Opinion

Response to Equinox from President Christopher Capuano and University Provost Gillian Small

Thank you for the opportunity to further discuss the strategic planning process and our current dialogue concerning restructuring.

We first want to address a few points raised in last edition’s story. The first point we would like to make is that the University commissioned the consulting firm as part of the strategic planning process. The University has embarked on a five-year strategic plan—a roadmap for continued growth, excellence and distinction. As part of the process, preliminary recommendations have been developed and shared, all aimed at helping FDU navigate a shifting economic, political, cultural and educational environment. The recommendations provided by the consulting firm are simply a starting point for a University-wide dialogue that will propel us forward; nothing has been finalized at this point.

It’s essential that readers of The Equinox understand that the higher education environment in which FDU operates is changing rapidly, especially in the northeast, including declining demographic tends. This is why we must be proactive and work to improve ourselves and make our University as strong as possible.

The planning process is open to the entire FDU community, including the faculty and Faculty Senate. We invite everyone to share their input and recommendations. In the end, however, the administration, with the approval of the Board of Trustees, is tasked with the responsibility of making final decisions.

 

We also feel it’s important to again note that these recommendations were provided by the consulting firm Lismore, and there were two authors of the report.

The Equinox noted that the findings are similar to some comments mentioned in the past by the president and others, implying that the recommendations were a foregone conclusion. A great deal of thought was incorporated into the report by Lismore, including what some potential models of reorganization might look like. But neither ourselves, nor anyone in the administration, told the firm what to report. Their report is completely independent.

It’s also important to stress that, while we do hope there will be expense reductions as a result of any reorganization, much of the funds will be used to re- invest in FDU to improve the quality of education, facilities, faculty, technology and more. All this is to create the FDU of the future.

We would like to address as many of the follow-up questions as possible, but for some questions, it is simply too early to provide a comprehensive response.

The duplication that has been referenced relates to the cases where both campuses are offering similar programs and/or services. Obviously because we operate two campuses, some duplication is necessary but there are potential instances where we can streamline operations. We cannot say exactly what those cases may be because again nothing has been decided at this point.

There is no set time frame for any one change. We hope to present some recommendations to the Board of Trustees in June for their consideration. However, we are considering changes as part of a continuing strategic planning process. We know we cannot (and we should not) implement too many changes at once.

Many questions posed to us reference the impact of the changes. This is impossible to forecast without knowing what changes we will enact.

Now our focus is working with the community to decide which changes make the most sense for our University and our students.

We’ve referenced a “University-wide dialogue” on several occasions related to the Strategic Plan, and it’s exactly what we want and need at this point. We’re seeking input from the entire University community, including students, alumni, faculty and staff. We’ll be far wiser when we have everyone’s input.

Senior University leadership will visit with faculty during the next several months, and there will be a town hall meeting at each New Jersey campus to allow for a more thorough discussion. In the meantime, please share your thoughts with us. Your comments can be sent to strategicplan@fdu.edu.

While we cannot predict what changes are ultimately enacted, we can say that the Florham and Metropolitan campuses will remain vibrant academic hubs, hosting a vast array of colleges, schools and programs. And no recommendations call for the termination of any existing programs or any tenured or tenure-track faculty lines. What is open for discussion is our internal structure and ways to improve efficiency, reduce duplication and maximize resources.

We are firmly committed to ensuring that the Florham

and Metropolitan campuses remain distinct, while syncing academic programs and student resources. In some instances, that might mean one of the campuses serving as the administrative home of a particular program, but with course offerings remaining in place at both campuses.

The heart of the proposal is identifying synergies and opportunities for enhanced learning. In some cases, that might mean the creation of more focused academic centers—centers of excellence—that provide targeted educational leadership, best practices, research, and support and training, all within a specific academic area. In other cases, FDU might look to combine smaller programs by grouping them into larger, better organized units—thus providing more opportunities for students, while also maximizing resources and creating more defined reporting lines.

We are far too early in this process to answer exactly how any proposed changes will impact students. All proposed changes will require considerable discussion and input, and all possible scenarios will be reviewed in terms of how to best serve our students, enhance the welfare of the entire University, and ensure a prosperous future.

This letter was edited for length.

 

Categories: Opinion