Daily Egyptian

GPSC says Montemagno’s academic restructuring could negatively impact graduate students

Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Kitt Fresa

At its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, the Graduate and Professional Student Council discussed the ways in which Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s new plan to reorganize academic programs into colleges and schools will affect graduate students.

In a document circulated to deans and department heads earlier this month, Montemagno sent out a tentative “straw man” proposal for the restructuring in order for departments to provide feedback.

GPSC President Johnathan Flowers presented Montemagno’s changes for the rest of the council during the meeting.

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Under it, the eight current colleges would be reduced to five, creating a College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, College of Business and Analytics, College of Engineering, Physical Science, and Applied Technology, College of Health and Human Services and a College of Liberal and Performing Arts.

As opposed to the current departmental system under which the university operates, schools would house programs, which would be grouped together based on what Montemagno called “synergy” in the straw man plan.

Resource allocation has not yet been determined, but Flowers said each school would operate under its own budget.

Flowers said graduate and undergraduate directors of programs will remain under the proposal, but the administrative functions of chairs will be distributed among faculty.

Regardless of restructuring, all students will still be held to the requirements of the program they were originally admitted under, Flowers said.  

“It’s not that I’m fundamentally opposed to any restructuring, because restructuring is necessary,” Flowers said. “I can’t really say what form it should take. Any restructuring should be done with the context of the institution and the students in mind.”

Flowers said one of his major concerns with the reorganization is that it aligns programs “by their descriptions and not necessarily their institutional context with their research focus.”

This, Flowers said, would damage the research climates that have already developed within programs.

Additionally, Flowers said the chancellor aims to increase the number of graduate assistants without increasing the level of support they receive.

“The chancellor believes that in order to grow the graduate programs, we need to bring in more grant funding,” Flowers said. “Grant funding for GAs is a very particular model to the [science, technology, engineering and math] programs.”

Humanities, he said, don’t have the same grant opportunities that STEM programs have.

“The assumption that all programs will have equal opportunity to develop grant funding to grow their graduate programs is mistaken,” Flowers said. “It’s not in keeping with any of the research done on graduate programs.”

With the elimination of departments under Montemagno’s plan comes the elimination of department chairs, another prospect Flowers said is concerning.

“Department chairs serve a valuable administrative purpose where the scheduling of courses is concerned, advocating for programs to the deans and central administration, tenure and promotion,” Flowers said. “All these things will be distributed amongst faculty, who will neither get course releases nor any kind of compensation to do this work and they will lose control over the curriculum within their own program.”

Allowing faculty within the proposed schools to vote on curriculum changes could be problematic too, he said.

“It’s not so much of a stretch to say that I do not want somebody from, say, psychology voting on the curriculum that should be in a philosophy program,” Flowers said.

Asked if students would have any input on the changes, Flowers said undergraduate changes would go through Faculty Senate and graduate curriculum changes would go through the Graduate Council, both of which have student representation.

However, Flowers said students do not get a say in the development of the reorganization.  

“We will get a say insofar as we perform our representative functions on Graduate Council.” Flowers said. “If you mean do we get a say in the development of these things, no. Faculty control the curriculum.”

Flowers said GPSC will be bringing recommendations to the chancellor about his proposed changes.

“Any plan that does not address the needs of the graduate students or does not provide sufficient support to develop graduate programs … is a plan that I, and I believe GPSC, will fight come hell or high water,” Flowers said.

Staff writer Kitt Fresa can be reached at [email protected]dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @kittfresa.

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