The University of Akron is slowing down a proposed major reorganization of some of its colleges.
But the university’s interim president hopes to achieve some key goals to move UA forward by the start of the upcoming fall semester.
“We do not have the luxury of extended time to engage in this work,” UA Interim President John Green said in a letter Tuesday to faculty and staff. “I believe that it is realistic that we agree to complete this work during the next six months, for the start of the coming academic year. If we are unable to achieve these goals, we will need to revisit the reorganization proposals.”
Green last week released plans to reorganize parts of the university, including the creation of a combined College of Polymer, Chemical and Biological Sciences. The proposal also called for creating three new colleges.
The proposal is aimed at attracting and retaining more students as the university faces financial and enrollment problems.
Green’s letter on Tuesday used the subject line, “Pause in reorganization.”
Green acknowledged hearing from faculty and staff after outlining the reorganization plans at last week’s Faculty Senate meeting.
“Many of the comments I have heard indicate that there is substantial support for achieving the objectives contained in the reorganization proposals without attempting to reorganize portions of the institution at this time,” Green wrote.
“While that sentiment is hopeful and encouraging, it is tempered with the reality that efforts along these lines have not succeeded in the past or have taken an inordinate amount of time to accomplish,” he said. “As I noted during my comments to Faculty Senate last week, simply maintaining the status quo for its own sake is not an option.”
Pamela Schulze, a faculty member and head of the University of Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said she heard from other faculty Tuesday who are largely relieved that the reorganization plan has been slowed down.
Schulze, professor of Family and Consumer Sciences, also said that the university might want to wait until it hires a new president who would then be involved in any reorganization planning. A university search committee is seeking applicants for president. A review of candidates is expected to start in June.
“I agree with President Green’s decision to pause discussions of the reorganization proposal as presented to Faculty Senate last week,” Schulze said in a statement she issued on behalf of the union. “However, because the most pressing challenges we face have to do primarily with undergraduate enrollment, persistence and graduation — in short, promoting student success and growth in enrollment — I believe these matters must be addressed first.
“Faculty members are willing and eager to develop and implement common sense approaches to supporting our students. The Akron-AAUP remains ready to work with the administration on initiatives that directly address the university’s critical challenges,” she said.
Green last week proposed combining its renowned polymer science and polymer engineering college with chemistry, chemical engineering, biology and biomedical engineering programs.
He also proposed the creation of the College of Engineering, Science and Technology; the College of Arts, Letters and Sciences; and the Innovation College, for evening, weekend and online courses and other programs.
The university’s trustees would need to approve the changes.
Green said the reorganization specifics will be done in consultation with deans, chairs, school directors and Faculty Senate.
According to his letter, examples of the university's goals are:
• Propose new and enhanced undergraduate degree programs in areas of demonstrated strength and distinctiveness (including polymer, corrosion, biomimicry, cybersecurity) with the goal of offering them in fall 2020.
• Better align curriculum in chemistry and chemical engineering with polymers and biology.
• Increase graduate and undergraduate faculty participation in delivering current and new curriculum across college and department boundaries.
• Facilitate easier, seamless movement of students within related degree areas, such as engineering technology and engineering, across college and department boundaries.
• Significantly decrease general fund subsidy of research activities.
• Significantly increase research grant awards in areas of excellence and strength.
• Better connect faculty in Wayne College, Developmental Programs, Applied General and Technical Studies and General Technical Studies with main campus departments based on academic discipline.
Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ