Prioritization reports go public

UAA released its final reports for the massive review process known as prioritization Aug. 13. The project, with many hours of faculty and staff input, examined and ranked the 313 academic programs and 178 support functions at UAA’s main campus to make the university “a stronger, more nimble and responsive university in the face of dwindling resources.”

Final reports, assembled by respective academic and support task forces (AcTF and STF), used quintile ranking systems to place programs and functions into one of five categories — ranging from “priority for enhancement” to “subject to further review.”

The process, began in May 2013 under the leadership of Provost Elisha “Bear” Baker and Vice Chancellor Bill Spindle, was welcomed by some but criticized by others who felt threatened by the stringent self-review.

The AcTF report denies claims that prioritization is “anti-tenure or a tenure-busting exercise.” The report asserts that tenured and tenure-track faculty contribute to flexibility and accountability in academic programs.

Enhancement was recommended for 46 programs, including subjects throughout the humanities like native studies, history, languages, and theater and dance.

At the bottom of the barrel, 86 programs listed ranged from minors with low graduation rates, “under-resourced and moribund programs,” but also several offerings within the chemistry department and the BA in music.

On the support side, 37 functions including the Dean of Students Office, admissions and Parking Services were marked for enhancement.

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34 functions were found to be “subject to further review; consider for reduction or phase-out,” including functions already in the process of being cut, but also active projects like UAA Bookstore special events.

Special events coordinator Rachel Epstein, who has worked at the UAA Bookstore for 19 years, expressed disappointment at the idea that bookstore events are somehow not in line with the university’s mission statement.

“By being in the lowest quintile it suggests a lack of connectedness,” Epstein said.

The quintile system used by the STF differs from the AcTF’s in that it forces roughly 20 percent of all functions into one of five categories, meaning that certain functions in the bottom category could have more in common with functions of a higher category than with those of their own.

There will not be an appeal process concerning the findings of either report, though functions and programs in the fourth and fifth quintile will be subject to further examination over the next few months, according to the reports.

The Chancellor’s Cabinet intents to make “final recommendations for changes and implementation” by late winter.