President Crawford unveils plan to reform University, but questions remain
By Albert Chang-Yoo
On Oct. 28, the Board of Trustees voted to affirm a plan created by President Isiaah Crawford aiming to avoid an estimated $10.5 million structural deficit by 2025. The vote was held at an open session following a week of deliberation. The recommendations include much of what the Academic, Administrative, and Auxiliary Program Review (AAAPR) report had advocated for; however, there were also important differences between the proposals.
the proposals. President Crawford presented his plan in a less-thanprecise bullet-pointed slideshow entitled “A Sound Future: Recovery and Renewal.” Within the presentation, President Crawford called for the implementation of “adaptive, alignment and foundational strategies” that would boost the University. He also extended the timeline of the plan from fiscal year 2025 to 2026. The plan was unanimously approved by the 40 members of the Board of Trustees.
In a statement sent to the campus community following the meeting, President Crawford said, “we will not cluster academic programs as proposed by the Committee but instead will consider whether there are academic programs that should be created, expanded, or discontinued, consistent with the Faculty Code.” The possibility of program discontinuation upended much of what the AAAPR committee had tried to avoid. The committee has spent the past 18 months finding a way to consolidate programs with the goal of avoiding program cuts.
The meeting offered another reminder of the dire circumstances in which the University finds itself. In order to financially sustain itself, the university must, as described in the presentation, “align Faculty and Staff FTE [Full Time Equivalent] to expected enrollment levels.” An 11:1 faculty-student ratio must be met as enrollment declines, which requires the University to cut 35 faculty. The university has already offered incentivized retirement plans to 26 faculty who are eligible for retirement. The other two options to reach this goal involve cutting contingent faculty — including both lecturers and visiting professors — and program discontinuation.
President Crawford also presented a plan for a revision of the core curriculum that would move away from a distributive core model. Instead, students would develop a secondary major or minor. Students would also be expected to take an experiential learning requirement. Changes to the curriculum would not impact current students.
Several members of the Board of Trustees expressed concern over cutting the core, due to the potential for exposing students to unknown areas of passions. Lyle Quasim, alumni and member of the board, spoke candidly about the decisions the University must make, stating, “There’s no way out of this without significant harm to some of the people we hold dear.” Quasim went on to say that “we have to look this issue square in the eye and realize there will be casualties.”
Elise Richman, the Faculty Senate Chair, countered the sentiment: “There are systemic ways to enhance ability to grow in terms of enrollment that can lift us out of these ‘seemingly dire’ circumstances. It will take time, but we can do it.”
Before moving into a closed door session, the Board presented a report from the financial committee which found that the University’s endowment had dropped from over $450 million in Fiscal Year 2021 to $418 million today. Additionally, the university had a budget surplus of $1 million from the past fiscal year which was recommended to go towards the review actions.
The stiff atmosphere of the Board of Trustees meeting was contrasted by an emotional faculty meeting on Nov 2. During the meeting, a packed room of professors aired their grievances over concerns of program cuts and a perceived lack of transparency by the board and the president. The meeting ended with the adoption of a resolution calling on President Crawford to release the full version of his plan.
President Crawford will be hosting a campus town hall meeting on Nov. 16. It will be a chance for direct engagement by the campus community. The next Board of Trustees open session will be Feb. 23, 2023.