Daily Egyptian

Faculty members vote to oppose chancellor’s department elimination plan

Pulliam Hall. Daily Egyptian file photo.

Pulliam Hall. Daily Egyptian file photo.

By Cory Ray

The Faculty Senate voted to oppose Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s plan to eliminate all 42 academic departments on campus during a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The passed resolution urges Montemagno to change his plan to allow departments to remain if the faculty in those areas so choose.

Of the 33 senators present, 19 voted in favor of the resolution to push back against Montemagno’s plan, while 11 voted to support the chancellor’s proposals plan. Three senators refrained from voting.

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Though the majority of senators present opposed Montemagno’s proposal, some said they are still supportive of change and agree the implementation of a school system could benefit some programs.

“I applaud the chancellor for the initiative,” theater professor Según Ojewuyi said. “Not just for the initiative but for his courage to come and step in with this. He’s engineered this conversation.”

The resolution against departmental elimination was submitted by Ojewuyi and history professor Jonathan Bean, following a Nov. 7 meeting in which Montemagno said the elimination of all department structures is necessary to implement a school system.

Montemagno said the reorganization will save $2.3 million, despite concerns from others that rebranding the university and the implementation of the system could be costly.

Under the new school system, multiple degree programs would be overseen by a single director. Right now, individual degree programs are overseen by departmental chairs in that program.

Regarding the chancellor’s stated value of shared governance, faculty opinion of Montemagno ranged from “disingenuous” to a “man of his word,” divided on their thoughts as to whether Montemagno has stuck to his promise of listening to and employing ideas offered by different constituency groups on campus.

Montemagno has said he is not opposed to departments, though he referred to them as “bureaucratic obstructions” at an Oct. 25 open forum.

Many who voted in support of the chancellor’s plan said they did so because the restructuring needs to happen soon. Some of those opposing the plan also agreed change needs to be quick, but cautious, too.

“We’re concerned that the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater,” Bean said. “There are positive things departments can do to pull us forward and support the overall restructure.”

Those supporting the plan said they worry this opposition could slow down this process.

“The timeline is set for having new offerings for next fall,” Judy Davie, a professor in the SIU School of Medicine, said. “If it delays beyond this time, it won’t happen.”

Others, such as radio, television and digital media professor Sarah Lewison, questioned the need for a quick implementation.

“[Montemagno’s] like swoop, swoop, the Wizard of Oz,” she said. “I don’t totally know about the urgency, because not that much money is being saved just by consolidating departments.”

Following the reorganization, Montemagno said programs can “redescribe” themselves as departments, but psychology professor Michael Hoane said simply renaming a program as a department is pointless.

“It’s an empty promise,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Well, you can call it whatever you want to.’ The point is you lost your control to a centralized budget.”

Electrical and computer engineering professor Constantine Hatziadoniu said the issue isn’t departments versus schools, but rather accountability of school directors.

He offered the example: what if a chemical engineering professor oversees a school with both the chemical engineering and mechanical engineering programs?

He questioned what structures would be in place to make sure one program is not preferred over the other.

Debate between faculty arose as some professors believe students look for departments to call “home” when choosing a university; others like Cherie Watson, a lecturer in library affairs, disagreed and said students don’t care if a program is called a department.

“I think that is something [faculty] focus on more than kids looking at colleges,” Watson said.

Montemagno himself did not appear at the meeting as he is out of the country on “university business,” psychology professor Kathleen Chwalisz said and some professors motioned to table any decision of support or opposition until a December meeting could be held with the chancellor. This motion was struck down in an effort to be timely.

“Many of us have persevered through the troubles at SIU,” Bean said during the meeting. “Think back one, three, five or ten years ago. Of many problems SIU has, have any of you thought the problem is that you have departments?”

Staff writer Cory Ray can be reached at cray@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @coryray_de.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Faculty members vote to oppose chancellor’s department elimination plan”

  1. Bradley Skelcher on November 15th, 2017 12:25 pm

    I support the faculty’s decision for my Alma mater.

    Thank you.

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