Hiram College’s Statement on the Recommendations for Academic Redesign

May 15, 2018

On May 15, 2018, Dr. Judy Muyskens, the Interim Dean of Hiram College, presents a series of recommendations regarding the academic redesign to faculty-at-large and to two important shared governance groups: the Academic Program Committee (APC) and the Appointment, Tenure, and Promotion Committee (ATP). These recommendations have been shaped substantially by the specific input and direct feedback of many: faculty members, APC, ATP, staff, students, administrators, alumni and trustees.

The Dean’s recommendations also align with the Strategic Plan 2017-2020, approved by the Board of Trustees in July 2017 and announced as Hiram College’s Bold Plan for the Future in December of 2017. The Plan underscores Hiram’s commitment to a quality, student-centered education with an innovative liberal arts foundation that prepares 21st-century graduates for the ever-changing world and workforce.

Over the past six months, Dean Muyskens has worked closely with a faculty committee called the Strategic Academic Team (SAT). The SAT has met ~40 times. With SAT, Dean Muyskens has analyzed Hiram data, read articles and reports on higher education and job forecasts, and talked with and listened to many members of the Hiram community. SAT has reviewed Hiram’s departmental and institutional data, worked with Hiram faculty-at-large to formulate programmatic evaluation criteria, and reviewed relevant higher education literature and research.

Over the same time period, Dean Muyskens has met regularly with shared governance groups (APC and ATP) and many other internal and external groups on campus regarding the academic redesign.

After a deliberate, data-driven, and inclusive process, Dean Muyskens has presented a series of recommendations that are intended to reshape the academic curriculum by eliminating some programs and ultimately enhancing others. The recommendations are delineated below.

Recommendations to Enhance Academic Programs

  1. Create a new interdisciplinary major called Fine, Performing, and Digital Arts.
  2. Create a Crime and Justice program that pulls from several programs (Sociology, Philosophy, Political Science, Public Health, and Psychology).
  3. Create an International Studies major. This program would build upon our existing International Studies minor, Asian Studies minor, and minors in Modern Languages, as well as the strength we have in our study abroad program.
  4. Create a Sports Management program that pulls from several programs (Educational Studies, Business, Psychology, Communication and Integrative Exercise Science).
  5. Examine the feasibility of creating a program in Data Analytics that pulls from several programs (Math, Computer Science, Physics and Business).
  6. Examine the feasibility of creating a program in Engineering (emphasis TBD).
  7. Examine the feasibility of creating a program in Gaming and Interactive Media.
  8. Examine the feasibility of creating a program in Information Technology and/or Information Systems.

If approved, these enhancements will not occur all at once; they will be phased in over time.

Recommendations to Discontinue Academic Programs

  1. Discontinue the majors and minors in Studio Art & Art History, Music, and Theater Arts.
  2. Discontinue the major and minor in Religious Studies.
  3. Discontinue the majors in Economics, Philosophy, Mathematics, Spanish, and French while maintaining the minors in each area.

It is important to note that all students who are currently in a major identified for elimination or modification will have the opportunity to finish their declared major as defined by the Hiram College Catalog year in which they entered. Hiram takes seriously its ethical obligation to teach out any program that is discontinued. Students should feel comfortable continuing their studies at Hiram and graduating from the program they have chosen to complete.

Impact on Faculty Positions

The recommended reductions would impact six faculty positions as follows:

  • Two tenured faculty positions would be eliminated—one in Music, one in Religious Studies;
  • Two tenure-track positions would be eliminated—one in Philosophy, one in English;
  • One renewable contract faculty position will be eliminated in Accounting/Financial Management; and
  • One visiting faculty position would be eliminated in Mathematics.

We expect the reduction part of the redesign to conclude by June 30th, the end of this fiscal year.

It is difficult to recommend the eliminations of any faculty positions. We have worked diligently and creatively, such that the aforementioned recommendations will lead to the layoffs of six faculty. The recommendations for faculty eliminations are based on data that includes (but is not limited to) the following: the number of graduates in existing programs over the course of several years; the numbers of current and past students taking such courses as part of their major, core, or elective requirements; the interests defined by prospective students in the enrollment funnel; and regional and national workforce demands.

The other adjustments were achieved through retirements, non-renewed contracts, and reassignments. All work in this area has been fueled by data analysis and strategic thinking with a student-centric focus. Equally important is the compassionate and humane way we are striving to carry out this difficult work.

Next Steps in the Academic Redesign Process – From Recommendations to Final Decisions:

After presenting these recommendations on academic redesign to the faculty as a whole and asking for their input, Dean Muyskens will consult with the ATP and the APC committees. The faculty and both committees have the opportunity to provide formal feedback to the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College.

Dean Muyskens will work with the Faculty Chair, Dr. Nicolas Hirsch, as the handbook indicates, to combine the recommendations into a summary report for President Lori Varlotta. The president will carefully review and consider the summary of recommendations; she will then draft her recommendations and share them with the Board of Trustees. Only the Board of Trustees has the authority to make final decisions regarding the elimination of tenured faculty positions. It is anticipated that the Board of Trustees will make a final decision on the proposed recommendations by the end of May or early June 2018, after which Hiram will make a public announcement.

Nothing is more difficult for any college than eliminating faculty positions. Final decisions in this area will be deeply painful for all members of this small community, especially those whose positions are eliminated. This process has been and will continue to be challenging. Still, we are confident that it will lay the groundwork for strengthening our academic offerings, attracting and retaining students, and forging new bridges among faculty and staff as Hiram College strives to meet the urgent challenges of our time.