This is the second post from Dr. Janet Halpin. This series of communications reveals her frustration with a university administration that seems more intent on avoiding blame for its obvious failure to follow appropriate steps for deletion/addition of programs than on addressing the serious issues Dr. Halpin raises. A number of conclusions may be drawn from on her two posts: 1) "General Studies" is a different program than the Board of Governors degree program; 2) the Board of Governors program should never have been eliminated; 3) the General Studies program should never have been implemented as a "Reasonable Modification of an Existing Program"; 4)rather than deceive the IBHE, the Board of Governors program should have gone through the Program Elimination process and the university should have submitted a new program (General Studies) request for IBHE approval; 5) the provost of the university is responsible for and fully aware (or should be) of the problem and its potential programmatic and financial aid ramifications; 6) despite Dr. Halpin's well-founded concerns, the university appears ready to cover this up. Here is Dr. Halpin's second post on the topic:
If going through proper channels doesn’t work, open up the floodgates, Part Two
In my previous post I shared my initial report of the General Studies program admissions. Dr. H and I discussed the matter immediately after spring break and agreed that our Dean had to be informed. The information was sent that day, March 23, because it was important that he not be blind-sided by this. Then there were several phone calls and emails requesting an opportunity to discuss the findings. The Dean requested time to discuss it with the Provost, so I started including Provost Henderson on all reports and emails, in order that she would know what the concerns were.
Next, my email to my dean, of April 13, 2015:
“On March 23, 2015, Dr. H and I apprised you of two extremely serious issues related to the General Studies Program:
1. Large numbers of students had apparently been admitted and were taking classes at the University without meeting the admissions requirements for the program.
2. The Provost and Enrollment Management were attempting to change the catalog without going through the channels the curriculum review process, in violation of principles of shared governance and the established practice of the university. It was also in violation of the circumstances in which the program was permitted to move to the College of Arts and Sciences.
On April 2 2015 I provided more information about the transition of the BOG-GSP program, and referenced the files, documents and minutes that you had received from me when your new team started in the CAS Dean's Office. You called me that afternoon to earnestly request that I wait until you had a chance to discuss this with Provost Henderson. I sent a copy of the information to Provost Henderson, in case she was unsure of the nature and details of the issue you wished to discuss.
I heard from the grapevine that a meeting was indeed scheduled for Friday, April 10, and from a different grapevine that the meeting may actually have occurred. No one has contacted me to provide any clarification, to indicate that there is no problem after all, that my information is faulty, that existing admissions requirements are not being waived/ignored.
Can you please update me on this. Registration for summer and fall is now only days away.”
The dean phoned on April 15 to share the results of the meeting. I prefer to put things in writing because my memory is imperfect, so I sent a confirmation of the conversation:
We spoke about an hour ago and you briefed me on the results of a meeting you had to discuss the admission of dozens of General Studies against existing admissions regulations, and the attempt by Enrollment Management and the Provost to change the admissions regulations without going through the proper procedures.
You said that the following had been agreed:
1. Going forward, no new students will be admitted into the program unless they are in compliance with existing admissions regulations.
2. There will be a meeting of Dr. H (General Studies), the Registrar, Office of Admissions, and [CAS]Dean to ensure that there is a mechanism in place to track compliance.
3. Students currently in the program will be moved to other majors. I asked which majors they are qualified to enter: mainly University College?
Also, you indicated the Provost/Chief Academic Officer of this university was apparently unaware of the process [of shared governance? of changing programs and admissions standards?] and did not intentionally side-step the regulations for changing admissions requirements of the university.
Can you let me know, please, if I misheard any of this?”
There was a quick response that [finally] raised concern about where I was going with this and would we be drawn into a quagmire. I’m sorry to say that my alarm, concern, and frustration had finally been replaced by exasperation, and my next email was less measured than perhaps it should have been:
April 15, 2015: “This is already a quagmire, and has been for quite a while.
Last summer when the University admitted students who had not met the requirements for admissions it was a a quagmire. When a second cohort was admitted for the spring 2015 semester the quagmire got deeper. Do any of these students get financial aid? One of the questions I asked earlier but no one has answered yet is: should students who were admitted erroneously without meeting the admissions standards be entitled to financial aid? That's the quagmire getting nasty, I think. We probably should pay that money back.
When there is a document dated December 2014 about changing the admissions requirements, and dozens have already been admitted under non-existent, non-approved admissions standards, it is already a quagmire.
When there is a document from several months later saying that the important thing is to change the catalog and not to have a signature from the Chief Academic Officer from the university, it is already a quagmire.
Maybe it goes back further than that. The former BOG program was problematic, but it had a valuable mission and vision to provide a service to people of this community. Rather than clear out problematic issues and leadership and appoint a team to help resolve some of the challenges, someone stamped their feet and said ‘Off with its head’. So a program that very many universities have and which can play a valuable role in education and employment preparation, disappeared. Oh wait, it wasn't eliminated. It went around through the back door behind the backs of IBHE and re-emerged as the General Studies program. That was one reason for the delay in launching it: no students could be admitted while the BOG major existed, because there was no [separate] CIP code. There's another clue that we already had a quagmire.
When the General Studies program was shoe-horned into the College of Arts and Sciences, the 24-credit hour rule was the FIREWALL that protected the college, because this was still meant to be a non-traditional program. The 24-credit-hours was the standard at which students in the former BOG could apply to the university-proper, after they had demonstrated the capacity and skills necessary to succeed.
In our first real conversation about this, about two weeks ago now, you asked how to fix this. I said we were way past just fixing it. We cannot just talk about 'moving forward'. An injustice was done to the University and to the College of Arts and Sciences. Regulations were trampled. It's time to 'fess up.’ ”
Over the past SIX weeks Dr. H and I have been concerned about moving toward resolution and accountability for what is happening in General Studies. After ensuring that my Dean and the Provost knew precisely what the issue was, I finally sent my concerns to Faculty Senate. I was advised that while that was a correct next step, it would go nowhere. Due to the broken relationship between Faculty Senate, Academic Affairs, and the Board of Trustees, it would be better to report the findings to the Department of Education. I did send an exploratory email to two officials to enquire what route I should take, but have not heard back from them either.
On the morning of Thursday, April 16, I learned from Dr. H that a newly admitted General Studies student with zero higher education credits had called to set up an appointment. There is another detail attached to this particular case that compounds the seriousness of what the University is continuing to do, but let’s just stop here.
There was an assurance that ‘going forward’ this would not occur. I will be willing to work with anyone and everyone to restore a sense of integrity to this educational endeavor. Please help us.