Faculty shows concern for program report mistakes

By Alexander Chettiath

Faculty Senate passed a motion addressing its concern on the public release of the program prioritization reports, and the potential for misunderstanding, at a meeting Wednesday.

Program prioritization uses task forces to create reports that review 223 academic programs and 236 administrative programs to influence how much a program should be given in resources, according to the program prioritization website.

The program prioritization reports will place each program into one of five categories: candidate for enhanced resources, no change in resources, reduced resources, transformation or subject to additional review. The reports will be released Monday for public feedback through May 23.

The concern was raised by Barbara Jaffee, associate professor of the School of Art and Design, who said the ability of the public to view the placement of programs into categories may influence recruitment, especially if inaccurate information is referenced in the report.

The motion asks university leaders to be mindful of potentials for miscommunication and to be ready to respond and educate as needed.

“One reason for feedback might be concerns about underlying misunderstandings in the interpretation of the data, I’m going to go ahead and call it a mistake, because I think there are mistakes in the data that I think [Faculty Senate is] familiar with,” Jaffee said.

Jaffee said she is aware of a specific error that could affect the perception of a program but would not divulge the specifics other than a person in a position to judge acknowledged there was a mistake.

“Even if it were an entirely hypothetical argument, [it] is possible to imagine similar kinds of cases in other areas, without the specifics of this particular case,” Jaffee said.

Matt Streb, co-chair of the program prioritization administrative task force, said he is concerned that a specific example was acknowledged because the task force members are bound by confidentiality in regard to the reports.

Jaffee initially brought her concern to the town hall meeting Wednesday where Provost Lisa Freeman said the reports are part of a larger process that should be transparent.

Each program has a narrative detailing the program using data and opinions of the narrative author. These narratives are password protected and cannot be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Faculty Senate originally proposed a motion to have the reports with the categorized programs to be released in the same manner as the narratives but was voted down.