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Urbana Academic Senate: Recommendations on enrollment management plan approved

INSIDE ILLINOIS, Dec. 15, 2011  | Mike Helenthal, Assistant Editor | 217-333-5491

An Urbana Academic Senate task force has offered what leaders are calling “objective, reasoned” recommendations for an enrollment management plan being developed by university administrators.

Senators, acting as a committee of the whole at the Dec. 5 meeting, agreed to send the suggested revisions in the draft report to UI President Michael J. Hogan and his staff, despite the urging of some senators to take a more confrontational approach based on their perception that administrators are pursuing a centralized management course for the university that threatens the practice of shared governance.

“We deliberated how best to respond,” said Michael Biehl, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and chair of the senate’s task force addressing the president’s enrollment management plan.

“We could choose to escalate the confrontation,” he said, “but the key is collaboration. As a body, (together) we would be much more effective at conflict resolution.”

The senate’s committee decision was finalized at the Dec. 12 Senate Executive Committee meeting with little discussion. The senate clerk was directed to send copies of the report to Hogan, the University Senates Conference chair, the senate chairs of the two other campuses and the secretary of the UI Board of Trustees.

Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise, following the SEC vote, praised the report and commended those who worked on it for following a constructive process.

Wise said she supported administrative recommendations to add an executive director of recruitment, noting chancellors will continue to retain control of strategic planning. She said the plan, once finalized, will meet challenges facing the university concerning recruitment, financial aid, diversity and cross-campus collaboration.

“There has been a lot of discussion among the chancellors as to what role we play in this,” she said. “The policies will be discussed at the campus level; I think it’s a very doable thing.”

The task force, comprising the leaders of five senate subcommittees and two faculty members, was formed hastily by Senate Chair Matt Wheeler in November and given less than two weeks to complete the review. The shortened timetable was designed to ensure an Urbana senate review prior to the enactment of the administration’s plan.

 “The intent in our report was to provide a broad overall assessment and comment on the issues identified in the enrollment management report,” Biehl told senators prior to the Dec. 5 vote.

Hogan called for an enrollment management policy review last winter following a decision by the UI Board of Trustees to approve the appointment of a new universitywide executive director of enrollment planning and management.

He said recommendations in the review, a prelude to the search for a director, were given to the board and to the University Senates Conference in July, with a request that USC inform him of the role that faculty members currently play in enrollment management and how that role could be preserved as the recommendations are implemented. USC also reviewed the findings of the Urbana Academic Senate draft report on enrollment management.

The board of trustees already has endorsed the president’s report and its findings and made its implementation part of his performance goals for the current academic year.

At the Oct. 17 SEC meeting, Sen. Nick Burbules, a professor of education policy, organization and leadership who also serves as one of SEC’s Urbana representatives to the University Senates Conference, urged the immediate formation of an Urbana-based task force to address Hogan’s plan.

“We need to set up a process for an expedited review,” Burbules said. “I think there are a lot of pieces (in the new policy) that are dangerous. We have to do something now.”

According to Burbules, many of the new enrollment management provisions go against standing statutes giving campus academic leaders oversight of enrollment and related matters. Specifically, there are concerns over the recommendations’ effect on admissions, transfers, course articulation, financial aid and recruitment. Burbules also said there is concern that the director’s position goes beyond recommendations made in an Administrative Review and Restructuring report prepared for the university by an outside consultant.

The recommendations in the senate task force’s report address each of the points made in the administration’s 21-point enrollment management proposal. It recommends the immediate implementation of just three of the plan’s points, urged caution and more discussion for 11 others, and recommended “further collaborative evaluation and revision” for seven points.

The task force report indicated that moving forward on all of the points in the president’s plan would be premature until core issues were better vetted among stakeholders – or until perceived erosions of academic and individual campus input in the enrollment management process are addressed.

“A foremost goal of all enrollment management activities must reflect an eye toward the enhanced competitiveness of each campus in relation to their peer institutions,” Biehl told senators prior to the Dec. 5 vote.

While the task force’s recommendations met senate approval, not all senators felt the effort was likely to succeed.

Mark E. Roszkowski, a professor of business administration and the director of undergraduate studies for the College of Business, said the administration’s actions were “very troublesome” and that he felt the senate should make a stronger statement over the enrollment management issue.

Roszkowski said administrators first should have consulted with each campus senate before suggesting such sweeping changes.

“This is a preordained list of recommendations,” he said of the administration’s plan. “We should be writing the draft. We’re again being asked to go down the road of centralization and surrender campus functions to administration.”

Other senators, including senate vice chair Joyce Tolliver, applauded the task force’s approach and its results.

“The report they produced is a model of what shared governance should be,” she said.

Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise also urged a more measured response.

“I would hope we would give the chance for cooperation,” she said.

Roszkowski said he was dubious the senate’s work would be evenly considered.

“This has been tried several times already,” Roszkowski said. “They have failed to move on any issue to date.”


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