Deans prepare program ‘hit list’

By Brian Slupski

There is little doubt that by the end of the school year a number of academic programs at NIU will be eliminated, NIU officials said Monday.

According to a letter from Acting Provost J. Carroll Moody to members of the Academic Resources Advisory Committee, the Illinois Board of Higher Education has established guidelines by which academic programs must be evaluated. ARAC was set up last spring by then-provost Kendall Baker in order to identify 3 percent of each department’s budget for reallocation.

Some criteria included under the IBHE guidelines are the number of majors in a program, the cost of the program and the number of non-major credit hours generated by the program.

NIU and the other state universities have been told to compare their schools’ programs to the same programs at other state schools. Programs which come out below the state averages would be considered “unproductive.”

Moody said presently the deans and chairs of NIU are compiling a list of programs which would be “vulnerable” under the IBHE guidelines.

The “hit list” of programs from the deans should be submitted to the provost sometime this week. In an address last Friday, James Norris, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said that Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois already have received their “hit lists.”

Moody said NIU must make a report of its programs to the IBHE by Oct. 1. IBHE staffers also are looking at NIU programs and will make a separate report on the same subject in the same time frame, he said.

Moody said, “There is no doubt in my mind that programs will be cut.”

The now-defunct ARAC attempted to preempt the cuts. The committee was established to reallocate money from low priority and unproductive programs and activities to NIU’s most productive and highest priority programs. Some critics labelled this move as a smoke-and-mirrors tactic.

Accountancy Professor and ARAC member William Cummings said the IBHE wasn’t really interested in reallocation, but in the elimination of programs.

“They (IBHE) have the idea that schools like NIU have lots of small costly programs which should be cut,” Cummings said.

He said the IBHE wants to take a “sharp knife” to higher education, and that it wants the university provosts to be “ruthless” in going after programs.

In a sense the committee was acting in a preemptive way, trying to show the IBHE that NIU was making progress in setting priorities, Cummings said.

However, “the IBHE perceived the committee to be a window dressing and was not interested in its report,” he added.

“The whole thing is coming to a head and all the universities are going to be forced to make major cuts,” Cummings said.

Cummings pointed out that $2 million in NIU tuition money goes to its athletic program, and that $7 million in tuition money goes to athletic programs statewide.

“What choice do we make? I like athletics, but if it’s taking away from academics, and if the academic situation could be improved, I think the choice is simple,” Cummings said.

“If there was interest in the program that would be different, but we can’t even fill up the place (stadium) we got,” Cummings said.

Moody said, “NIU will certainly look at all activities (including athletics), but the IBHE emphasis seems to be on academics.”

Moody said the ARAC committee did its job very well, but that its emphasis was on reallocation, while the IBHE’s was on elimination.