An IPFW report recommends the university restructure 13 departments, nine of which are in the College of Arts and Sciences, to save on costs. According to Steve Carr, an associate professor of communication, the report recommendations will “damage the Fort Wayne community.”
“IPFW is the only public university, I believe within a 100 mile radius that offers defined programs in the liberal arts and humanities. If we follow USAP to its logical conclusion, IPFW is not going to be able to offer those programs any longer,” Carr said. “We are going to lose an important service that this university makes to the area.”
The term “restructuring” wasn’t clearly defined in the report, according to Jeff Malanson, assistant history professor and budget committee member. Various sources have also said restructuring could either mean simply merging departments or eliminating programs altogether.
The University Strategic Alignment Process Task Force recommended the university restructure its departments of anthropology, economics, fine arts, geosciences, history, international language and culture studies, master of business administration, philosophy, physics, political science, sociology, visual communication and design, and women’s studies.
“The programs that have not been targeted are going to lose out. Being a faculty member in communication, I want my students to be able to take classes in women’s studies. I want my students to be able to take classes in German and French. I want my students to be able to take classes in anthropology. I want my students to be able to double major. That makes for a better education,” Carr said. “USAP and various other proposals that are being floated are going to compromise the quality and depth of education that students get here.”
The department changes are designed to help make up for a $2 million projected deficit based on a projected decline in enrollment by 2 percent, according to Malanson.
The College of Arts and Sciences, which houses the majority of the departments slated for restructuring, generated about $7 million for the university in the last academic year.
According to the report, the recommendation was based on current enrollment trends, number of degrees awarded, and demand.
Rachel Hile, interim chair of the Department of Communications and the former USAP Task Force co-chair, said she believes the recommendations are not about saving money, but making the institution more focused on vocational training.
Hile said the committee was biased toward cutting programs from the liberal arts, which is reflective of a national trend.
“There has been a drumbeat of conversation across the country about how the humanities are a luxury and we don’t need them,” Hile said.
According to Hile, the strategic alignment committee recommended restructuring or possibly cutting academic departments that generate revenue for the university even though athletics and university housing lose money each year.
“You just got a sense that there was a bias towards liberal arts when all of the examples anyone ever uses are about departments in the College of Arts and Sciences,” Hile said. “When there is such a focus on job outcomes and an educational path leading to a specific job, it’s a very narrow view of the purpose of education.”
Malanson said the recommendations don’t reflect a complete understanding of the university’s budget.
“Some versions of restructuring could just be merging two departments, and so eliminating a department chair position,” Malanson said. “If that’s all restructuring takes, I’ve seen estimates from saving anywhere from $80,000 to $200,000 a year.”
While Malanson said those numbers are not insignificant, he said they would not enable substantial changes to a university.
“One of the most difficult, mathematical things to think about is every single one of those departments on that list makes money for the university,” Malanson said. “For the nine College of Arts and Sciences departments listed in the proposal, in the last year that performance measures were made available for, they generated over $7 million in profit for the university.”
The task force, commissioned by the university’s chancellor, included 24 volunteer members from numerous academic and staff divisions. The group is responsible for making recommendations to campus leaders to help the university meet its strategic plan by 2020.
According to Malanson, this year’s USAP report addressed less than half of the 91 metrics and goals in the university’s strategic plan.
“We’re two years into the process. We’re two years into the Strategic Plan,” Malanson said. “None of their reporting at this point, none of their work at this point that has been publicly released says anything about how we’re doing towards accomplishing the Strategic Plan.”
Rick Sutter, the department chair of anthropology, said the USAP Task Force was based on the Dickeson Model, which recommends regional universities prioritize more successful programs.
Within that model, only the most elite students should be able to study liberal arts at flagship campuses, according to Charles Murray’s book, “Real Education.”
“No matter where it has been applied, it’s always small liberal arts programs that are targeted,” Sutter said. “That’s in part because the metrics and the data that are used are skewed very heavily against liberal arts programs.”
“What this is about is accessibility to higher education, which is why our campus was founded,” Sutter said. “This campus represents a vital part of the economy as well as upward mobility for a lot of people who can’t leave Northeast Indiana.”
The university’s chancellor, Vicky Carwein, said there was nothing “top-down” about USAP’s process. In an open letter to the campus community, she denied having any role in the committee’s recommendations.
“It’s a process we’ve never engaged in before, so it’s scary for people, I think,” Carwein said. “I understand that reaction, and I appreciate it. But if they would just stop and think for a moment, and actually read the plan. Everybody is focused on this one recommendation, but there’s a whole bunch of other stuff there as well that we need to consider.”
Barry Dupen, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology and co-chair of the USAP Task Force, said instead of cutting departments, USAP came up with the recommendation to merge departments in order to save money.
“If you can figure out a way to save women’s studies, which we have the only program in all of Northeast Indiana, if you can save it by merging it with English or sociology, why not?” Dupen said.
Eric Link, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he didn’t feel his college was being attacked, but doesn’t think closing the departments would be in the university’s best interests.
Link said he wants IPFW to continue to provide a wide range of programs and also wants students to know the college is still in business.
According to Carwein, the decisions and changes won’t happen overnight, and could be a “multi-year kind of process.”
“They are nothing more than just recommendations at this point in time,” Carwein said.
The next steps include meetings between her the vice chancellors of the university over the summer. According to Carwein, they will look over each recommendation in the report. By the fall, they will have a plan that will be sent out to the entire campus.