WVU Tech begins academic review process; cuts not first priority | News

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West Virginia University Institute of Technology officials have begun eliciting feedback for its program review process, which has some students and faculty fearing it will lead to a repeat of cuts experienced at WVU.

Although it was a similar academic review process that resulted in cuts to academic programs and faculty at WVU, Lou Slimak, associate provost for curriculum and assessment at WVU, said the goals for each institution during this process are vastly different.

“When I had this meeting in Morgantown, the stated goals were to reduce cost,” Slimak said. “That meant cutting programs. That meant cutting faculty.”

Though he admitted that the process could result in cuts to programs and faulty at Tech, Slimak said the goals for Tech are not spurred by a need to meet specific financial requirements but to review programs and improve student success.

“It is understandable then that something under the same moniker starts to cause community panic, student panic,” he said. “So part of my job is to come down here and say, ‘Here are the goals. Here’s the processes. It’s different. It’s the same in certain ways, but it’s very different in terms of the goals.’”

Slimak said he defines student success as the ability of students to stay in their majors and complete them.

He added that WVU Potomac State College is also undergoing a similar process.

During separate meetings Friday with WVU Tech students and faculty on Tech’s campus in Beckley, Slimak fielded questions and gave an overview of what the review process, which is officially being called “Academic Transformation,” will look like at WVU Tech.

With the Academic Transformation process, Slimak said WVU administrators aim to take a more comprehensive look at trends in higher education and what changes WVU can implement that account for those.

“Part of what I see academic transformation doing is pulling it all together at one time under one umbrella, so you have a large strategic look at the changes you want to make,” he said.

WVU Tech President T. Ramon Stuart said the review will ensure that their programs meet current and future needs of students.

“We’re going to be looking at programs that make sense, both in terms of current and future needs and also that accent the workforce needs both current and future,” Stuart said. “A lot of our stuff will be focusing on student success.”

He added that he wants to assure students and faculty that this review process is not about eliminating but elevating programs.

“Through this process, we’re going to be able to keenly focus on student success, making sure that a young person or anybody that comes to Tech knows that they have access to an affordable quality degree, and knowing that we’re committed to doing everything in our power to help them get across the stage,” Stuart said.

With cuts to jobs and programs at WVU resulting from a $45 million budget shortfall making national news, WVU Tech freshman Savannah Goins said she was concerned about how or if that would affect Tech.

Goins, a forensics major, said it was because of this fear that she attended the student meeting on Friday.

“I wanted to see if things were getting cut in my specific major or other classes that were required for my major and just to make sure if I needed to maybe transfer schools or weigh other options,” she said, adding that she hoped that was not the case as she chose Tech because of its affordability and location.

After leaving the meeting, Goins said she felt relieved that Slimak could alleviate her primary concern regarding any cuts.

WVU Tech accounting major Adriana Buchanan said she was grateful to hear directly from WVU staff familiar with the process instead of potentially having to piece together answers on her own.

Tech faculty brought up these same concerns at their meeting with Slimak.

Mark Jones, chair for the Department of Sports and Recreation Management at Tech, said his concerns were eased once further explanation was provided.

“I saw what happened in Morgantown, and so I think this clears it up – now we know the process,” he said.

WVU Tech faculty were provided with a more in-depth look at the process and timeline for the academic review process during their meeting Friday.

From now until the end of the year, Slimak said faculty are encouraged to fill out provided surveys regarding their programs.

Ideally, before the end of the year, Slimak said faculty will also receive data regarding student success and other measured statistics that are being keyed in on during the review process.

Given this data, Slimak said faculty will be given the opportunity to highlight and explain the metrics as well as offer suggestions for program improvements.

The deadline to submit feedback and program reviews will be Feb. 12. Those will then be compiled and developed into preliminary recommendations, to be released Feb. 26.

Staff will be able to appeal decisions outlined in the draft proposal during a hearing, which will take place near the end of March.

Based on which appeals are approved, a final proposal for Tech’s Academic Transformation will be presented to its faculty senate before it makes its way to Morgantown to WVU’s Faculty Senate and then to WVU’s Board of Governors.

Final approval for Tech’s Academic Transformation plan will rest in the hands of the WVU’s Board of Governors, which Slimak said is a requirement per WVU’s Board of Governors Rule 2.2.

Unlike what occurred in Morgantown at WVU, Slimak said Tech is under no time crunch to finalize its Academic Transformation plan, which means students and staff will have ample opportunity to provide feedback.

In the coming weeks, Slimak said there will be a tab on the WVU Tech’s website for students and staff to provide feedback and suggestions related to the Academic Transformation process.

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