NEWSLETTER, PSU-AAUP, HIGHER ED FACULTY, ACADEMIC PROFESSIONALS

PSU-AAUP Executive Council Statement on “Program Reduction”: Begin Shared Governance Procedures Now

May 20, 2022 / PSU-AAUP

The Provost’s proposal for “program reductions” earlier this year was a psychic shock to PSU staff and faculty who are already struggling to successfully complete the 2021-22 academic year, after more than two years of the pandemic and highly stressful working conditions. For the faculty and staff of those 18 departments who were targeted, this maneuver led to fears of radical changes to their programs and departments that will be detrimental to student learning, as well as fear of losing their jobs. Some individuals have informed us that this stress has had a significant and negative impact on their physical and mental health.

From a budgetary perspective, no evidence was provided that gutting students’ access to learning by “reducing” or “reorganizing” one or more of these 18 departments is financially necessary. Is this University on the brink of financial exigency?

The entire idea that any given academic unit or program must “justify its existence” by turning a profit each year – after being assessed a tax to pay for administrative and other non-revenue-generating units – is a distorted application of corporate, neoliberal principles to what is supposed to be a public good. It is also illogical: if we were to “reduce” or eliminate every academic unit at a university that doesn’t turn a profit, a MUCH larger number than 18 individual units would have been identified. This is not how university budgets should function. The very word “university” means “universal” … we are here to offer a broad variety of educational experiences that, taken together as a whole, help our students to be successful in life and in their careers, as well as help our local community thrive.

We are not here to turn profits.

What next?

The Provost has now informed 13 of these departments that they are “off the hook,” so to speak, via rather perfunctory letters that gave no real feedback on the extensive dossiers that each had submitted. The “form letter” nature of those communications, it has to be said, has led to (not unreasonable) speculation that those 13 units were used merely as a smoke screen for a plan to target the remaining five who have been placed in Phase III.

Those five remaining units are: Applied Linguistics, Conflict Resolution, Educational Leadership & Policy, International & Global Studies, and Theater Arts.

What the Provost and those involved in this process fail to recognize and acknowledge is that “program reduction” is just a facade for what this actually is: people reduction. Being forced to contemplate losing one's job or dealing with the uncertainty of what the following year or two will bring is taking the focus away from students and the mission of the university. Faculty and staff who are members of these departments have been forced to endlessly strategize, write reports, and hold many meetings, which is taking the time away from what otherwise would be spent on research, outreach, teaching, and student engagement.

This entire process has been callous, opaque, and without overt justification. So far, the Provost has avoided answering calls and questions to explain how and when the normal Faculty Senate processes will be initiated. And above all this looms the specter of retrenchment, per Article 22 of the collective bargaining agreement, which the Provost has referenced repeatedly in her communications.

If this “program reduction” process is to continue, it must now go where such matters should be discussed: the Faculty Senate. Proposals for curricula and educational changes of this magnitude must be brought to the Education Policy Committee, with input from the Budget Committee and, where appropriate, the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and Graduate Council, and then to the full Faculty Senate. 

PSU-AAUP is in communication and consulting frequently with Faculty Senate leadership regarding Phase III, and remains committed to supporting the Faculty Senate and our Chapter members. 

We call on the Provost to commit to the shared governance processes established by the Faculty Constitution and practiced by the Faculty Senate. 

PSU-AAUP Executive Council

Emily Ford, Millar Library
President

David Kinsella, Political Science
Vice President for Collective Bargaining

Óscar Fernández, University Studies
Vice President for Membership & Organizing

Ted Donlan, School of Social Work
Vice President for Grievances & Academic Freedom

Maria Tenorio, Educational Leadership Program (ELP)
Vice President for Legislative & Political Action

Erica Geller, Student Conduct/Dean of Student Life
Vice President for Communications & Public Relations

David Hansen, School of Business Administration
Treasurer

Elena Sokol, International & Global Studies
Secretary

Trevino Brings Plenty, Diversity & Multicultural Student Services 
Councilor-At-Large

Tina Burdsall, Sociology
Councilor-At-Large

Bill Knight, English
Councilor-At-Large

Cristina Restad, School of Business Administration 
Councilor-At-Large

Amanda Singer, Conflict Resolution
Councilor-At-Large

J. Forrest Williams, Economics
Councilor-At-Large

Mark Leymon, Criminology and Criminal Justice
Immediate Past President

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