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FACULTY FORUM: Need more data, cost-savings

By John Durham
ECU Executive Director of Communication

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Apr. 27, 2011)   —   East Carolina University faculty members expressed skepticism and concern Tuesday at a forum held to discuss recent proposals to reorganize some academic units on campus as a way to reduce spending.

The preliminary proposals, developed by the Education Policies and Planning Committee, recommended closing the College of Human Ecology and the College of Health and Human Performance and shifting their departments to other colleges. The committee also proposed dividing the College of Arts and Sciences into the College of Arts and Humanities and the College of Physical Biological and Social Sciences.

Scott Gordon, associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science and chair of the EPPC, said at the forum that the committee's report "represents a very initial draft of modifiable options" and that the faculty will have every opportunity for input before any final decisions are made.

"ECU is the only campus in the (UNC) system where the administration asked faculty to originate proposals," Gordon said. "Everything expressed today will go into an addendum to the EPPC report."

Mark Taggart, a faculty member in the School of Music and a former chair of the faculty, said ECU has "led in music since the School of Music was formed." He asked if the proposals "signal a retreat from the arts."

Ken Wilson, professor of sociology and also a former faculty chair, said the Harriott College of Arts and Sciences had asked him to make several points, including that state-supported universities have the responsibility for educating citizens. "The current organization is normal," Wilson said. "It's how traditional universities operate." He added that the units in the arts and sciences represent the "core disciplines" for the university.

Dale Knickerbocker of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures said that the method used by the committee to arrive at the recommendations was flawed. "You should not talk about reorganization before you have the data," he said.

Gordon, the EPPC chair, said, "It's not perfect. We did the best we could."

George Bailey, chair of the Philosophy Department, encouraged "everyone to imagine how difficult it was to be saddled with the task of making these recommendations. Whatever was recommended would create a furor."

"This would only be implemented in a worst-case scenario in order to save jobs," he said.

"We have to have a plan," Bailey said. "What we came up with does not have to be implemented, but we have to have a plan. It is important to think about what we're going to do in a worst-case situation."

The plan has to save money, he noted. "My biggest objection is that it doesn't save enough money."

Chancellor Steve Ballard appointed the EPPC in February to find ways to reduce administrative costs in preparation for potential state budget cuts of 12 to 18 percent for North Carolina’s public universities. Specifically, Ballard asked that the committee look at how to streamline academics with minimal losses of faculty and staff.

The proposals from the EPPC, along with input from the faculty and others, will now go to a Program Prioritization Committee, chaired by Ron Mitchelson, professor of geography.


Related:  PRELIMINARY PROPOSAL: Close two colleges, split Arts & Sciences