By THERESA KING & ELIZABETH WHITE
(TEANECK) – Talk of a reorganization of FDU began almost immediately after Chris Capuano assumed the presidency in the fall of 2016. The university community has been awaiting details of the plan ever since.
It appears the wait may be over.
On March 19, University Provost Gillian Small sent a letter via email to the FDU faculty and staff with the report of the consultants attached. The report is strikingly similar to the reorganization concepts that the administration has previously presented to the faculty.
Although the president of ACTA, Michael Poliakoff, is a co-author of the consultants’ report, university officials were adamant in stressing that it was not an ACTA report.
“[The report] is actually from Lismore, with two authors, one being from ACTA, but it’s not an ACTA report,” Angelo Carfagna, associate vice-president for university communications told The Equinox.
In a Nov. 30, 2017 Equinox article about the hiring of the consultants, Capuano said, “the work itself is not being done by ACTA, it’s being done by the one person.”
That person is Poliakoff.
The report, which the writers termed “purely hypothetical,” outlines a “restructuring of academic units” at the Florham and Metropolitan campuses, with the majority of the structural changes occurring at Metro. Provost Small insists that the changes recommended by the consultants are not a done deal.
“I want to make sure everyone feels like they have their voices heard,” Small said in an interview with The Equinox. “There will be a lot of differing opinions [and] there will be a lot of discussions. No one person has all of the good ideas.”
Before all is said and done, the Faculty Senate may well have a say in what happens.
The Faculty Handbook states, “All broad University educational policies, regardless of their points of origin, must be considered by the Senate prior to their approval or implementation” (p. 2, V.1.2).
In the consultants’ reorganization scenario, University College would be dissolved, and the positions of dean and associate dean would be eliminated. In its place would be five schools: Nursing, Education, Engineering and Computer Science, International Tourism and Hospitality, and Psychology and Professional Counseling. Petrocelli College is the only “college” at Metro, and Silberman College is only mentioned as a model for consolidation.
And then there are the “others,” referred to in the report as “programs”:
On the Metro campus, humanities, natural science, mathematics, social science, criminal justice, communications and media, and arts, would report to departments on the Florham campus. Many of these “programs” have their own directors. It appears that those director positions would be eliminated.
“Potential savings would come from the restructuring of academic units leading to the reduction of academic administrators,” the report said.
Restructuring on the Florham campus is far more limited, consisting primarily of consolidation within Becton College, with eight departments being merged into four. Unlike Metro, there are no programs left without a department on the Florham campus. Two of the programs within departments on their campus, psychology and computer science, would report to the comparable departments on the Metro campus.
Small emphasized that nothing is set in stone.
“We don’t have to tackle it all immediately, [there is] a lot in the report,” Small said. “We have to decide what our priorities are and what would make the most sense for us to change.”
There appear to be inconsistencies in the report regarding reporting structures between the campuses, which would have to be resolved before implementation.
The consultants claim that by eliminating duplicate and low-efficiency courses on both campuses, their plan would save between $380,000 and $8.64 million, achieved through elimination of “duplicative” courses and those “enrolled at 50 percent or 75 percent of capacity.”
Small insisted that the university is not bound to follow the recommendations.
“We don’t have to take that as gospel, this is one idea of how it could be,” Small said.
The report states that, “no recommendations in this report look towards the termination of any tenured or tenure-track faculty lines.” However, the report calls for the elimination of administrative and academic support positions.
“FDU may be top-heavy in lower level academic administration and arguably understa ed in executive level administration,” the report states.
“They’re not suggesting we close programs, they’re not suggesting we get rid of anybody, it’s just a ecting the structure,” Small said. “So I think it does a ect students. It makes a clear straightforward structure for students to understand.”
The terminology and phrasing in the consultants’ report is consistent with that used in presentations of the administration given well before they were hired by FDU.
In an interview for an April 13, 2017 Equinox article, Capuano said that “some professional schools will become more independent, and opportunities to ‘eliminate duplication’ will be pursued.”
At a Town Hall meeting on Nov. 15 2017, when it was announced that the consultants had been hired, Small said, “We’re looking at low enrollment and duplication across campuses with low enrollment” and that “we want to consider combining or reducing or eliminating [programs].”
The report states, “An equally important advance would be reducing the duplication of functions” and “a modest movement toward eliminating duplication and under- filled sections could save substantial amounts of money.”
While Small said no decisions have been made, she said that the trustees have already told her they want her suggestions on the restructuring.
“The Board of Trustees have seen the report and they have charged me with coming up with some recommendations for the president and the board,” Small said.
She told The Equinox that she hoped to have her recommendations ready for the June Board meeting.
The report also focuses on “centers of excellence,” a term used frequently by Capuano and Small over the last year and a half in presentations to the faculty. Small de ned them as “top- quality programs” that “people aspire to come into.”
Small sees restructuring as a way to make the university better.
“I think there’s probably a way we can structure the university a little bit differently and so that you can still do what you want, often on either campus, but what you want is going to be stronger,” Small said.