The bustle slowed to a murmur this past May as UAA students broke away from class loads and many faculty and staff members disappeared for the summer. While it didn’t seem like much was going on, radical changes were being implemented within the College of Arts and Sciences. Twenty-eight administrative positions were to be eliminated, and the 24 departments that comprise the CAS would be grouped under four different divisions: Humanities, Social Sciences, Fine Arts and Math/Natural Sciences. A centrally located hub would oversee the operations of each of the four divisions.
The first mention came in April, but the change was officially announced at the monthly CAS Council of Chairs and Directors meeting May 10. According to several faculty present, it was only in the final minutes of the meeting that the new hub system was announced, leaving little time for discussion.
An apology letter was emailed May 13 to the CAS chairs and directors on behalf of Dean of CAS John Stalvey.
In the letter Stalvey states, “I want to apologize for rushing out of the meeting on Friday. I made a mistake in allowing meetings to be scheduled back-to-back on Friday. … For those of you who are available, I have reserved the CAS conference room at 11 a.m. on Wednesday May 15 to provide you information on the reorganization of the CAS Academic Support Staff.”
In the meantime faculty and staff who were still on campus scheduled an impromptu meeting for that same Wednesday at noon to voice their concerns about their lack of involvement in the change.
Soon after, the various administrative assistants throughout the CAS were told that their positions would be eliminated June 30 and that they could apply for new jobs within the CAS and elsewhere in the university.
The university rehired nearly all of the displaced administrative assistants during the summer. There was a certain amount of shuffling as administrators who had worked in a single department were now dealing with entire divisions — some in entirely different divisions than they had come from. Several administrators became hub academic advisers.
According to Stalvey, along with the goal of increasing the number of academic advisers in the college, there was also a financial aspect to the change.
“The change from administrative assistants freed up approximately $325,000,” Stalvey said.
Stalvey also said about half of the money went into hiring additional academic advisers and another $100,000 went into other positions in the CAS.
CAS Academic Coordinator John Mun says the hub advising system is working on being more effective in identifying students who may benefit most from advising.
“Division-wide advisers are more aware of GER and overall requirements. It’s allowing us to do more pro-active outreach in contacting students,” Mun said.
UAA’s College of Arts and Sciences website lists the new academic advisers and positions in the hub’s and dean’s office, but the website has no mention of the hub change having happened.
Stalvey became CAS dean in 2012 and says he didn’t arrive from his previous job at Kent State University expecting to implement major changes at UAA. Stalvey explained that the budget for the CAS necessitated the change.
“By June I knew resources weren’t going to grow,” Stalvey said.
As for the model that would eventually become the hub, Stalvey says it was an ongoing process over the 2012-13 academic year.
“We weren’t settled on it in the fall. I believe it was after the first of the year. The reason I told folks in April was it was being considered by UA system-wide Human Resources,” Stalvey said.
“It was crazy to do it when everybody was away. They should have asked us in Fine Arts,” said associate music professor Karen Strid-Chadwick.
Stalvey said it would have been much more difficult to implement the changes during the school year and is clear about his responsibilities in the CAS.
“The curriculum is the responsibility of the faculty. The administrative structure is the responsibility of the dean,” Stalvey said.
The CAS is the largest college in the entire University of Alaska system as well as being physically very long. The divisional hubs for some departments are more than a half-mile distant. The problem was addressed with the addition of several satellite offices but faculty still need to adjust to not having dedicated administrative help in their individual departments.
“We have somebody working in our office who replaced (previous administrator) Erin Day. I don’t know when I ask her a question if she’s on our time or someone else’s,” said assistant journalism professor Elizabeth Arnold.
Some welcome the hub.
“I think it’s been a wonderful change. I’m one of those who thought the change was needed and that it was a good change. The position descriptions were more clearly laid out,” said biological sciences professor Loren Buck.
The last time a hub system was implemented at UAA was in 1998 with the College of Business and Public Policy, a much smaller college centrally located in Rasmuson Hall.
In its first semester, the long-term success of UAA’s most recent hub remains to be seen.