Prioritization: a review under review

Faculty and administration are working to iron out the kinks in the juggernaut that is prioritization. Many details of the massive assessment of programs and services at UAA are still undecided, but several decisions have been reached following motions passed by the faculty Senate.

The first motion passed at the Oct. 4 faculty senate meeting was a motion to reconsider the quintile ranking system. The UAA website still reads “all quintiles must contain an equal number of programs,” meaning that 20 percent of all programs at UAA would find themselves in quintile five, “subject to further review, consider for reduction or phase out.”

The University of Guelph in Ontario released an 81-page report last month detailing the findings of their own prioritization process, which also relied on a quintile ranking system. The report finds many undergraduate programs ranked poorly due to “lack of demand and difficulty demonstrating quality outcomes” and that“minors tended to score poorly with 80% of minors scoring in the 4th and 5th quintile.”

A progress report released by UAA’s Academic Task Force last Friday reads,“several decisions have been made in regards to changing the quintile system and those decisions will be explained soon.”

The second motion filed by faculty Senate was a request that program prioritization meetings be open to members of the university. The University of Alaska is a public entity subject to the Alaska Open Meetings Act based on a 1983 Alaska Supreme Court ruling, but exceptions were later added.

UAA faculty Senator Clayton Trotter, who made the motion concerning transparency explained that prioritization meetings may be protected under a clause which exempts “meetings of an employee group established by policy of the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska or held while acting in an advisory capacity to the Board of Regents.”

“I don’t understand why they feel they need to do this in secret. If they want to have an executive session to deliberate that makes sense,” Trotter said.

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Academic Task Force co-chairs responded at last Friday’s faculty Senate that weekly notes and monthly progress reports of task force meetings will be made available. A prioritization blog is also being created for faculty and staff to voice their many concerns.

The third motion deals with the prioritization timeline and recommends that faculty be given until Dec. 2014 to complete academic templates. It was disapproved in an advisory capacity by both Chancellor Case and Provost Baker.

Baker, who was out of town responded in a letter also released last Friday which included a draft of the post prioritization process. The draft process lists May 9, 2014 as the release date for academic task force’s report. The draft includes a reconsideration process beginning in Aug. 2014 for programs which fall into the 5th quintile, but by Jan. 30, 2015 the chancellor is to release the final report.

The draft recommends that UAA’s Program, Budget and Administration Committee (PBAC) “integrates prioritization recommendations and chancellor’s decisions into budget process…PBAC investment must be guided by the prioritization rankings without exception (no consideration for investment if not so prioritized).”

The draft goes on to recommend program prioritization every five years in replacement of the current program review process.

Provost Baker’s letter represents some of the first information made public concerning how the findings of program prioritization might be implemented.