By Keren G. Raz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday April 15, 2003
Administrators' commitment to Focused Excellence remains
Right from the start, Provost George Davis knew the concept of Focused Excellence would be difficult to implement.
School of Information Resources and Library Science
School of Landscape Architecture
School of Planning
Ph.D. program in French
Masters program in Russian
Flandrau Science Center
Southwest Leadership Program (part of the Institute for Local Government)
School of Health Professions and the Medical Technology program
Marana Agricultural Center
Arizona Cooperative Extension Office in Greenlee County
Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Nuclear Reactor Laboratory
Undergraduate Degree Program in Environmental Hydrology and Water Resources
After administrators took the first implementation step by announcing 16 proposals for program eliminations in January, Davis saw just how much resistance he would face.
Davis said he estimated anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 letters and emails poured in over the last few months in support of the 16 programs. Most supported either the School of Information Resources and Library Science, the School of Landscape Architecture, or the School of Planning, he said.
"There tends to be powerful resistance to change, it's documented in the number of letters that come in," Davis said.
As a result of the resistance and months of studies and analysis, that original list of 16 proposals has been whittled down, with seven programs being spared elimination.
Although the specific recommendations have been reduced in number, administrators haven't strayed from the concept of Focused Excellence, Davis said.
"It is still Focused Excellence. It is still a challenging and difficult process," Davis said.
By pushing ahead with the proposed elimination of the humanities program and the medical technology program, Davis said the administration has begun to "focus."
The medical technology was a good program, he said, but it just didn't align right with every other program.
These few proposed eliminations may seem modest to some, but they're not considered modest by those who are impacted, Davis said.
About 27 people will feel the effect of the five eliminations, according to data compiled by human resources.
In addition, Davis said that one of the reasons administrators have proposed fewer eliminations than some expected is because they simply couldn't find many weak programs.
"The university has gone over so many changes over time, it's really hard to find a weak program," he said.
As an example of the administration's commitment to "excellence," Davis pointed to the proposal to move planning out of the College of Architecture and into the College of Public Health, a move that Director of Planning Barbara Becker said could put the School of Planning at the top of its field.
"When we had our accreditation, the accreditation body said what made us cutting edge was our work with the college of public health," Becker said.
Planning faculty and public health faculty are already working on different projects to create a healthy environment in the Green Valley community, Becker said.
John Warnock, associate professor of English, said he wasn't surprised when administrators decided to eliminate only a few programs.
These proposals mark the beginning of a process that will slowly unfold over time, Warnock said.
"I don't think we should expect everything that's going to be done, done in these proposals," he said.
There are more proposals that deal with focused excellence on the horizon, Davis said.
In proposals for program reorganizations that were also released in January, Davis and President Pete Likins asked deans to explore larger themes that group certain programs.
These themes include life sciences, earth sciences and environmental programs, cognitive sciences and the neurosciences, cultural, ethnic, gender, and area studies, and journalism, communication, and the media.
Davis said he hopes to have study teams begin looking into the opportunities to develop these themes soon.
Already journalism and communication are working to create their own college that focuses on technology and the media.
Now that SIRLS is off the list for elimination, it, too, will be a part of that discussion to form a new college, said Edward Donnerstein, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
"SIRLS is part of that group as they look at new synergies and centers," he said.
For Edella Schlager, associate professor of public administration and policy, this theme-based planning will become the future of Focused Excellence in place of the proposals for program eliminations.
"Once pressure on the budget is resolved, I think Focused Excellence will probably not focus as much on elimination programs and probably focus on strengthening existing programs," Schlager said.
Davis said he's not exactly sure what impact Focused Excellence will have on the university because it's a new concept that he and Likins are slowly unraveling.
"What Pete Likins and I are doing is something that hasn't been done before," he said. "The whole campus, and even Pete Likins and I, will have to measure all the impacts and see if benefits accrue."