Last night, the Academic Program Elimination Review Committee (APERC) submitted its unanimous recommendations for program elimination to the administration, specifically the Provost and her minions. About a month after the bogus declaration of "financial exigency" by the Board, the administration convened APERC to examine several "low performing" programs identified in an October 20, 2015, IBHE report to Rauner. Degrees granted formed the basis for a rating of "low performing." Baccalaureate programs had a suggested threshold of 6 degrees per year, Master's programs 5, and Doctoral programs 1. This IBHE report made no recommendations about programs, it simply reported the results of each state university's performance between 2009-13 and included responses by each university to the specific programs in question. Most of the universities provided detailed and lengthy responses that defended many of their "low performing" programs. They included charts and data analysis. The lone exception: Chicago State University's two-page, perfunctory and frankly embarrassing response that lumped each "low performing" program into the category of "Redesign," which suggests "redesign and program changes . . . to remediate low performance." Our response included the same recommendation for each program and demonstrated no thought or research into the specific programs. We provided no quantitative data. That report and our response would likely languish on a shelf somewhere until the next round of IBHE program analyses.
Of course, Chicago State has an annual program review process. Programs are evaluated on a regular basis, with several programs examined during any given year. The Program Review Committee (PRC) identifies programs at risk of elimination or "sunsetting" and those programs are then reviewed by APERC. However, with "financial exigency," the university administration saw an opportunity to lay off tenured and tenure-track faculty by using the arbitrary standards for "low performance" set by IBHE, rather than the university's established program review process. As one senior administrator told me on February 4: "we've got to get to the tenured faculty." Thus, the Provost reconstituted APERC and charged it in March with reviewing some 18 "low performing" programs as identified by IBHE.
The strategy employed by the Provost runs along the lines of what we've seen here for the past six years with the Watson administration and its cronies. Use any pretext to include faculty committees as props to legitimize simply horrible academic decisions. In this case, APERC is reactivated to offer legitimacy to a round of staff reductions that otherwise would not occur. The administration will be able to refer to APERC any faculty disgruntled over a layoff. The administrative line will go something like this: after all, the faculty committee recommended these programs for elimination, we just followed the recommendations of that committee (like we do the recommendations of every faculty committee).
Unfortunately for the administration, the APERC report is a thoughtful, well-researched and well-argued document that recommends no programs for sunset status. This means, of course, that any decisions on program elimination will come from the Provost, based on whatever calculation she applies to make those determinations. Since so many of the earlier layoffs seemed personally motivated, I have no doubt that layoff decisions for faculty will be similar. As a member of the Management Action Committee, the Provost has already been prominent in several of the disasters that have occurred since February: the layoff notice fiasco, the layoff debacles, the idiotic key return policy, the 11 percent graduation rate spectacle, the layoffs of our Lecturers. Now she gets to try her hand at staff reductions for tenured/tenure-track faculty. Undoubtedly the results will be as catastrophic as everything else we have seen to date. Thanks to the members of APERC for their hard work on this thankless task.