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Program prioritization draws negative feedback

Editor’s Note: The Appalachian spoke with Neva Specht, the associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences about her reaction to professor’s complaints. Each college was contacted, either through the dean’s direct contact information or through the dean’s administrative assistant. The remaining deans at the university were either not available for interviews or did not respond to our requests as of press time.

Some faculty members have expressed concerns with Appalachian State University’s program prioritization, following the Nov. 11 release of the deans’ prioritization of programs.

The program prioritization is the fourth tier of a statewide program, said Lori Gonzalez, provost and executive vice chancellor of academic affairs.

Professors’ reaction

Numerous professors have expressed concerns about the amount of faculty involvement in the program prioritization.

Michael Behrent, assistant professor in the Department of History, said he had almost no involvement in the process.

“I attended the general meeting of the College of Arts and Sciences in August, where the matter was discussed in general terms,” he said. “My chair reported on the process to the department. I had no other meaningful engagement with the process.”

Behrent said he thinks the lack of involvement is a serious problem, but acknowledges that administrators probably feel pressure from the state to make these decisions.

Paul Gates, a professor in the Department of Communication, said he thinks that the lack of professor involvement has been damaging to faculty morale.

“I want to stress the faculty role in the curriculum,” Gates said. “With a lot of administrators’ decisions we have input, and should have input, but the curriculum is a particular responsibility. It’s not just that we ought to have a say, but it’s automatic almost that the faculty should have a significant contribution to that subject because it is so central to what the faculty are about.”

Sheila Phipps, an associate professor in the Department of History, said she thinks if there was more involvement, the program prioritization would look much different.

“It is sad when a university that began as a school to train teachers now lists education programs at the bottom of their priorities,” she said. “I think that reflects the opinions of those who administer faculty more than the people who actually do the teaching, who actually think about how to educate the population, who actually have to stand in front of the classroom and strive to get students to think for themselves and to learn what they will need to be productive and responsible members of society.”

Deans’ response

Neva Specht, the associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, said with this situation, there is always room for more people to be involved.

Each department completed prioritization reports, and Specht said almost every department had faculty involvement in that stage.

“We have over 600 faculty members in the college, and I think we have to sometimes use representatives to make things work,” she said. “We also had a very short timeline, so it was important that we tried to reach out as much as we could, and that process may have varied within different departments, but we left that up to the chairs.”

Specht said she hoped everybody would be able to have input at some point in the process.

“We certainly have tried to be as open and as transparent as possible, and we certainly appreciate faculty input,” she said.

Program prioritization history

Program prioritization was first mentioned to faculty senate in December 2011, when Gonzalez presented a slideshow titled, “What higher education leaders are saying about program prioritization,” according to the minutes.

Over the next months, various meetings were held by the provost, deans and the Board of Trustees, according to irap.appstate.edu.

The tiers began being implemented in fall 2012. During that time, each college and department used various methods to start the program prioritization.

For example, in the Department of Communication, which is in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, each concentration wrote a statement that justified and elaborated on the program, Gates said.

At the Oct. 14 faculty senate meeting, Gregory Reck, a professor in the Department of Anthropology, proposed a resolution, which asked that any changes with the curriculum be done with consolidation to faculty involved, according to the faculty senate meeting minutes.

The resolution also asked any changes to the curriculum be submitted for approval by the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee, according to the laws in the Faculty Handbook.

“After a proposal for curricular or structural change has been acted upon by a college or school and after the dean of that college or school has submitted the proposal to all other necessary groups, the dean will then present the proposal to the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee,” according to the handbook.

The AP&P Committee typically gives the provost, vice chancellor and chancellor the final recommendations for these changes, according to the handbook. The resolution was passed by faculty senate unanimously, Reck said.

“Faculty control of curriculum is long-honored tradition, not just at Appalachian,” he said. “If that resolution is ignored, I think it would lower faculty morale significantly.”

Story: CHELSEY FISHER, Senior News Reporter 

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