YSU Academic Senate: Company hired to make 'data-informed decisions' about academic programs
Youngstown State University's faculty union and Academic Senate are requesting the administration apply the same evaluation measures it's using for the academic division to all parts of the university.
The statement comes after the university chose to hire Gray Associates to help the administration make "data-informed decisions" about all academic programs, according to the chair of the Academic Senate, Chet Cooper.
"Presumably, these data-informed decisions are intended to help ensure that YSU is able to continue to engage in its mission to students and the region by examining among other things the cost-effectiveness of various programs, while also identifying areas for cutting or greater investment," Cooper wrote in a letter to YSU President Jim Tressel, Provost Brien Smith and the YSU Board of Trustees.
Cooper wrote the letter after he says Provost Smith gave an update on the decrease in enrollment applications and admits compared to last year. According to the letter, Smith said that "the number of high school graduates is trending downward for the foreseeable future, and institutions of higher education can expect lower enrollments as a result."
"While the YSU Academic Senate agrees that the continued solvency of the university is one of the practical realities [of] higher education, it is also clear that the approach to our fiscal challenges has been short-sighted," Cooper wrote. "We believe that all students -- including students here at YSU -- deserve to have as many of the same options as those students fortunate enough to attend more prestigious universities. As such, the singular focus on academic programs represents a direct threat to our ability to provide such opportunities for learning."
Cooper says if the university plans to make data-informed decisions on how YSU is going to move forward, then all aspects of the university must be subjected to similar scrutiny.
"An independent, objective and accurate assessment of the administrative side of the university should be conducted prior to any decisions regarding departments, programs or centers," Cooper wrote.
The Academic Senate is calling on the university to begin the search for a consulting firm that focuses on academic administrations.
The Academic Senate wants the consulting firm to do the following:
1. Evaluate all non-academic units of the university including athletics in terms of their ROI.
2. Evaluate all administrative structures and unit organizations for overall efficiency.
3. Examine the impact all non-academic units have on student recruitment, retention and success.
"Unless YSU has a clear understanding of the return on investment of its non-academic units, and whether or not cost savings could be realized through increased efficiency, decreased administrative size, etc., then the administration cannot in good faith claim to be making data-informed decisions about YSU's future," Cooper wrote.
The Academic Senate is calling on the administration and board of trustees to "withhold making any decision on the reduction and/or elimination of programs and faculty until such review is completed."
The faculty union at Youngstown State University says it fully endorses the Academic Senate letter.
"The Senate is right to ask for this. If the administration wants to make changes and possible cuts based on cost/benefit data, then all divisions of the university should be subject to the same processes," said Susan Clutter, YSU-OEA president.
21 News reached out to Youngstown State University for comment, and they issued the following statement:
"We appreciate Chair Cooper's letter and value the Academic Senate's continued leadership. Our academic unit is at the center of everything we do as a university and is at the core of ensuring the success of our students and the institution in general. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Academic Senate, working together to shape a healthy, bright future for the entire YSU community."