New task forces to access resource allocation in campus programs

Von Lanier

Academic Provost Kerri Schuiling addressed a number of rumors around campus in a recent Campus Connect article containing the nominations for two new task forces within the ongoing “Planning for Distinction” project.

The new Academic and Support task forces will serve to move the “Distinction” process along with transparency and comprehensive review of academic programs that require a redistribution of resources.

The Academic Task Force is co-chaired by Carol Johnson, professor of Office Information Systems in the College of Business and David Wool, director of the Honor’s Program.

The Support Task Force is co-chaired by Tricia Bush, Associate Athletic Director of Outdoor Recreation and Jeff Korpi, director of Housing and Residence Life.

Schuiling stated in the Strategic Resource Allocation (SRA) update that NMU is moving away from across-the-board cuts to use SRA as a method of assessment for planning purposes when it comes to programs within departments.

“The goal is to identify which programs and services are contributing to the success of the university and which ones are not contributing as well as they might, or as well when compared to other programs and services. These programs and services may require phase out or change,” Schuiling wrote.

Academic programs will be placed in five groups, or quintiles, to determine their value to the university. Schuiling said programs placed in the fourth or fifth quintile may have a higher chance of losing their resources but that depends heavily on recommendations presented by the senior leadership.

She went on to quell a rumor that 20 percent of all academic programs would be cut after a value-based assessment of all programs is conducted, and that individuals working in programs or support services in the bottom quintile will not automatically lose their jobs.

Schuiling assured that there is no goal to eliminate a set number of programs within any department. She noted it is true, however, that resources from some programs and services will be redistributed, and those programs and services falling under transformation may require said resources in order to transform.

Placement of a program in the fifth quintile means that program would be recommended to either lose an undetermined amount of resources or be phased out altogether. Shuiling emphasized that regardless of which programs are potentially phased out, all faculty contracts will be honored.

Collected data will not show Planning for Distinction working groups the contribution that each academic program makes to the overall credit hour production of the university. Shuiling said the data exists only at the course and student level, meaning the attribute of each student in each class is known, including their major, second major and minor.

“I don’t care which reason an institution is specifically aligning with. The only reason to undertake this is to make the university better—to make it the best institution it can be given your current resource realities,” Larry Goldstein, head of Campus Strategies, LLC, and consultant for the “Planning for Distinction” campus-wide assessment, said on the second day of a two-day information session held at the end January.

“We’re going to use, as the control mechanism, last year’s audited statement—so June 30, 2016 audited financial statements—to ensure every dollar of revenue and every dollar of expense is attributed to one or another program or support function at the university. Nothing escapes review,” Goldstein said later in the session, adding, “Everything will be evaluated. Either on a set of criteria that is going to be developed for academic programs or a different set of criteria that will be applied to support functions.”

Tristan Ruiz, president of the Associated Students of Northern Michigan University, worked closely as a student with the Coordinating Committee that was responsible for nominating task force members.

He said in an email that being a student on the SRA Coordinating Committee is a huge responsibility because the outcome of this process will directly affect the future of everyone at NMU.

“What I did was try my best to put aside some biases I have from being involved in different groups and academics on campus, and help the two task forces be as balanced as possible with people I felt would do well with working together on a difficult task and would also defend student interests on those task forces,” Ruiz said. “Obviously that’s difficult because every faculty and staff member contributes something to students but what I have had to learn to do is look at the bigger picture: the success [of the] university as a whole and not just what I enjoy or what my friends enjoy.”

“I support the decisions of the Coordinating Committee so far and I believe it is important for everyone to have faith in this project. We are going through SRA for a reason and in my opinion, this is better than letting President Erickson more arbitrarily decide where cuts should be,” Ruiz also said.

A campus-wide forum update on SRA is scheduled for from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursday March 16 in the University Center Great Lakes Rooms Huron/Erie. More information about the “Planning for Distinction” project can be found at:
http://www.nmu.edu/planningfordistinction/resources.