Retrenchment, Day 23

Rumors are beginning to swirl about programs possibly being cancelled or merged. On the one hand, this may seem obvious and expected. If you're down to two faculty, as many programs now are, it is very difficult to offer enough courses in the appropriate order for a student starting in any given semester to find a viable four-year degree path. Even so, that doesn't mean people were expecting it. In fact, the administration has been going to great lengths to try to reassure everybody who is left that they would try not to reduce programs and majors. Now, three weeks and a couple of days into the retrenchment, the administration is apparently beginning to talk along these lines. Or is preparing to talk along these lines. Or has hinted along these lines -- enough for people on campus to be talking about it with alarm.

A question I would ask, if I was looking at making plans for a post-retrenchment BSU, might be when is the administration going to actually come clean? If programs are going to need to be merged and some majors cancelled (as seems likely), and they are in fact gradually beginning to talk about this, what does this suggest? There seem to be two options. First, they didn't know this was going to happen and are just as surprised as faculty that BSU has to go there. Second, that they are trying to control the message and let the bad news arrive in small doses.

In the first option, doesn't that suggest the administration still doesn't understand the university's financial situation? This seems unlikely to me. It hasn't changed since they made the first set of decisions, that included getting rid of me and 26 other faculty. The second option, which seems more likely to me, suggests that the faculty isn't being treated as a partner in the process, but that it is being managed. A less positive term might be, played. This approach would include doing something like saying "we hope and we'll work hard to insure that programs and majors are not affected", which implies this is a possibility. Then, after the shock of the first bad news has diminished a bit, saying something like, "wow, it really seems like you're going to have trouble maintaining that program with the faculty you have left. Maybe you should merge it with this other small program." As if that wasn't the plan all along.

In addition to this being dishonest and manipulative in a way that seems likely to create even more distrust and resentment and result in less cooperation at a time when it is most needed, this approach would be another example of the administration managing from the executive suite without consulting with people who should be their partners. And that's not just faculty. It seems to me that student voices are being ignored also. I've had some brief conversations with people in student government, and although the situation at BSU arguably affects them the most, it doesn't sound like they have been invited to the table. Apparently, the administration considers our students to be a "market" rather than a group of young (and some older) adults who are also stakeholders. You don't consult with the customer when you're thinking of changing the formula for the soap, I know. But is that the appropriate model for this situation?

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