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UE announces academic realignment plan, multiple majors could be cut

Updated: Dec. 10, 2020 at 11:31 PM CST
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Multiple programs and faculty positions could be cut at the University of Evansville.

On Thursday, the President’s Council presented a proposed academic realignment plan, which is a response to higher education demographic changes and for better future financial footing.

UE’s fall semester wrapped up on Wednesday. This semester looked a lot different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now lasting changes might be coming to campus in the coming years.

The future at the University of Evansville could mean fewer programs and faculty.

According to a release, future plans may include a consolidation of three colleges: the William L. Ridgway College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Health Sciences, and the College of Business and Engineering

“The university is doing all of this to be able to position itself so that it can be successful and thrive in the future,” UE President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz explained.

Three departments with a dozen associated majors could be cut in the areas of music, electrical engineering and computer science, as well as philosophy and religion, despite the University’s affiliation with the United Methodist Church.

“We utilized enrollment trends, we utilized the cost of teaching programs in particular areas, as well as the revenue that is generated,” Pietruszkiewicz recalled. “We looked at whether it creates an enrollment trend in the future, and we also took a look at whether the program supported another part of the university.”

Five additional majors are also expected to be eliminated. Nearly 200 students currently fill those seats.

“It means we have to make some hard decisions,” Pietruszkiewicz added. “Unfortunately, those hard decisions have to happen now.”

UE is offering a voluntary separation option for a few dozen of its faculty. This includes 12-months pay without teaching or university obligations, plus a one-time $10,000 lump sum to help with healthcare costs.

Changes in academic programs will not happen until the fall of 2022.

Current students enrolled in those programs will be able to complete their degrees.

This academic plan is part of a larger alignment for the University. Faculty is allowed 30 days to review these proposed changes and give their input on the plans.

A work session is set for Tuesday.

You can watch our live interview with UE President Christopher Pietruszkiewicz in the video below:

Here is the full letter sent to faculty:

Dear Faculty,

After weeks of carefully reviewing and analyzing the academic programs at the University of Evansville, the President’s Council today presented a proposed academic realignment plan to UE Faculty for their review and input. The plan is designed to respond to the changing demographics in higher education and to ensure financial stability for the University as we build and expand on academic offerings that are expected to grow.

UE is not alone in having to reassess and realign our current academic programs. Colleges and universities across the nation are reimagining higher education and adapting to a world of changing student demand and economics.

In developing this academic realignment plan, we were guided by the following four criteria: (1) the level of support provided to other UE academic programs, majors, and areas of growth; (2) the level of contribution to the University’s enrollment pipeline; (3) current enrollment levels and enrollment trends within departments and majors; and (4) financial analysis of each department and major.

An important note: All current students will be able to complete their majors. Academic program changes will not take effect until Fall 2022, and we commit to teaching current programs to ensure that all students can complete their course of study.

After an opportunity for our faculty to provide input on this draft academic plan, the University will adopt a comprehensive final plan that considers academic alignment and other University-wide alignment initiatives. The draft academic plan currently proposes the following:

  • Consolidate the four Colleges and Schools into three Colleges: (1) William L. Ridgway College of Arts & Sciences, (2) College of Education & Health Sciences, and (3) College of Business & Engineering (including the Center for the Advancement of Learning).
  • Eliminate three Departments: (1) Music; (2) Philosophy & Religion, and (3) Electrical Engineering and Computer Science including 12 associated majors: (1) Cognitive Science, (2) Computer Engineering, (3) Computer Science, (4) Electrical Engineering, (5) Ethics and Social Change, (6) Music, (7) Music Education, (8) Music Performance, (9) Music Therapy, (10) Philosophy, (11) Religion, and (12) Software Engineering.
  • Eliminate five additional Majors: (1) Art History, (2) History, (3) Physics, (4) Political Science, and (5) Spanish.

The draft plan also provides for the reduction of faculty positions in Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Creative Writing/English, History, Math, Physics, Political Science, and Spanish. Faculty members whose positions are eliminated will be given 18 months advance notice.

UE will also offer a voluntary separation option for faculty members in the programs impacted that includes salary for 12 months without teaching or other University responsibilities plus a one-time, $10,000 payment to assist with healthcare costs. Details regarding the voluntary separation option will be provided to the faculty on Friday.

Faculty will have approximately 30 days to review the proposed academic realignment plan, including the data that served as a foundation for the draft plan, and offer meaningful input. The data will be made available on Friday and will be accessible with UE credentials.

As part of this review and feedback, there will be zoom sessions for faculty, staff and students with information forthcoming. Once the faculty’s recommendations are received, we expect to finalize the academic plan at the start of 2021.

The academic plan is part of a larger alignment for the University. We will outline those additional changes once academic realignment is finalized.

The proposed academic alignment plan is designed to eliminate underserved and unsustainable programs and allows for the investment of more resources to the greatest areas of growth. With these changes, the University will continue to offer more than 65 majors with plans to expanding academic offerings in all three of its Colleges.

These changes are difficult, but they will allow us to continue to invest in areas of growth, make the University financially sustainable, and better able to support our students for years to come. Providing our students a transformative education remains our highest priority at the University of Evansville.

Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz

President University of Evansville

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