Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Senate votes on regional campus restructuring

By Megan Zahneis, For The Miami Student

Miami's regional campuses are set to be reorganized into six new academic departments, as per a University Senate vote Monday afternoon.

Starting next fall, an umbrella "regional system" will consist of the following departments: Social and Behavioral Sciences, Education and Society, Biological Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Humanities and Creative Arts, and Languages, Literature and Writing.

Administrators say the restructuring plan will facilitate the development of new bachelor's degrees on Miami's regional campuses. The long-term goal of offering between 18 and 21 regional degrees is a response to a 2008 mandate by the Ohio Board of Regents and to declining regional enrollment rates.

Senate voted in favor of the new departmental structure, with 43 senators voting yes, one dissenter and one abstention.

The overwhelmingly positive vote came on the heels of weeks of controversy surrounding the move. Many regional faculty expressed concern about not being given ample opportunity to express their opinions on the matter. Senate considered delaying its vote until Nov. 30 in order to solicit additional faculty feedback.

Cathy Wagner, an Oxford-based English professor and vice president of the Miami advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), circulated an informal survey among regionals faculty. The survey, which asked whether faculty would like to see Monday's vote move forward without delay and offered a text field for further comment, garnered 16 responses in a two-day span. Three faculty members voted in favor of the vote moving forward, and eight dissented.

John Krafft, an associate professor of English who has worked on the Hamilton campus for 25 years, identified himself in his survey response.

"I would like for everyone to consider that the issue of names may look innocent enough, but a yes vote for the names would be the entering wedge, and the game may be lost before we know all the stakes if we vote yes," Krafft wrote. "We should see the entire finished regionalization plan before we vote on anything, not let ourselves be nickeled and dimed."

Some anonymous respondents espoused the need for more time to draft a plan.

"I strongly believe this vote is premature and that the new regional department structure, which is a MAJOR change not only to governance but to MUPIM, needs more deliberation and public discussion," one faculty member wrote. "Especially because the proposed model concerns radical changes to regional faculty's appointment and tenure home, I believe we have the right to discuss it at length and to vote on it as well. I don't believe the regional 'upgrade', as they are now calling it, has fully taken the views and public comments of faculty, staff, and students into account."

Others said they were unsure of how beneficial the new departmental structure would be.

"The idea that all of these new departments can be formed so easily, just by making a few modifications, is foolishness. There needed to be a serious discussion of how the new departments would have to operate differently from the [existing structure of] coordinatorships. That hasn't happened," another faculty member said. "It's quite worrisome that we'll now stagger into a new era so ill-prepared."

The same faculty member said the vote represents a missed opportunity for Miami administration.

"A moment was missed here. There was a chance to take up the huge issue of how to use new department structures to advance the regionals as four-year institutions," the faculty member wrote. "Instead, the very limited time available was spent on hurrying reports that serve only to support unrealistic timetables. Rome wasn't built in a day, except at Miami U."

One faculty voiced concern that the regional restructuring was part of a larger problem.

"This vote is another example of compartmentalizing issues, nibbling at the edges, obfuscating real issues," another faculty member wrote. "It's like voting on which shade of green sounds most like a piano. I would much prefer we speak to issues much more in the core: Faculty recruitment and retention, Miami priorities and decision-making, and improved education and opportunities for our students."

A few faculty members were resigned to the seeming inevitability of the changes, discarding the notion of taking more time.

"If you accept the premise that all regional campus faculty must become members of regional campus departments, I think it is extremely doubtful that more time would produce a better configuration," another regional faculty member wrote. "I do think there are plenty of reasons to question the premise, however, and I believe the whole initiative is unnecessary and will be unproductive. We are told it's not a question IF we do this but HOW. Given that, I don't think more time will improve the result."

A final comment seemingly summed up faculty sentiment on the issue.

"I am ok with the structure if it is given that there has to be one," a faculty member wrote.