||Professor Craig Eckhardt, Chair, Academic Planning Committee
||Harvey Perlman, Chancellor
||Definition of 'Program'
I am responding directly to you regarding a letter Merlyn Nielsen sent me on behalf of the Academic Planning Committee. The letter invited my interpretation of the last three definitions of 'program' in our current procedures for program reductions and elimination. I very much appreciate the nature and seriousness of your concern and the importance of this issue to the faculty and to the University. We all understand that the definition of program is critical if we get to the point where tenured faculty would be laid off through program eliminations.
The Vice Chancellors and I would approach the issue of laying off tenured faculty with the utmost caution. Even the prospect that I may be required to make such a recommendation has caused me considerable personal turmoil and reflection. We have all spent our professional lives understanding and benefitting from the tradition of tenure. Thus separate and apart from the definition of 'program', any action that would adversely affect tenured faculty will be a monumental decision.
If I am called upon to make such a decision, I fully realize that my future as an effective Chancellor will depend, in large part, on whether I can convince the core of the faculty that the decision was a proper one. I do not speak of any rules or procedures. Rather, I speak of the practical realities of having sufficient remaining support to continue to function as your leader. No Chancellor can function if the faculty no longer prefer the devil they have to the devil they might get. This means that I will, in the minds of the faculty, have a heavy burden of justification for any such recommendation. There will first be the matter of whether the barrier of tenure needs to be breached at all. If I can sustain that burden, the next issue will be whether I can justify eliminating the programs I have selected. I understand both the potential reach of our current definition and the faculty's concern. Any use of the authority to eliminate programs as a guise for singling out individual faculty for elimination because of their views, their performance, or their compensation would be contrary to our procedures and our academic traditions and would threaten all faculty members. I would not select a program on this basis.
At the same time there are legitimate 'programs' within departments that are small and function with very small numbers of faculty and are peripheral to our core mission. I should not be placed in the position of having to eliminate more than might be necessary in order to avoid utilizing the program definitions you address. However, as the size of the program decreases, the concern regarding my motives will increase. Accordingly, I believe in such a case, again in the practical realities of running the University, I would bear a particularly onerous burden of demonstrating that my decision was justified.
I doubt that this response will give you the full comfort you might want on this important matter. However, our circumstances are too uncertain to give you absolute assurance that I would not employ the full reach of the definition of 'program' if I thought it were in the best interest of the University. I look forward to a continued discussion of these issues.
cc: Professor Merlyn Nielsen