Witt’s Financial Restructuring Could be Slowed by Potential Manual Violation

Wittenberg’s plan for financial restructuring is on the fast track, with the newly formed Academic Program Futures Committee working to make recommendations to reduce $2.5 million in academic program expenses per year by the 2021-22 academic year. However, this new committee’s intervention may violate the university’s Faculty Manual.

The manual exists as a contract between faculty and the university, outlining processes such as program discontinuance and faculty contract nonrenewal. While the processes are separate, both involve the Committee on Education Policies (EPC).

For program discontinuance, the EPC holds forums for considered programs, makes recommendations to the faculty and the faculty must move to approve them. This process was seen in action last semester, and the faculty did vote to recommend the discontinuance of the dance and French majors.

This process does not apply to the nonrenewal of faculty lines. While the manual says that the ultimate power to not renew faculty lines “rests solely with the President, the Provost and the Board of Directors, and not with the faculty, whose constitutional authority is limited to a right to participate in such decisions,” it also states that the EPC should review all proposed changes in a department’s total number of faculty members, consider the effects, and make their own recommendations to the President or Provost.

While Frandsen said that the Academic Program Futures Committee is still charged to connect with the EPC, the ultimate recommendations for both program and faculty discontinuance will be made by the new committee, not by the EPC or by faculty vote. Not using the channels specified by the manual to alter academic programs will result in violation of the manual.

Despite this potential violation, the bylaws of the Board of Directors state that the board has authority to create this committee. According to the bylaws, “the Board of Directors may appoint certain members to act as a standing or special Committee or Committees and may delegate to such Committee or Committees powers to be exercised under the control and direction of the Board.” The Academic Program Future Committee forms a gray area between the manual and bylaws in which these disagreeing governing documents are both correct.

Rev. Eilert responded on Tuesday night that this section of the faculty manual is a separate document within the manual and that “the ‘document’ refers to the ‘Bylaws of the Wittenberg University Faculty and Student Government.'”  The sentence that was quoted means that the Constitution and the Bylaws of the Board of Directors takes precedent over the Bylaws of the Wittenberg University Faculty and Student Government, if they are in conflict.

However, Eilert noted that the manual still states in regards to the nonrenewal of faculty lines that “faculty personnel decisions and the policies that govern them are subject to the authority of the Constitution of the University, the Bylaws of the Board of Directors, and the Bylaws of the Faculty.”

According to Frandsen, the Academic Program Futures Committee is necessary because the current channels outlined in the manual were not working quickly enough. Page nine of the Faculty Manual states that in the case of a committee having inadequate time to meet its goals, ad hoc committees can be created. Ad hoc committees should be established by the faculty on the recommendation of the involved boards or committees, although the members of the Academic Program Futures Committee are appointed by President Frandsen based on recommendations from the Provost and in consultation with the Faculty Executive Board.

A committee bearing several similarities to the Academic Program Futures Committee is also called for in the faculty manual if the university enters a state of financial exigency, an extreme financial crisis that could threaten the existence of the university. If the university were to declare this, an ad hoc committee on Termination Due to Financial Exigency is formed. It is this committee’s responsibility to prepare recommendations for reduction in faculty while minimizing distortion of academic programs. The Academic Program Futures Committee is called to recommend reductions in the academic budget while maintaining the core of liberal arts programs.

Additionally, the committee during financial exigency would report its recommendations to the Provost, the President and the faculty. After receiving the committee’s recommendations, the Provost and the President would make their decisions. Similarly, the Academic Program Futures Committee will report its recommendations on May 1. The board, President and Provost will make their decisions based on these recommendations.

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