Chancellor Christina Drale recently released her Academic Planning Retrenchment Proposal for UA Little Rock in an attempt to address a significant budget deficit due to declining enrollment and to right-size the student-to-faculty ratio at UA Little Rock.
In her proposal released on March 30, Drale outlined how each program and department would be affected; whether it would be maintained, reduced or even fully eliminated.
“I think we all understand that we have very difficult choices to make,” Drale said in her memo. “I certainly understand that the retrenchment process is traumatic for any campus to undergo and I don’t take this lightly. This will likely be the most difficult thing this campus ever does.”
Drale outlined three priorities the University has in her proposal which are to maintain a solid liberal arts core in order to prevent UA Little Rock from turning into a technical school or a conservatory, offer programs that respond to the needs of the surrounding community and graduate level programs that “meet the demand for professional and/or advanced level preparation in areas that are in critical need for state and regional development,” and to maintain a research portfolio that should be mostly applied and responsive to local, state, and national needs.
“Preserving these elements of our institution does not necessarily mean that we have to offer them the same way as we have so far,” Drale said in her proposal. “Within our financial means, we must determine how much of each is enough to fulfill our mission and what is the best configuration to ensure sustainability.”
Twenty different programs will be eliminated with Drale’s proposal, including programs in Art & Design, Systems Engineering, Education, Public Affairs, Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering.
In Art & Design, Applied Design-Certificate Program (CP) and a Master’s (MA) in Art will be eliminated as recommended by the Academic Planning Team (APT). The APT stated that the CP in applied art has had little to no enrollment over the years and that the MA in Art does “not currently meet viability standards and does not have the same career value as the MFA degree.”
Drale has proposed major changes to the Systems Engineering Department. She is proposing to completely eliminate all System Engineering degrees and reduce programs in Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering-BS. Engineering Science & Systems-PhD, Mechanical Systems Engineering-BS, and all Engineering Technology programs.
“Systems Engineering has the lowest student to faculty full time equivalent (FTE) ratio at the institution and Engineering Technology the fifth lowest,” Drale said in her proposal. “These departments consistently run courses below the required minimum enrollment levels, and a number of engineering faculty do not have full teaching loads.”
In the Education department, Drale has proposed to eliminate both Educational Administration programs, both Higher Education programs, the Rural and Urban School Leadership program as well as the Reading-EdS program. She wants to maintain all other programs in the department, but proposes to reduce or redesign the Gifted Education-GC and Gifted, Creative, and Talented Education-MEd programs.
In the Public Affairs department, Drale proposes to eliminate the International Studies-BA and the Legal Studies-BA programs as well as reduce the Political Science BA area. This is due to The School of Public Affairs currently operating below sustainable levels, according to Drale. The Master of Public Administration will be maintained.
“I have empathy for all who are affected during this time,” April Chatham-Carpenter, Department Chair of the Department of Applied Communication and Interim Director of the School of Public Affairs, said. “Administrators at the higher levels are needing to make difficult decisions, and faculty, staff and students are also being affected. I appreciate transparency in communication, as a professional, and am grateful for the opportunities that we have been given to provide input on the decisions to be made. This university has an important mission to play in this city and needs to be financially viable to do so. I believe that we can come together during this difficult time and become stronger as a result, but it will not be easy.”
In the Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering department, Drale wants to eliminate the Construction Management-MS program as well as suspend the Architectural & Construction Engineering-BS and Environmental Engineering-BS programs. Drale argues that this is due to declining enrollment and lack of regional demand for the Construction Management program and that students mostly move out of the Architectural & Construction Engineering BS program into civil engineering anyway. She also wants to reduce the Civil & Construction Engineering-BS program but maintain the Construction Management-BS and Construction Science-AS programs.
Other eliminated programs under Drale’s proposal include Environmental Health Sciences-BS, Interdisciplinary Studies-MA, Second Languages-MA, E-Commerce-BS, Health Education/Promotion-MS, Community Management and Development-BA, and Applied Psychology-MAP.
These eliminations will only be for incoming students and will not affect students who are currently enrolled in these programs. UA Little Rock will allow for current students to complete the programs with no consequences.
Drale is also reducing, but not eliminating, many other programs, with major reductions in Theater Arts and Dance and Music.
While The APT has recommended completely eliminating the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee (FSAC) recommended growing the program, Drale wants to instead find a way to combine the department with the Music department while reducing the workforce to a more sustainable level. She has arrived at this decision based on the fact that both programs are important to and have strong ties to the Little Rock community through local arts organizations, such as Ballet Arkansas. She also hopes that keeping and combining both programs will allow for rebuilding them in the future.
Drale wants to make reductions to the Chemistry department, the English department and the Mass Communication department. She also wants to make reductions to the Philosophy-BA and the World Languages-BA programs.
Different departments and important people of the University will look over Drale’s proposal and make comments throughout the month of April. Drale will write her final proposal based on these comments at the end of the month, but a final ruling will have to be approved by the University of Arkansas System board of trustees at a later date.