SSU may no longer offer programs in philosophy, physics, international relations: Faculty questions decision

Nikki Blankenship
Scioto County Candor

Shawnee State University (SSU) says they have been experiencing a decline in enrollment that is resulting in the possibility of several program cuts. Those that could be cut include philosophy, physics and international relations.
SSU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Jeffrey A. Bauer explained that SSU takes part in an annual review process developed in 2016. Through this process they make changes to the programs offered based upon student and workforce needs.
“These recommendations include programs that should be considered for discontinuation, addition, or expansion,” Bauer stated.
He added that last year, the first year the university used the process, SSU discontinued six associate degree programs and one baccalaureate program.
“Most of these were two-year programs where we also offer a four-year track,” Bauer stated. “We found that student demand for the four-year option often made the two-year option obsolete.”
Programs that were discontinued include two year degrees in fine arts, social sciences, English and humanities, individualized studies, pre-engineering and mathematics. According to Bauer, SSU also discontinued a four-year baccalaureate degree in athletic training because of accreditation changes.
Bauer added that SSU also created three new programs. These programs include:
Actuarial Science concentration in Mathematics tied to workforce demands from Ohio’s insurance industry
Dual licensure program in Teacher Education that allows future teachers to gain licensure in both early childhood education and special education at the same time
Online Visual Impairment licensure program for licensed teachers in Ohio who want to add credentials to be able to work with visually impaired students.
“Using this same process, we are currently considering ten programs for discontinuation and six programs for creation or expansion,” Bauer announced.
Bauer explained that the university makes these decisions with three goals or considerations — market demands; maximizing resources; and complying with mandates, initiatives and accreditation standards.
The 10 programs under consideration for discontinuation will be decided upon in early March. The university would then stop recruiting for the program immediately and start a “teach-out” plan for the students remaining in the programs.
Bauer added that there are also plans for the creation of six programs. Those goals include:
o New Digital Appalachian Studies Certificate — Fall 2018
o Online RN to BSN — Fall 2018
o New Industrial Management Certificate, Associate Degree & Baccalaureate — Fall 2019
o New Occupational Therapy Doctorate — Fall 2019
o Occupational Therapy Assistant Satellite Program — Spring 2019
o Online BS Health Science — Spring 2019
“Ten programs are being considered for discontinuation. All of these programs were reviewed by the Academic Affairs Program and Curriculum working group (AAPC), a committee that includes faculty representation, based on low enrollment thresholds submitted to Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) and metrics developed and approved by the University Faculty Senate (UFS) at Shawnee State. The list of programs recommended for closure was then sent to department chairpersons of the programs impacted to allow for feedback. Based on this feedback, the group adjusted the recommendation before sending it to the Educational Policies and Curriculum Committee (EPCC) and UFS for their recommendation. The UFS recommendation is due back later this month. Recommendations from each of the aforementioned groups will be considered in the final decision,” Bauer added about the process currently underway.
HIstory Professor Dr. Mark Mirabello provided the Scioto County Candor with emails announcing which programs were being considered for discontinuation as well as the remarks of faculty included in the conversation.
In an email under the subject “Warehousing of Academic Programs” dates Jan. 31 and addressed to SSU Psychology Professor and Educational Policies and Curriculum Committee (EPCC) Chair Dr. Kyle Vick, Bauer states, “In consultation with the Academic Affairs Program and Curriculum Committee (P&G), I recommend the following academic programs for closure:
· BA International Relations
· BS Natural Sciences, Concentration in Physics
· BA Philosophy and Religion
· BFA Studio Arts, Concentration in Ceramics
· BFA Studio Arts, Concentration in Drawing
· BFA Studio Arts, Concentration in Painting
· AAB Legal Assisting
· AAS Plastics Engineering Technology
· BS Legal Assisting
· BS Environmental Engineering Technology.”
Bauer explained in the email that the decision is a result of a decline in enrollment.
“SSU experienced a decline in enrollment of over 25% over the last six years,” he began. “Academic programming expanded in the years prior to this decline in anticipation of continued enrollment growth that did not happen. Unfortunately, the institution is now in a position where it must close low performance programs so that it can be right-sized but also to allow for the addition of programs with high growth potential. Please note that the document entitled “Recommendation for Program Closure” contains general criteria used in identifying low performing programs and also a list of several programs that have been placed on a watch list (explanation contained in document). I’ve also attached several other documents including notes from the October P&G meeting, a data dashboard, and responses from chairpersons overseeing several of the impacted departments/programs.”
Also among the emails was one from Bauer to Philosophy Professor Dan Johnson in which Bauer explained that faculty tend to have a negative view of program cuts and that as a result, he tried to involve faculty in the process from the beginning.
“We have looked beyond financial savings to justify cuts. In fact, financial savings, although real for every program closure (see Academic Program Warehousing), was not a priority. With the exception of Legal Studies and Environmental Engineering where faculty retirements factored into the decision, most of the programs were identified as low performing through other metrics,” Bauer added in that email.
Faculty responses to the emails were consistently negative.
Johnson responded with:
“I’m baffled by the idea that saving money or resources (so that they can be reallocated) is ‘not a priority,’ as the Provost says. What is the priority? After looking through the documents, all the rationales I can see for program cuts depend in some way or other on resources being saved and reallocated. He says over and over that ‘the university’s programming outpaces its size’ and also that ‘we cannot grow programs without first cutting others’ (my paraphrases). Both of those reasons only apply if the university is expending resources on the programs that are recommended for cutting. Only then will cutting them allow us to launch new programs (with the resources we reallocate); only then does the university’s programming ‘outpace’ its size.
And since I (and others) have made the argument that some of the programs recommended for elimination do not actually use any significant amount of resources, I fail to understand the rationale for their closing. (Some of the programs do seem to require the hiring of a new tenure line; that counts as a significant resource, it seems to me. But some do not.)
I’m really looking for an alternative rationale, and can’t find it. Have I missed something? I’m certainly open to that possibility. I’m concerned about the possibility that the real reason is simply for show: to look like we’re doing something, to look like we’re being efficient. I assume that isn’t the reason, but I can’t see another.”
Assistant Professor of Physics (one of the programs being considered to be cut) James Simmons stated in the emails:
“Or perhaps the thinking looks more like this:
A.) In a time of declining enrollment and fierce competition for students, we must do something.
B.) This is something.
C.) Therefore, we must do it.
In this argument, at least the motivating premise is correct.
The best case I can make for warehousing is to argue that discontinuing programs will eliminate significant opportunity costs. It could (perhaps, maybe) be the case that the time and effort put into program X prevents us from using that time and effort for program Y, which could be more attractive to a larger number of potential students. The benefits lost by not having Y are a cost (just hard to reliably quantify).
But if that’s the reason for warehousing, then the process is being done backwards; we have identified lots of Xs but none of the Ys. If we had identified a new program that had potential to draw in students (and keep them here), and we found that the faculty needed for that program had a significant amount of time and energy sucked up in a small boutique program, it would make sense to warehouse the boutique program. But the process we actually have eliminates programs without knowing whether or not they stand the way of something better.
Furthermore, if that’s the reason for warehousing, why hasn’t someone higher up the ladder already made that argument?”
Mirabello responded to the emails by stating:
“During the 1990’s, during one of our many financial crises, then President Clive Veri eliminated four of the six dean positions that existed at the time. That made sense. Right now we have a declining ‘customer base’ (students), and to eliminate ‘product’ (academic programs) is wrong-headed and will simply exacerbate the problem. What kind of ‘university’ does not allow students to concentrate in physics?”
In response to the Scioto County Candor, Bauer concluded by stating, “[W]e appreciate the work that has been done – and continues to be done – by our faculty and staff to develop and implement this comprehensive and inclusive process. As you can imagine, a lot of time and consideration is spent by our faculty at each phase in this process. This type of thoughtful review is something that universities should do on an ongoing basis to make sure we are delivering programs that our students want and need.”
Bauer explained that he would update the Scioto County Candor once decisions regarding cuts have been finalized.

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