The Philosophy Department at Indiana University – Purdue University, Fort Wayne (IPFW) is facing an ominous-sounding “restructuring,” owing to financial concerns. The university faces a $2-3 million revenue shortfall in next year’s $110 million budget, according to the News-Sentinel.
The administration responsible for this state of affairs commissioned a “University Strategic Alignment Process” (USAP) task force to determine how to save money. However, the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS) at the university has objected to its report. Among other things, the college has noted that the make-up of the task force was stacked against them. The News-Sentinel reports that though COAS has 45.6 percent of the total faculty at IPFW, its members amounted to only 12.5 percent of the make-up of the restructuring task force. Meanwhile, the percentage of faculty from engineering, computer science, health, and related fields on the task force was roughly double of their make-up of the university as a whole.
Lesson to philosophy departments: speak up early in the process so as to have more of a say later on.
In what follows, IPFW assistant professor of philosophy Charlene Elsby shares more of the details.
Philosophy Department at IPFW Under Threat
by Charlene Elsby
The Philosophy Department, along with eight other departments in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, is under threat from the administration. According to a report released May 6, 2016, the University plans to “restructure” these departments due to budgetary concerns. Faculty are left wondering, however, how these profitable departments have become the targets of administrative cost-cutting measures.
The recommendations come in the 2nd year USAP report, a report that summarizes the conclusions of the committees involved with IPFW’s University Strategic Alignment Process, the stated goal of which is to “Produce recommendations on how to better align university resources based on data and strategic level planning.”
As part of the Strategic Alignment Process, metrics are determined and then used to measure how well the department’s goals align with those of the University. The report for the Philosophy department concludes that, “This is a lean department with high annual credit hour production that generates a high amount of gross tuition $ for the university.” Nevertheless, the committee’s recommendation is, “Faced with the difficult task of identifying areas for cost savings and efficiencies, the task force recommends that this unit be restructured.” The report was released one working day before the end of the Spring Term, after which most faculty are on unpaid leave for the summer. The restructuring plans are meant to be finalized by December of this year.
What does it mean to be “restructured”? According to an email from Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Carl Drummond (dated June 8, 2016), departments deemed non-viable may be combined with other departments; they may have their major programs eliminated; their admissions may be suspended; or, they may be given a grace period over which to align themselves better with specific metrics, including an expected enrollment and graduation rate. Many of the departments in the College of Arts and Science, despite their profitability, fail to meet these metrics, determined by the administration. Faculty would also be eliminated; classes currently taught by a “Continuing Lecturer” (a full-time non-tenure tracked faculty member) would be redistributed to tenured or tenure-track faculty members, while the Continuing Lecturer position would be eliminated. Chancellor Vicky Carwein reassures, in an email from July 6, that “no tenured or tenure track faculty will be eliminated.”
The process itself, i.e., how the recommendations and metrics were determined, remains a mystery to those not part of the USAP Task Force. Despite the fact that Step 6 of the USAP process is explicitly to “Communicate everything that happens throughout the process to ensure transparency,” the university has denied a request for meeting memoranda submitted by faculty member Rachel Hile. Under Indiana’s Open Door Law, any governing body engaged in official action must keep a record of the general substance of anything discussed at a meeting. According to the University, however, “(1) The records requested are not subject to I.C. 5-14-1.5-1 et seq. (Open Door Law); (2) The records are withheld pursuant to Ind. Code. 5-14-3-4(b)(6) as intra-agency advisory or deliberative material for the purpose of decision making.”
While some faculty speculate that the cost-cutting measure are intended to offset a failing athletics program, others point to a general attitude of disdain towards the theoretical disciplines, whose outcomes are measured in the same way as the practical disciplines: how many graduates obtain work in their discipline six months after graduation. This may be more difficult for a philosophy major than a nursing major, and such the metric is seen as skewed against the College of Arts and Sciences.
In response to the USAP report, the College of Arts and Sciences has drafted a 32-page document, which concludes that, “In general, the recommendations put forward in The Report do not reflect any realistic understanding of IPFW’s budget or overall financial situation. To put all of this another way, there seems to be no strategic analysis or planning underlying The Report of the University Strategic Alignment Process.”
A student group, Not In Our Future: Students Against USAP, has been formed with the stated purpose of “expressing our concerns regarding the USAP report & recommendations.”
Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne is the largest public University in Northeast Indiana. In 2015, its status was upgraded to “multi-system metropolitan university”.
UPDATE: If you care to share your thoughts on this matter with Chancellor Carwein, her email address is [email protected].