Sunday, September 18, 2011

What is Happening to the Non-Traditional Degree Programs?

As a new academic year dawns with all the enthusiasm normally associated with such an event, unease is also felt on campus. Where did several academic programs go and what happened to them over the summer? Despite 15 of 17 faculty on two different university level committees established to review the matter and voting to retain the Economics program in some fashion, the major and minor degree programs in Economics at CSU have been terminated. What is surprising (maybe) is that there has been no written communication to the university community alerting the faculty and students to this fact nor the reasons behind it. As an occasional student of history, I am surprised that a degree program representing the area of expertise of a major university benefactor with significant political and scholarly distinction (a building is named for him on campus) who also had a profound influence on American life as a trained economist is effectively gone without a trace. I doubt the people who made the decision to eliminate the Economics program even know of whom I am speaking or the influence on critical economic programs created in the 1930's and desperately needed to be revived today. While a few students may continue on to finish their degree (to avoid the likely lawsuits), the Econ program cannot offer any more academic degrees to students who wish to complete a course of study in Economics. That the timing in American history is unusual goes without saying. That the importance to the affected CSU community goes without saying. That the institutional history and memory of some individuals at CSU is deficient goes without saying. But at least the proper committees were formed and I suppose there are some written communications of the decision at the administrative level even though this decision apparently doesn’t merit any more communication of a rationale to the broader university community (including students).
And so now we turn to the BOG… when did these programs become candidates for reorganization? It is my understanding that several non-traditional degree programs have been halted/reconfigured/changed without much discussion to the broader university community about the rationale behind such a move. These programs have been designed to serve the non-traditional student (which usually means returning adult student with work and/or life experience) and for someone who is older than the average undergraduate. This is also a strength of CSU’s mission; that is, that we focus on serving the needs of such students to a greater degree than other local four year baccalaureate degree granting institutions. Given our historical (and current) mission of serving such students, what happened to the program(s) over the summer? and were the faculty consulted? Is there a rationale? Have the appropriate committees been formed to examine the reasons and to find out if these really are in the best interest of the CSU community? Or if this decision is in alignment with our mission? Or whether the reasons are supported by any data?
Maybe I am wrong to have such unease at the start of the academic year. Certainly it must be the case that these decisions have been considered from all sides by the administration with all the avenues for saving key functions and retaining key personnel and institutional knowledge considered. It certainly could not be the case that these decisions were made hastily and only for the appearance of action over inaction. That is why written reasons and public forums to discuss these decisions are so important. It would seem to be the case that if the administration had been careful in making these decisions, then the data to support the decisions, transparency in the process, and clarity of the reasons for such decisions are not much to ask for.
Otherwise why else would we be asking as the Fall semester dawns, “What happened to the BOG?” and “Where is the Economics program when faculty voted to retain the program on probationary status?”

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to post in such a large font; it's my first blog post...
    I thought I was using 12 pt font in the text; I shall make the necessary adjustments on the next blog, folks!