Reactions to Program Cuts – Albion faculty invited by BOT to discuss shared governance

On May 13, the Board of Trustees (BOT) determined which departments would be eliminated to execute the mandate of the reduction of 15 FTE faculty members.

The decision includes the elimination of computer science and physical education (with and without teacher certification) majors, as well as dance, journalism, and physical education (PE) minors and one tenured position. Reactions to the mandate’s eliminations from faculty and students include surprise, anger and to others, relief – however one concern stems not from the eliminations, but a growing division between the faculty and BOT.

“The principles of shared governance violated by the board and the administration in this decision undermine faculty trust in the institution’s leaders,” said David Reimann, professor of computer science. “This is bad for Albion College.”

According to President Donna Randall, the BOT has invited faculty to meet this summer and into the fall to discuss what shared governance means. 

“We envision several face-to-face meetings to discuss, debate and reach consensus on this issue and other issues that are fundamental to the future of the College,” Randall said.  “I am very optimistic about the outcome of these important meetings as they will undoubtedly strengthen the relationship among trustees, administration and faculty and will support our fundamental commitment to ‘one college’.”

While computational mathematics courses have been offered for over 30 years, the current major was developed in 1998. Michael Griffith, former CEO of Activision, was a computational mathematics major.

According to Reimann, C&RC did not recommend computer sciences to be eliminated. While the faculty handbook previously stated department eliminations were to be based on faculty recommendations via C&RC, the board amended the faculty handbook in March “effective immediately in all ways necessary to permit the reduction of 15 full time equivalent (FTE) existing faculty positions.”

“The action by Albion’s BOT evoked outrage among many,” Reimann said.

On May 25, the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCE) passed a resolution that “endorses the principle that faculty members are professionals who through virtue of their specialized expertise ought to have primary responsibility for matters of curriculum and faculty status”.

Bob Moss, chair of physical education, did not expect his programs would be eliminated.

“The elimination of two PE programs and a tenured faculty member…is disappointing and disheartening,” said Moss. “I question how many members of the BOT would have thought it fair to be given a similar time line and constraints to eliminate programs and personnel from their respective businesses.”

While PE and computer science majors were eliminated, according to Provost Susan Conner, choices were made to preserve majors.

“Students may love their minors when they get here, but they don’t specifically choose Albion for their minor,” Conner said.

Raelynn Buczkowski (hired on Pleiad Staff for fall 2010),  Shelby Township senior, had not yet completed her journalism minor.

“After final exams ended, I was fearful to see what departments were cut, because I was worried it would directly affect my minor in journalism,” Buczkowski said. “After speaking with Drew Dunham, I was reassured and it is my understanding, that the Registrar’s office will work with me to finish my journalism minor.”

During a poll conducted in March, consecutive departments reported 14 computer science majors, 17 PE majors and 14 theater and dance majors.

According to Dunham, courses on the fall schedule that were canceled due to reductions and retirements include one section of scuba, two sections of body building and development, one section of  disc golf and one section of  beginning golf. 

“I think many faculty members are glad it wasn’t them or their department,” Reimann said. “On the other hand, every faculty member I have talked with is really troubled by the board’s heavy-handed decisions.”

According to Randall, in terms of the process being rushed, the BOT felt that a prolonged review period would generate unnecessary stress and uncertainty for faculty, as well as for current and prospective students.

“The Board requested a timely review and, with pertinent data on all academic programs accessible and available to the faculty review committee, felt that considered and thoughtful recommendations to the Board could be provided by the faculty committee and administration,” Randall said.   

The elimination of 15 FTE positions results in savings of approximately $900,000 per year, according to Mike Frandsen, VP finance. The eliminations have no direct effect on Albion’s endowment ($154 million at press), since it is primarily a function of investment choices and performance.

“While I like to think I’m an optimistic person I have to admit going through this has left me a bit befuddled,” Moss said. “My prayer is that the worst is over for Albion College and that we can begin to move forward, albeit with a bit of a pit in my stomach.”

MacKenzie Burger, Bay City senior, is editor in chief of The Pleiad for fall 2010. She completed her minor in journalism in spring 2009.


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