The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), Richard Finkelstein, said that the University of Mary Washington is hiring a consulting firm to help evaluate academic departments and programs and possibly cut some.
On Tuesday, Nov. 13, President Rick Hurley sent an email to the faculty regarding his intention to review the programs at UMW and find ways that the University can save money.
The reasoning behind cutting certain programs is to attract more students and to become more distinctive, according to Hurley’s email.
UMW will be working with a consulting firm from Virginia Commonwealth University, including, Paul Timmreck, the former VCU chief financial officer and secretary of finance for the Commonwealth of Virginia to review non-academic operations, according to an email from Hurley. Another group will explore academic cuts.
Hurley stated in his email that he and Interim Provost Ian Newbould believe that the faculty should take part in the review process.
“There is no desire or intent on my part to engage in a top-down decision making process,” Hurley stated in the email. “My hope is that, working together, we can reach constructive conclusions and recommendations for the long term benefit of the University.”
According to Newbould, a study will be conducted to find out how the University spends money.
Newbould explained that the University is not doing this because of financial difficulties.
“This is happening because we need to look at our expenditures and find ways to add new programs,” said Newbould. “That is really what is driving this.”
UMW needs to find ways in which new programs can be added, according to Newbould. It also needs to look at what programs need to be reinforced.
The consultant will only be used to help examine; no decisions will be made by the consultant, according to Newbould.
“We have to look after our own future,” said Newbould. “It is the case of us making our own decision.”
“There is the possibility of programs being cut,” said Newbould. “But there is also the possibility of others being expanded.”
The cost of the plan will not be coming out of the University’s operating cost, according to Newbould. It will be paid for by donors in an organization called Fund for the Future.
In response to the University’s decision to consider eliminating programs and reallocating resources, Debra Schleef, University Faculty Council chair and chair of the sociology department, has organized a full faculty forum on Thursday, Nov. 15, to discuss the topic.
The University of Hartford held a similar event. Two task forces reviewed the programs. One included 25 faculty members who evaluated and prioritized academic programs, and the other involved 20 faculty and administrative members in charge of evaluating administrative programs, according to an article in Inside Higher Ed.
The two task forces eliminated a total of 40 academic programs, according to the article. They also called for restricting about 60 programs in order to “free up resources to invest in some areas seeing significant growth, including undergraduate degrees in biology, communication, psychology and nursing.”
Jason Davidson, associate professor of political science and international affairs, believes that faculty should play a central role in the evaluation process as a member of the American Association of University Professors. However, at this point, it is unclear what role the faculty will have, according to Davidson.
“The proposals should go before the University Faculty Council at a bare minimum,” said Davidson. “That body was elected by faculty to represent them and is the appropriate venue for any proposals the administration would like to move forward with.”
The University is developing two new programs, including the GIS program and a Masters in Security and Defense, according to Davidson.
Davidson believes that both of these programs will make profit, and will not necessitate the elimination of other programs.
“There will not be a need to eliminate other programs and, if that were the case, I would say ‘don’t do it,’” said Davidson. “We are a liberal arts program, if money is our focus and value, then we will become Wal-Mart.”
There have been no specifics given on the plan, but, according to Davidson, there is no evidence that UMW needs to eliminate programs to maintain the way the university currently is.
Many faculty members have articulated their positions on this plan. Davidson’s sense of the faculty opinion is that it ranges from believing the university needs to be consistent with how they view UMW in order to maintain the university’s values, to the feeling that some faculty will have nothing to do with the process because they believe it to be flawed.
Newbould understands the responses that are coming in, but also believes that it is too early in the process for anyone to be clear on what is going to take place.
“As the process unfolds, we will know more,” said Newbould.
However, according to Newbould, it will be a broad-based process done by about 40 or 50 community members, with the majority being faculty members across UMW.