benefit.
Aside from the faculty issues, the most obvious concern is how the university will deal with the potential curriculum changes that could come with the final report.
Sheila Phipps of the Department of History was concerned about the number of education programs included in the bottom of the dean’s rankings, especially in light of Appalachian’s history as a one-time teacher’s college, according to The Appalachian.
Given the history, it would be a shame to see so many education programs take a hit in the evaluation.
I understand the necessity of these evaluations and of making tough choices. However, there are certain aspects of the process that were done improperly, and there is a threat that certain programs that really define important features of the university will be negatively affected.
Again, we will know shortly exactly what the changes will be with the chancellor’s report, and we must proceed from there.
Looking back on the process, it is clear that certain issues between faculty and administration have at least been exacerbated, and recovering from that will take time.
Opinion: KEVIN GRIFFIN, Opinion writer