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Faculty getting voice in sensitive process

BY LINDLEY ESTES

Two faculty task forces are being elected by the University of Mary Washington’s University Faculty Committee to work with a recently hired consultant to identify the best way to reallocate funds.

UFC chair and professor of sociology Debra Schleef told the Board of Visitors Friday that elections of faculty representatives will take place by the end of March. That’s when the consultant, Larry Goldstein of Campus Strategies, is expected to visit the campus again and meet both task forces—one for academics and one for non-academic programs.

Goldstein was hired by the school during the fall semester to advise UMW on how to “reallocate resources” to grow new programs.

Faculty and student groups said the move to bring in a consultant was not transparent and was done without notifying the university community. Many fear the move could result in cuts to programs or jobs, and students held a silent protest last fall in support of liberal arts programs.

The UFC sent a petition signed by 96 faculty to President Rick Hurley in the fall, stating, “We are not convinced that creating new programs would require an academic program review that could lead to eliminating existing programs. To date, no evidence has been provided to this effect. We are also not convinced that the enhancement of any existing programs justifies the elimination of another existing program.”

The UFC also asked that the president engage a “legitimate faculty structure, elected by the faculty in accordance with the University and College handbooks, to study whether creating new programs and enhancing existing ones justifies an academic program review.”

That structure will be in place with the creation of the new task forces.

The task forces are expected to work through the summer, with the bulk of the work taking place in the fall of 2013.

Schleef said the process of evaluating programs usually takes nine to 12 months, so some work may extend to the spring of 2014.

In response to a question from the board about whether the faculty feel the administration is moving in the right direction with the issue, Schleef said there are a variety of opinions, but faculty members have resigned themselves to the process.

Student groups at UMW also expressed concern about transparency when the consultant was first hired.

SGA president Jeremy Thompson said recently that student leaders have worked with Hurley to ensure two student representatives will serve alongside faculty during the process. He said their first concern is making sure this is not a top-down process.

“We wanted to spread information and advocate for the faculty,” he said. “A lot of students did not understand at first why we were going through consulting.”

Schleef also said at the meeting that the committee’s main concern is communication within the school.

“I have been concerned with ongoing problems among faculty and between faculty and administration with communication and transparency,” she said in her presentation to the board.

She said the problem stems from not knowing where information is supposed to flow from or be sent to. One way to remedy this, she said, is to revise school websites to provide a forum for communication. The UFC has done this with its website and established a subcommittee on communication to further examine the issue.

 

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

 

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