The work of the Academic Program Prioritization (APP) action group focused on the Appropriate Size goal of the Ithaca Forever Strategic Plan: to determine and maintain an appropriate and sustainable size for programs and structures, and their associated resources, at every level of the institution by developing a coordinated, college-level process of assessment and review of academic units. Specifically, the APP action group worked to develop a broad set of guiding principles by which all academic programs would be evaluated, looking for opportunities for growth, consolidation, or elimination.
The APP action group was charged with its work prior to the onset of COVID-19, independent of any FY21 budget issues or shortfalls. Its charge related to setting up guidelines for IC’s long-term response and adaptations (on the academic side) to progressively declining enrollment and aligning Ithaca College with the realities of the changing landscape for higher education. The ongoing impact and uncertainty created by COVID-19 both accelerated and complicated the work of the APP action group. For example, despite consistent reminders that the work of this group began prior to the pandemic, and that enrollment had declined progressively at IC over the last five years, faculty feedback to the APP action group was, in part, to slow the process down and to avoid making long-term decisions during a crisis. It was for reasons like these that the action group repeatedly asked for and was granted additional time in order to expand the number and form of opportunities to solicit feedback from the faculty. The timeline and activity of the APP action group’s work illustrates the number of times and myriad ways in which we solicited feedback from faculty. Data collection via surveys also included the opportunity to provide narrative comments as well.
These principles are intended to provide guidance to the Provost as she completes the work of APP. The process we implemented was inclusive and engaging of as many faculty as could come to the table during a particularly busy and stressful period of time. In addition to discussions about the principles themselves, the action group fielded frequent questions about the process itself: when would it begin, how would it be structured and implemented, and most significantly: would faculty have a voice, was there a way that faculty could be involved in the discussions leading up to the decision-making, etc. As mentioned in the APP action group’s progress report, faculty engagement in this process grew exponentially once it began. This remained consistent throughout the full spectrum of faculty feedback and Q&A sessions, including ALL Faculty meetings hosted by Provost Cornish. In this report, we are providing an expanded discussion of the guiding principles by which APP may be conducted, as well as our general recommendations as a result of this work.