The University of Akron is slowing down its possible major academic reorganization aimed at attracting students and graduating students in science/technical fields.
“Clearly, more time is needed to evaluate the initial proposals,” interim UA President John Green said Friday in a letter emailed to the campus community.
Green had originally set a target date of Oct. 22 for evaluation of the four initial proposals — including combining UA's world-recognized polymer science and polymer engineering college with chemistry and chemical engineering programs. The proposed new college's name is the College of Polymer and Chemical Science.
Green said in his Friday letter that the new target date for evaluation of the proposals is Feb. 1.
He said he made the decision to push back the target date after consulting with the board of trustees, the faculty union, the University Council, an advisory body and the Faculty Senate, which is the governing body for the UA faculty.
Earlier this month, faculty Senate Chair Linda Saliga criticized the academic reorganization process, saying it was rushed and should have started sooner.
Saliga told the Beacon Journal on Sept. 21, the day Green hosted a series of meetings to kick off discussions about the reorganization proposals, that university administrators, "are cutting it kind of close to really have any useful discussion" before Oct. 22.
In his letter Friday, Green said the change to a later date will allow the “campus community to focus its attention” on completing a strategic plan by December.
Green said the strategic plan — which he called a Three-Year Action Plan — is needed to prepare the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
UA, in part because of enrollment declines, has been dealing with budget gaps in recent years. The budget for the current fiscal year — ending June 30 — projects a $16 million shortfall.
Green has noted earlier that the university has not had a good strategic plan for years.
Green also wants to have the strategic plan — which would be updated on a regular basis — in place for the new UA president. Preparations for the presidential search are underway.
The other three reorganization proposals being reviewed are:
• A new School of Computing and Data Sciences, which would be a combination of computer-related programs now in two colleges.
• A new College of Engineering and Technology — a blending of mechanical, civil, chemical, electrical and biomedical engineering departments with the physics department and some units from the College of Applied Science and Technology, which offers two- and four-year degrees.
• Integrating all College of Applied Science and Technology programs into other colleges. Engineering technology offerings in this college would be in a new College of Engineering and Technology.
The reorganization comes as the university continues to see enrollment declines. After almost hitting 30,000 students in fall 2011, the university this fall enrolled 20,554.
This year's decline is partly due to the continuing impact of a 20 percent drop in entering freshmen in fall 2016, UA officials have said.
Additionally, UA has tightened admission standards for its main campus, leading to prospective students who don't make the cut to be referred to UA's Wayne campus or a local community college, officials have said.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or https://www.facebook.com/KatieByardABJ.