Officials fight to save programs

By Peter Schuh

NIU department officials have said, in the words of poet Dylan Thomas, that they will not “go gentle into that good night,” in response to the Illinois Board of Higher Education and its recommended program cuts.

Susan Vogel, chair of the department of educational psychology, counseling and special education, said her department was surprised by the re-recommendation of its doctoral program in special education.

“We will be examining the IBHE report in faculty meetings,” she said. “The faculty of special education will be doing some self-evaluation about how to expand into new program areas and attract more students.”

As part of its priorities, quality and productivity initiative, the IBHE has re-recommended 30 programs statewide as educationally or economically unjustified.

By making these recommendations the IBHE has forced the governing boards of Illinois public universities to decide whether or not to retain the programs.

But NIU’s departments are not sitting idly by waiting for the ax to fall.

Comments from department officials in economics and geology, where doctoral programs have also been re-recommended for elimination, mirror Vogel’s determination to keep its programs.

Economics Department Chair Prem Lamus said his department is restructuring its program to fix the faults that led to the IBHE recommendation.

“We will be concentrating and specializing to make the program more efficient,” he said. “We are lowering costs by having less classes and more students. We had two or three students in each (doctoral level) class before. We will have five or six now.”

He said the department will be taking a more regional emphasis and will make a “greater effort” to recruit more American students. At present, the program has 68 percent foreign students.

Geology Professor Collin Booth said his department is continuing work toward a “common scope” with the geography department on its doctoral program.

All three programs also must face the possibility of decreased enrollment caused by the bad publicity of being re-recommended for elimination by the IBHE.

“We will continue to enroll students into the program,” Booth said. “We hope there won’t be a problem. Obviously, there may be a decrease of enrollment into our doctoral program while the current state of uncertainty exists.”

All three officials said their programs are being backed by NIU’s administration. They have hopes of similar backing by the Board of Regents, which must decide whether the programs stay or go by August 1994.

The Regents approved NIU’s 1993 Productivity Report in September. The report included NIU’s intention to retain the three doctoral programs, despite the IBHE’s recommendation to eliminate them.

“Certainly the university has expressed continued support of our program,” Booth said. “As far as we know the Board of Regents is standing behind its endorsement of the program. We have no reason to believe they would not support the program.”

A statement from Vogel echoed Booth’s sentiments.

“I think that we’re concerned about the IBHE’s recommendation, but we’re very gratified that the university has been supportive,” she said.