UWO considers restructuring colleges

Jack Tierney, Editor in Chief

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The University is considering plans to restructure its current four-college system, which could change the names of colleges and schools, and move departments and programs to colleges that are closer aligned to each other.  

Under one of the proposals, degrees and programs currently located in the College of Letters and Science would be moved to a new college with a different name and with degrees and programs that are closer aligned to each other.  

The Academic Structure Exploration Team was charged by Provost John Koker last semester to organize restructuring plans to “position our University to grow and succeed over the next generation.” 

Their task was to come up with academic structuring plans that would be more balanced than the current four-college structure, which has an uneven faculty and student representation among colleges and schools, especially located within the College of Letters and Science.  

COLS currently offers 40 majors and minors, nearly a quarter of the 200 total majors and minors offered at UW Oshkosh, and encompasses 34 different departments and programs.  

ASET submitted their restructuring plans to the provost in the previous spring semester.  

The provost then charged the Provost’s Advisory Committee on University-wide Academic Structure, or PACUAS, to generate academic and non-academic unit feedback. 

Departments, academic units and non-academic units have until Dec. 10 to submit their feedback to PACUAS, which will then evaluate the feedback and submit a recommendation to the provost in January 2020.  

A faculty union, the United Faculty and Staff of Oshkosh, said changing the current system could have negative implications to a system that has been proven to work and that this decision should not be made so quickly.  

A letter from ASET pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of the current system, but was told not to express any bias. 

As a weakness, ASET’s report said the COLS is significantly larger than the College of Business, College of Education and Human Services, and College of Nursing combined.  

They said because of this uneven balance, the COLS has a greater governance representation on university committees.  

ASET said the size of the COLS also limits efficiencies and increase time and challenges when dealing with programs, budgets, classes and cross-college collaborations.  

Additionally, ASET said the COLS is overshadowing some of its smaller departments by the size of its larger programs, which has led to those smaller programs and departments having less success recruiting students.  

“Some departments and programs seem misplaced in this (current four-college) structure,” ASET said. “It is far from obvious, for example, that History should be in the Social Sciences and Journalism in the Humanities.” 

As a strength, ASET noted that college brands in the COB and CON are already aligned with future careers, the current structure allows for interdisciplinary studies, and the current four-college system has a “long history of success.”  

Jim Feldman, United Faculty and Staff of Oshkosh union president, made a statement on restructuring and encouraged campus community dialog in the restructuring decision ahead of PACUAS’s Nov. 27 restructuring proposal feedback deadline.  

Feldman pointed out that there is no significant supporting data that proves an academic restructuring would benefit curriculum improvements, budgetary implications, administrative burdens and recruitment success.  

“Restructuring should only move forward with a compelling rationale as to why the colleges must be restructured, why this process is being undertaken now, and why the need to do so is urgent,” Feldman said.  

ASET proposed six restructuring plans. 

  • Restructuring plan No. 1 would be to maintain the current four-college system.
  • Restructuring plan No. 2 would be to maintain the current four-college system but realign departments and programs. 
  • Restructuring plan No. 3 would be a five-college system with STEM: colleges would be, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); Business and Media; Arts and Humanities; Nursing and Health Sciences; Public Leadership.
  • Restructuring plan No. 4 would be a five-college system with stand-alone FAPA: colleges would be, Fine and Performing Arts (FAPA); Humanities and Interdisciplinary Studies; Business, Technology and Media Innovation; Nursing and Science; Education and Public Leadership.
  • Restructuring plan No. 5 would be a five-college system with global studies: colleges would be, Global Studies and Humanities; Business and Technology; Performing Arts and Media Innovation; Nursing and Science; Education and Public Leadership. 
  • Restructuring plan No. 6 would be a four-college system with STEAM and Health and Education: colleges would be, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM); Health and Education; Business and Media; Liberal Arts and Society. 

Feldman stressed the importance of liberal education, which he said is represented in the current four-college system.  

 “A division of the liberal arts suggests that this long-standing priority of higher education is less valued,” he said.  

The decision to restructure ultimately relies on the feedback that PACUAS generates. 

Once PACUAS submits a recommendation to the provost, any affected departments or non-departmental programs would need to submit a written response to the provost and the Faculty Senate (one of four governing bodies on campus, similar to the Oshkosh Student Association) detailing their rationale and providing evidence in support of their position. 

The provost would then request a response from the respective colleges, set a deadline, and share the departmental responses with the deans. 

More details, including budgetary analysis, are including here in Article VII, Section 2, Item C of the Faculty Constitution, which dictates this process.  

The final decision to accept or reject a request to restructure rests with the provost and chancellor.  

However, all changes to the structure of the schools and colleges also requires approval by the UW System Administration and the Board of Regents.  

“Collaboration can be encouraged and enhanced within the current four-college structure,” union president Feldman said. “Small shifts in how we think about connections between and among programs, departments, and colleges might accomplish many of the goals of restructuring without the associated costs.” 

Note: This story updates the timing of the report due to Koker and clarifies the restructuring process.