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Published: Thursday, 7/28/2005

UT panel fortifying academic subjects

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Robert Dickeson - a former college president - vowed that if he survived an effort to prioritize academic programs at his University of Northern Colorado campus in the 1980s, he would write a book about it.

He eventually did, and now the advice of the college president turned employee of the Lumina Foundation for Education is being used as a reference on college campuses across the nation - including at the University of Toledo this academic year.

At UT, leaders this summer are in the beginning stages of a university-wide prioritization process, an effort ultimately aimed at deciding which programs and services to abolish in order to strengthen others.

Recently, a 28-member university prioritization committee was formed to head up the effort, and its members are now holding weekly meetings.

"It's a lot more difficult than anyone anticipated, given the scope of what we're looking at. But I have to say the faculty and administrative appointments on the prioritization committee have done a remarkable job in the past month investigating what other universities have done, the methods they used," said Michael Dowd, one of three chairmen of the committee. "They deserve a tremendous amount of credit in what they've been able to come up with in a month."

The effort is being headed up at UT by faculty members, who were asked earlier this year by President Dan Johnson to consider the task. The committee's recommendations are expected to be presented to the president in May, 2006.

One of the group's first deadlines will come tomorrow, when separate committees in each of the university's colleges will present their preliminary ideas about methods for prioritizing. Next month, representatives from administrative units are expected to do the same.

Mr. Dowd stressed that the approaching deadlines are only a first step in what's expected to be an involved process. He said all ideas are on the table, including the consideration about Mr. Dickeson's book and routes that have been followed at different schools, among other examples.

Prioritization is not a new concept and is needed on most college campuses, Mr. Dickeson says, because state support is dwindling, college tuition is jumping, and college programs are duplicated in unnecessary extremes. "It's safe to say that most institutions in the country, with a few exceptions, are over programmed for their resources," Mr. Dickeson said.

He said a goal of prioritization is used to improve overall quality of offerings on campuses. Some programs, he said, are not as good or effective as others and should be identified through a process. In his book, Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance, Mr. Dickeson provides a list of 10 criteria to consider when prioritizing academic programs.

He said the way prioritization is approached on a campus can make or break its outcome.

"If it's seen as a 'We vs. Them' kind of thing or its done in quiet or secrecy, it can erupt into some significant problems," Mr. Dickeson said.

At UT, the other chairmen of the prioritization committee are Jamie Barlowe, a professor of women's studies, and Nagi Naganathan, dean of the college of engineering.

Mr. Naganathan said it's important to note the process is being led by the faculty, and that it's a collaborative effort across the campus.

Throughout the process, the committee also will provide updates of its work to the faculty senate and graduate council for their feedback.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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