July 12, 2024

A week ago, the Wittenberg faculty voted to stop the review process of certain programs that were being looked over by the Educational Policies Committee (EPC). The vote was raised after students and faculty shared their concerns about discontinuing the Chinese, Russian and Japanese language programs during a forum on Feb. 1. This decision comes amid budgetary tightening by the university.
The review process for these programs – which includes the three languages discussed on Feb. 1, as well as dance, the bachelor of music education (BME) and the American studies program – actually started several months ago. This year, the EPC – which is made up of 10 members – including students, began a standard review process for all programs created since 2005 with the purpose of assessing efficiency and academic standards. The review included 15 different programs. By October and November, the EPC was asked to expand its review process to all programs.
The committee based its reviews on quantifiable measures, such as number of students enrolling, how often classes can be taught, interest of applicants and program costs.
Kenneth Bladh, the head of the EPC, and a professor of Geology, said that the review process that occurred this year carried over some of the conversations that were had in 2012 and 2013, when many of the same programs were under review.
“There’s still some issues that motivated this committee, whose role it is to look at the health of the academic programs . . . to follow up on some of the . . . concerns from ’13 that didn’t lead to a faculty action,” Bladh said.
This time, the EPC never actually made a recommendation to continue or discontinue any of these programs. After the forums – which are standard procedure for program reviews – took place, the EPC and each department would have written reports and had conversations. This leads to a final recommendation from the EPC: which is put to a vote by the faculty, the president and the board. By voting to stop the process on Feb. 2, the faculty bypassed the EPC process of writing a recommendation, and halted it several steps early.
“I think what the faculty relayed is that they have a concern that discontinuing programs may not be the best way to manage this, and that, in fact, we can and should be exploring other options,” Mary Jo Zembar, interim provost, said. “If there’s not much left to cut, then it seems to me, it’s obvious to really . . . begin to shift attention and go full throttle on developing new programs.”
Zembar stated that the start of new programs, however, takes time to go through the appropriate review processes.
While the languages and dance have left the discussion table, American studies was not included in the Feb. 1 faculty vote. Bladh stated that the EPC is still considering a recommendation to discontinue the American studies program, which didn’t graduate any students last year. Because the faculty who teach in this program are housed in other departments, this discontinuance would not directly involve any job cuts.
The continuance of the BME, though no longer under program reviews, still concerns some students because of the high number of visiting professors involved with the major. The review of faculty lines – whether they be a tenure track or a visiting line – is not part of the same process as program reviews and would involve a different evaluation. Thus, the health of the BME is tied to the results of such a review.
Robin Inboden, a member of the EPC, emphasizes how tough this process can be.
“Of course, none of us think those programs have no value. That’s a ridiculous assertion,” she said. “It was about . . . the success of the program and the feasibility of the program.”
Inboden encouraged those students passionate about certain departments to support these programs by taking corresponding classes and contributing to the department.
To read the faculty motion, please click here.

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