For those who have not paid attention, UNCG is completing a process that I can only hope will be used for the foreseeable future as a case study of how NOT to lead a university and how NOT to run processes in academe. The resolution below describes in some detail the ineptitude of the process and damage it has done and may do. This resolution passed with a 75% percent majority of the faculty senate.
The lead author of this resolution, Dr. Danielle Bouchard did a fantastic job, so I hope you read it just to see what a powerful resolution looks like.
Despite this resolution, a censure resolution, that also passed with more than 75% of the vote, petitions with over 4,000 signature, letters from across the country regarding the importance of our programs, including feeding a diverse pipeline of STEM individuals, all of the decisions to cut these programs were implemented. The Chancellor was actually quoted as saying it was just a small group of vocal faculty and the UNCG AAUP that led to the resolution-- a vote passes with 75% and its a small group?
I was drawn to UNCG because Chancellor Gilliam painted a strong vision of how UNCG good be a great R2. This included in my mind some distinct strengths in research programs that compete at the R1 level and a commitment to our mission and the diverse students we serve. It is clear from these decisions that is no longer the vision.
But, none of the faculty I know have any idea what the vision is other than fluff statements like "It’s up to us to welcome these shifts as an opportunity. Through sharpening our focus and reinvesting in our collective work, we set a stronger foundation for students and communities to thrive. We’ll announce specific reinvestment strategies in the near future.". The worst failure of leadership in this process is the inability to paint any picture of how what was done above (which will over several years only reduce relatively small numbers of faculty) and how these actions will lead to a better UNCG.
Below the resolution (which is different than the short censure one that also passed) in the blog is some of my thoughts regarding how terrible the process was. As someone who had excellent results from initiatives I led over a 25 year administrative, career it really pained me to watch this unfold (I started worrying and documented that worry in my blog last year). There will probably be more news accounts today covering the resolution below and the decisions on program closure today. This article and this article can give you a sense of what happened before this resolution below passed.
Oh.. and this by the way is a good representation of how the UNCG Chancellor manages change from a story in the Triad Beat:
"During one particularly heated exchange, a student noted that if the university’s process had been a paper that was to be submitted to an academic journal, it would not have passed the first peer review."
To that, Chancellor Gilliam quipped back that "[I've] published a lot in peer reviewed articles” and that the President of Harvard, who was recently ousted, had plagiarized some of [my] paper." "So I think maybe I know a little bit about data, alright?” Gilliam responded. “When you do that, let me know."
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Resolution on Violations of the Constitution of the General Faculty and the Promotion, Tenure, Academic Freedom, and Due Process Regulations of UNC Greensboro
Preamble: Shared governance is foundational to the modern university in a democratic society. It ensures ethical policies and decision-making practices, accountability on the part of faculty and administrators, fair labor conditions, and the protection of academic freedom. Shared governance is not just about allowing faculty the opportunity to share their ideas with administrators—it is, much more importantly, a set of principles and procedures that designates the faculty as having primary decision-making responsibility when it comes to academic programs and policies. In regard to the role of the faculty in shared governance, the American Association of University Professors notes that “The role of the faculty is to have primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and aspects of student life which relate to the educational process. The responsibility for faculty status includes appointments, reappointments, decisions not to reappoint, promotions, the granting of tenure, and dismissal. The faculty should also have a role in decision-making outside of their immediate areas of primary responsibility, including long-term planning, budgeting, and the selection, evaluation and retention of administrators” (https://www.aaup.org/programs/shared-governance/faqs-shared-governance). Shared governance allows for the knowledge of the whole faculty body to be brought to bear in solving challenging institutional problems. At a time when many institutions, like UNCG, are facing changes in enrollment and funding structures, shared governance is more important than ever.
The Academic Portfolio Review process has been characterized by a breakdown in shared governance. Specific actions and procedures laid out in UNCG’s governance documents regarding the possibility of major changes to academic offerings, including the potential elimination of academic programs, were ignored. Furthermore, good-faith efforts on the part of faculty to assert their rightful role in this major university undertaking have thus far been rejected. On November 20, 2023, Chancellor Gilliam denied Faculty Senate Resolution #11012023.2, which requested the presence of Senators as observers in administrators’ deliberations about the APR beyond the unit level. Similarly, the administration has declined the request of the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Assembly, as explicated in a resolution passed on December 5, 2023, that the APR timeline be extended to allow adequate time for faculty to review the proposed program changes and eliminations announced on January 16, 2024. This breakdown in established procedures to ensure shared governance preceded the Academic Portfolio Review: in February 2022, Provost Storrs announced a unilateral decision to rescind the multi-year contract policy for Professional Track Faculty, a decision which contravened the will of the faculty, who had recently developed the multi-year policy through a shared governance process. Due to the crucial nature of shared governance practices to higher education in this nation, what happens at UNCG has larger implications, ones which transcend the specific details of the APR process at this institution.
In addition to the procedural inadequacies of the APR process, the APR and the proposed program closures pose a significant threat to UNCG’s capacity to carry out its academic mission. The data and criteria used to evaluate academic programs’ success were seriously compromised by errors, inconsistencies, and logical failures. Moreover, there was never a plan to help programs become stronger before taking the step of proposing their elimination, despite the fact that there is no need for the accelerated timeline for the implementation of program closures—both Chancellor Gilliam and Chief Financial Officer Bob Shea have stated that UNCG is not experiencing a financial crisis. Had shared governance procedures been followed and faculty and other stakeholders been granted meaningful opportunities to shape the design of the APR, this threat could have been mitigated through the development of approaches that did not result in the proposal to eliminate academic programs and fire our colleagues. Additionally, the elimination of academic programs bears the serious risk of leading to further enrollment decline and, thus, a further decline in state appropriations—which has been the outcome of program closures at other universities. As many have noted, the APR process has resulted in alarmingly low morale. Staff and faculty have watched their colleagues leave UNCG for other jobs at a concerning rate; remaining staff and faculty have had to contend with the fact that we may lose our jobs no matter how excellent we are at them; and students are rightly worried about the value of a degree from a closed program in a hollowed-out university. Morale is not just an individual issue, but is key to the functioning of the university as a community.
In this resolution, we name the harm caused by specific actions so that we can create the conditions for true shared governance and a shared sense of community accountability.
Whereas, UNCG and UNC system governance documents clearly describe specific actions to be taken by the Provost and the Chancellor to ensure shared governance in the event of possible academic program closures. The Promotion, Tenure, Academic Freedom, and Due Process Regulations of UNC Greensboro state that “when the institution is considering a major curtailment in or elimination of a teaching, research, or public-service program, the Chancellor shall first seek the advice and recommendations of the academic administrative officers and faculties of the departments, academic programs, or academic units that might be affected, and of the Faculty Senate.” The Constitution of the General Faculty of UNC Greensboro states that “The Senate as a body must give approval to academic policies concerning undergraduate curriculum and instruction prior to their implementation, including but not limited to those policies regarding the following:...the establishment, merger, or discontinuation of departments, schools, and colleges.” The Constitution of the General Faculty of UNC Greensboro additionally states that “When the Provost gives preliminary consideration to a plan to establish or discontinue one or more undergraduate degree programs, for example, during the early stages of the University’s strategic planning process, the Provost will consult with the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.” The UNC System Code states that “the chancellor shall ensure the establishment of appropriate procedures within the institution to provide members of the faculty the means to give advice with respect to questions of academic policy and institutional governance, with particular emphasis on matters of curriculum…”; and
Whereas, the Provost did not consult with the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee at the appropriate time as defined in the Constitution of the General Faculty, as stated in the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Resolution dated November 17, 2023; the Chancellor and the Provost did not incorporate stakeholders’ serious concerns about the validity and integrity of the Academic Portfolio Review process into making changes to that process; and the Academic Portfolio Review timeline established by the Provost and the Chancellor does not allow adequate time for the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Senate to review, approve, and provide advice and recommendations on the proposed closures (providing only 11 business days in January between the initial announcement of proposed closures and the final decision on those closures); and
Whereas, the Chancellor, the Provost, and the Chief Financial Officer have failed to provide evidence of the necessity of eliminating academic programs and firing faculty; have failed to provide a clear plan or vision for how program eliminations and the firing of faculty will contribute to UNCG’s mission; and did not follow appropriate procedures for consulting with affected stakeholders as established in the Promotion, Tenure, Academic Freedom, and Due Process Regulations of UNC Greensboro, which states that “When it appears that the institution will experience an institutional financial exigency or when the institution is considering a major curtailment in or elimination of a teaching, research, or public-service program, the Chancellor shall first seek the advice and recommendation of the academic administrative offices and faculties of the departments, academic programs, or academic units that might be affected, and of the Faculty Senate”; and
Whereas, in resolution # 01.29.2024.2, the Faculty Senate censured the Provost for “not initiating consultation with the Senate at the start of the APR process and not providing a clear rationale of the choise of program closures”; and
Whereas, the General Education Council passed a resolution strongly disapproving of the porposed program closures; and the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee passed a resolution advising the Faculty Senate to “seek a postponement of the February 1, 2024 implementation date to allow the committee time to conduct a substantive review of the proposed program discontinuations on par with its regular review process prior to implementation” and “that if the Senate cannot secure such a postponement, the UCC recommends it reject the proposed program discontinuations for lack of a proper review”; and
Whereas, the elimination of academic programs bears the serious risk of leading to further enrollment declines, and there is no evidence that the elimination of academic programs will make UNCG more competitive in attracting students; and
Whereas, the firing of tenured faculty is a grave measure with serious implications for the profession and for the ability of UNCG to enact its academic mission.
Be it resolved, that the Academic Portfolio Review process violated the Constitution of the General Faculty and the Promotion, Tenure, Academic Freedom, and Due Process Regulations and impeded the rights and responsibilities of the Faculty Senate to engage in shared governance; and
Be it resolved, that the proposed program eliminations represent a serious threat to the capacity of UNCG to maintain its academic mission; and
Be it resolved, that the Faculty Senate does not approve the closure of academic programs identified by the Academic Portfolio Review.
If you are still reading, here are some of my thoughts about the terrible process that I expressed when faculty were having an online discussion about the first censure vote.
1) The regular processes by which the Senate and Graduate Council have shared responsibility for curriculum was not followed. The most recent argument of the provost is that the UNC System gives the Chancellor full authority. That is true. Are we happy as a faculty that the administration has chosen to use the fact that the chancellor has full authority and responsibility as a rational to not follow the processes by which faculty reviews and recommends on issues of academic programs in our faculty senate constitution? By using the rational that the chancellor has full authority and thus has no obligation to adhere to the Faculty Senate constitution regarding curricular oversight, it might logically follow that there is no need for a Faculty Senate at all- Rather all that would be needed was a few committees appointed by the chancellor or designee to make recommendations on issues a chancellor doesn’t care to simply invoke their authority.
2) Many faculty feel that the attempts at engagement were cursory at best and simply a farce at worst. Many “engagements” is not the same as real engagement and valuing the intellectual contribution of faculty and their time. As far I as I can tell, there was no significant faculty input (other than finding data errors) that changed the process other than removal of department of commerce labor statistics by the rubric weighting committee (a significant change) and addition of research grants to the rpk metrics. The other things that have been said publicly as resulting from faculty input do not generally apply to my definition of significant
3) None of the rationales for the APR are served by the process (IMHO). The rationales have morphed among several different things (that aren’t mutually exclusive). The first rationale was a short-term actual budget deficit. Then the rationale was aimed at making UNCG more competitive for students in NC in the face of a declining population of college going students , and/or allowing reallocation of funds from weak to strong programs [there is nothing in the APR that speaks to strength since no external data or review was allowed], then it was about reducing long term structural budget deficits (and structural budget deficits vs actual budgets were not explained, nor was there a discussion of reasonably predictable non-permanent revenue like F&A recovery and endowment spend, as well as reasonably predictable expenditure savings from faculty and staff turnover), then to creating a foundation for institutional stability for 10-20 years (no idea how the APR process can do that- since it is based on the past not a rapidly changing future- I mean 20 years ago, the first i-phone was 3-4 years away from being introduced). There is a sense among some/many students, staff, alumni and faculty (look on Instagram and petitions) that neither the provost nor the chancellor have presented a vision in which the APR will serve any of these rationales. In fact, on the surface, it seems to be an oxymoron to conduct a process that fixes 10% of a long-term structural budget deficit and would also allow for reallocation to strong programs without increasing the structural budget deficit, unless that reallocation generates a lot of new revenue. There is no evidence right now, since few if any programs are over capacity and that also generate positive net revenue, that APR driven cuts and reallocation will increase revenue. For many including me, we worry a lot about a death spiral.
4) The resolution passed by the CAS faculty regarding having no confidence in the APR process received over 130 votes and was completed before the final outcomes. A petition regarding problems with the APR was signed by approximately 4,000 individuals. Petitions regarding issues with recommendations have been signed by hundreds, if not several thousand individuals (Religious Studies, hit 3,000). So, it would be incorrect to suggest the current resolution, drafted by a faculty member from HHS, has been spurred by a small number of faculty in an echo chamber who just don’t like the outcome.
5) As a former provost and dean, I always felt that dean roles are equivalent to being CEOs of wholly owned subsidiaries. I have observed under the provost’s leadership that any CEO-like authority that deans (especially the CAS dean) may have had has been subsumed centrally, making deans largely middle managers who end up being forced to take responsibility for what happens in their units but have little authority- other than deciding what to ask for approval from the provost and vcfa (the dual hire approval process is one example of taking authority away from deans that has large transaction and opportunity costs. I know from my time as provost that process was put in place because deans were not trusted to manage within a budget). So, the definition of a “dean’s recommendation” might not be as independent as it sounds. Also, in my senior administrative experience, when authority and responsibility are not aligned, the organization suffers. The APR only made the misalignment more visible, at least in CAS.
6) Academic portfolio review as envisioned by rpk, and framework we adopted (determining programs to cut, based on somewhat superficial data somewhat unconnected to the mission), is not a widely used best practice [I have a blog with some data] as we were told nor was it designed to meet any of the academic rationales for the APR process (read the rpk report to the Kansas Board of Governors to find out how rpk describes the purpose of academic portfolio review). In recent practice, there is not much evidence that this type of APR improved a university. One might argue that the results of this process may lead to a death spiral based on what has occurred to date at Emporia State. West Virginia does not have the “death spiral” problem because they are the flagship institution in their State and students will continue to want to go there, even if with program cuts and with higher student:faculty ratios. UNCG has an issue that there are many other institutions a student can go to in NC with equal or better reputations, leaving UNCG susceptible to a death spiral (programs are cut, student:faculty ratio increases, less students want to come, leading to more cuts, higher student-faculty ratios, and less engagement of students with faculty, leading to fewer students wanting to come. That worries me.
6) In my previous provost roles, annual program viability audits coupled with careful use of academic program review were used and seem to be more effective than APR to adjust offerings, especially given the former uses external comparisons and review.
7) UNCG’s data is error prone, but more importantly several of the rubrics are simply bad (happy to explain to someone) and dependent on each other.
8) It is totally unclear to me whether the decisions that were made were informed by the data or whether the data was used to support previously made decisions/leanings. I know from my time as provost that the Chancellor denied my recommendation to make a spousal hire in Anthropology because he saw no reason to invest in Anthropology. So, I was curious as to what would happen when Anthropology met expectations in the rubric. Given the result it is hard not to feel that the decision was already made.
9). Several of the programs that were recommended for cutting were meeting expectations, serving majors, and are also core to several other programs, including the MAC, while others, that were not yet meeting expectations are already seeing investment, before any process to determine reallocation has been implemented. This doesn’t really support the integrity of the process.
10) The chancellor has often said that we have to do something and has implied that some faculty will not support APR because we resist change. I think that is a mischaracterization. Many of us do see the “headwinds” and recognize change is needed. The APR process was chosen as a way to address the headwinds centrally without engaging the intelligence of the faculty to consider other paths. I agree with Connie that the “we have to do something and something is better than nothing” is not always productive. I would apply that concern just as much to the APR process as this resolution and other resolutions that will likely be coming to senate.
11) The rpk APR strategy is very much based on quick decision making and on a university being a business. Universities are mission-driven non-profit organizations. They do have to have expenses and revenues match like any for-profit or non-profit organization, so business principles do apply. But, in mission-driven organizations the mission has to stay front and center. There has been little if anything in the APR process that has been tied to the mission and vision of a public regional university (again read rpks report to the Kansas Board of Regents regarding their APR framework to see how little attention is applied to mission in their framework) in a city at the center of the civil rights movement that serves a large number of transfer and low-income students who do better with deep faculty engagement. The cuts have been largely centered on the College of Arts and Sciences. Is the mission changing for UNCG to move towards being a professional school? During my first weeks here as a provost, in a very casual (not job related) conversation with the vcfa which is not documented in writing so feel free to take my memory (and everything else) with a grain of salt, I remember him telling me that UNCG needed to get rid of the college of arts and sciences and focus on business and health (this was before Guilford College tried to do that). If that is where we are heading, it would be good to know. My guess is, but don’t know, that if Guilford College had not reversed their equivalent of APR, they would be in financial exigency now. BTW, many of these comments I share here, I have shared before through the mechanisms for submitting written comments over the past several months.
Lastly, Senator Rinker in his response to Senator Ksherti mentioned the difference between a censure and a vote of no confidence. There is not yet a resolution for a vote of no confidence drafted that I know of. Censures focus on past actions. They often come with consequences, but the Senate has no authority to impose such consequences. But, the censure would make a formal statement before the final decisions are made regarding how poorly those that vote for it believe the process was implemented. So, I think Jeremy made excellent points in his most recent post! I disagree a bit regarding votes of no confidence. Most people assume that the purpose of a vote of no confidence is removal of someone and these resolutions are made because a group has irrevocably lost confidence in leadership. But, in organizations where removal is unlikely such as UNCG, removal probably should not be the purpose. A resolution for a vote of no confidence, if written well, can explain why confidence of most faculty has been lost, which can serve as a roadmap for how trust can be restored. Leadership can choose to use elements of that road map to build trust and confidence moving forward, or they can simply choose to ignore it. They can also simply choose to only listen to those that remain confident in them, move those people closer to the inner circle, and put them in leadership roles which, in my experience, never ends well.