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Bored of the Trustees: Committee makes uneducated decision in program review

Number of students in each program as of 2014.
Number of students in each program as of 2014.

As an economics major and journalism minor, I was “delighted” to hear that the Board of Trustees is reviewing those programs, along with eight others, for discontinuance. I do, however, have a few issues regarding the thought process, or lack thereof, that led to the selection of these programs for review.
First, I’d like to point out that prior to a discussion about cutting programs, Trustee Russell
Priddy said the priority of trustees should be to continue receiving state funding. I would argue that a board in charge of 14,463 students as of fall 2014 should probably consider the well-being of those students when making academic decisions. Funding is important, but it should be a priority for University Advancement, not the university trustees.
I think that Trustee Priddy demonstrated a lack of consideration for student well-being when he suggested off the top of his head that the committee look at anthropology, philosophy and sociology. Does he just hate the letter “y”? How can someone who has a say in the future of a university pick programs to cut at random?
It was only when Trustee Robbie Roepstorff said the committee might need to provide justification for reviewing programs — you mean it’s important to have reasons for the things you do? — that the group settled on picking programs with the lowest graduation rates. This resulted in the selection of theatre, music performance, journalism, biotechnology and economics, and master’s programs in computer information systems and criminal justice.
One problem with the list they used to determine graduation rates in each major is that it only includes the primary major held by students who have two majors. Sociology may only have graduated 68 students in the last five years on paper, but what if those 752 psychology graduates were double-majoring in sociology? Might that 68 number be incomplete?
Another problem with the BOT review is that it will use information from a program called the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program to look for the employment rates of FGCU alumni from specific degree programs. This database only provides information for students who stay in the state of Florida after graduation. If a philosophy graduate is successfully working in the General Counsel’s Office of the White House, she won’t show up in FETPIP.
I also find it interesting that the BOT is looking at the four-year-old journalism program as a low-achiever. Board of Governors Regulation 8.015 provides rules for academic program reviews. It states that state universities should be reviewed at least once every seven years from the implementation of new academic programs. The trustees should not be looking at a four-year-old program.
The BOG also outlines a 30/20/10 rule for evaluating programs. It suggests that baccalaureate degrees should produce 30 graduates over five years, master’s degrees should have 20 graduates in five years and doctorates should have 10 in five years. The journalism program isn’t even old enough to be measured with this basic rule — how could the trustees suggest it is old enough for an extensive program review?
It is possible that this is all a show. The BOT could have selected 10 programs to look at just to show the BOG that they are looking at 10 programs. Or, Trustee Priddy may have been dumped by a philosophy major in college. I don’t know. What I do know is this: FGCU has a music performance major who has played at Carnegie Hall.
There’s an anthropology graduate running a learning center in Peru.
Sociology majors are fundraising for the Abuse Counseling and Treatment Center, economics majors are interning for presidential campaigns, and did I mention the thing with Carnegie Hall?
The trustees may think they are simply doing their job by reviewing programs, and that’s fine.
But actually discontinuing any of these programs would hurt the number of applicants FGCU receives — and if money is what the trustees are most concerned about, I can’t imagine that being a huge help.

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    Jesse MillnerApr 25, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks, Nina, for such a thoughtful response. I really enjoyed reading this.