By John Reed
SC Staff Writer
Monday, September 15, marked the first meeting of the University Senate for the Fall 2014 semester. This was the first of four roundtables that are scheduled to take place in the upcoming months.
In April 2014, the ESU Housing Project called for the building of a 500-bed residence hall once funding is secured and planning is completed. The University Senate had an update on this project and the appropriate steps that are being taken moving forward.
University Properties, Inc. (UPI) is the non-profit organization that is building the $73.6 million project — the first undertaking of such magnitude in 40 years. UPI is currently applying for a loan, which is phase two of the process.
A loan from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires certain elements that both UPI and East Stroudsburg University must complete beforehand. These items — an open community meeting and a public notice in local newspapers — were completed prior to Monday’s meeting.
Following the construction update, Provost Van Reidhead touched upon retrenchment and the administration’s plans involving ways to combat budgetary concerns.
“A retrenchment letter is on the table, however, the President and I have stated to the APSCUF leadership at each meet-and-discuss meeting that we do not want any new retrenchments this year. We do not,” Provost Reidhead said.
Moving forward, the plan will involve prioritizing a list of programs and departments for alignment meetings. This is a follow-up from last year and will take into account any cost savings and positive revenue measures.
“We want to work with you to align and realign academic programs, course offerings, and departmental resources in ways that meet our student’s needs and that do not require additional retrenchment,” said Provost Reidhead.
With that in mind, there is a list of issues that the administration plans to examine: number of majors, degree completions, curriculum streamlining, and degree concentrations — including minors, as well as program overlap and workforce demands. The idea behind the alignment meetings is for departments to produce change that allows for enrichment of student opportunities.
“This needs to result in new inter-disciplinary collaborations and programming and it will probably result in closing some programs – notably minors and concentrations and possibly some degree programs,” said Provost Reidhead.
The alignment meetings may also result in further faculty reassignment and some department mergers, but Provost Reidhead was confident that these would be addressed early in this year’s process so there would be an adequate timeframe to plan moving forward.
The plan outlined by the Provost involves data collected from the 2013 to 2014 academic year from the software development and consulting firm Gatekeeper. This information has been shared with APSCUF leadership and the deans, who will then share this data with the department chairs. The idea is to utilize this information to begin an open dialogue.
“We will use Gatekeeper data to launch discussions on how to improve our efficiency and assuring students achieve expected learning outcomes as economically as possible for them and their families and for the university,” said Provost Reidhead.
Dr. Jeffrey Hotz of the English Department offered a dissenting opinion as he questioned the reliance on workforce studies.
“I have 10 studies about the workforce and about college education…the main research that I’ve looked at includes Debra Humphreys, Richard Arum, Josipa Roksa, Anthony Carnevale, and the Hart Research Institute, and none of the studies support alignment as you’ve conceived it,” said Hotz.
Provost Reidhead seemed to agree with Dr. Hotz and the information found within his studies, but believes in the use of the Gatekeeper data to achieve better disciplinary programming that will help better prepare students entering the workforce.
If sent and given the President’s approval, the information provided by Dr. Hotz will be posted on the University Senate’s website.
Following the wrap-up of the retrenchment coverage, the University Senate welcomed the new Student Senate president, Drew Johnson. In the few minutes he spoke, Johnson mentioned some important issues.
“Senate elections are live right now. We are having elections for our full Senate and they are live until Tuesday at 4:00 PM,” said Johnson.
He followed up with a notification that the Senate passed a request by the Athletic Department for $15 thousand to help fund new scoreboards for athletic teams. The request went to the Board of Directors on Tuesday, September 15.
The University Senate meeting wrapped up with the elections of the University Senate President and Vice President. The nominee for President, Dr. Robert Cohen, found out during the meeting that he had been elected to the position.
“I think it’s actually a little strange to elect someone when you don’t know their views,” said Dr. Cohen.
He continued, “My view is that there should be a lot less reports and more decision-making.”
The University Senate then announced their new Vice President, Dominique Washington. He is the first student Vice President on the University Senate. He opened his term in office by declaring advocacy.
“[I am] another voice on behalf of the student body because there is a disparity between the administration and the student body, and I hope that I can serve as an advocate and a bridge to that gap so that we can make this a university that faculty, alumni, and current students would be proud of,” said Washington.
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