UNCA chancellor proposes four academic programs for elimination, one for reduction

In April, as UNCA grappled with its fiscal crisis, it dismissed 12 staffers, and it previously put adjunct professors on notice that their contracts would not be renewed for the next academic year. // Watchdog photo by Starr Sariego

by Addison Wright, avlwatchdog.org

UNC Asheville Chancellor Kimberly van Noort announced Thursday that the university plans to eliminate four of 27 academic programs and reduce a fifth as part of its efforts to reduce a $6 million deficit.

The programs proposed for elimination are Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Drama, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. Languages and Literatures would be “curtailed” under her proposal, which she announced in an update to students, faculty and staff.

After giving faculty the opportunity to review and respond, she will submit her plan to UNC System President Peter Hans and the UNC Board of Governors for review in July.

“The University remains steadfast in its commitment to the entire community and will fully support all students in the impacted programs and all impacted faculty members as we move forward,” van Noort said in her update.

Van Noort’s communication did not provide details about the timeframe for the changes or details about how Languages and Literatures will be affected.

Students in the targeted programs will be able to complete their degree programs at UNCA, van Noort said. She did not provide additional details.

“Any impacted faculty will have advance notice of changes to their employment status and access to University assistance to identify new opportunities,” van Noort said.

In a previous campus update, van Noort had said the university would provide a six to 12 month notice to tenured and tenure-track faculty in advance of any change to their employment. Other affected faculty would receive 30 to 90 days notice, according to UNC System policy.

Sociology professor Volker Frank said affected faculty are unclear about lies ahead.

“A lot of it, or most, remains unclear as to specific consequences, for tenured and tenured track faculty, and the affected departments, ” Frank said. “There are also a lot of rumors, fears, and anxieties around this process, understandably so.”

After UNCA announced its fiscal crisis in April, it dismissed 12 staffers, and it notified adjunct professors that their contracts would not be renewed for the next academic year. The financial shortfall stems partly from a dramatically shrinking enrollment over more than a decade. The enrollment decline has in turn reduced the funding from the UNC system.

Faculty and students are concerned about the university’s ability to provide an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree and to provide small focused classes with less faculty on hand.

“I am glad I am towards the end of my working life and feel desperately sorry for the younger faculty for whom this is an undeserved blow,” said Sophie Mills, a professor of Ancient Mediterranean Studies.

Van Noort’s decision-making process

As part of UNCA’s academic review, Charlotte-based First Tryon Advisors advised the university to examine 14 academic majors for possible reductions and eliminations.

Faculty criticized First Tryon’s review. They said its methodology was biased against departments with higher-paid staff and professors on paid leave and didn’t account for their work outside of their department.

Van Noort previously told The Watchdog she was considering additional data beyond First Tryon’s.

“From a quantitative standpoint, we are looking at graduation numbers and rates, number of majors, faculty-student ratios, student credit hours taught, etc,” van Noort said. “Qualitatively, we are also consulting with several departments.”

Van Noort said the university would regularly review its academic offerings every few years.

UNCA’s reductions follow the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s announcement in February that it would cut 20 academic programs because of budget constraints. Before its announcement, the university conducted an outside review, but not through First Tryon. Its decisions were met with criticism from students and faculty.

Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Addison Wright graduated from UNCA, where she majored in mass communications and political science. She served as news editor for The Blue Banner, UNCA’s school newspaper. The Watchdog’s reporting is made possible by donations from the community. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.


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6 thoughts on “UNCA chancellor proposes four academic programs for elimination, one for reduction

  1. Voirdire

    “Languages and Literatures would be ‘curtailed’ under her proposal”. And so it goes in the bigger picture as well. And oh, it’s Literature ..singular and plural. sigh.

  2. Anna Holleman

    A liberal arts university chancellor even considering cutting academic programs should have their employment status questioned.

  3. Jason Williams

    How about a trickle down elimination? Start with the Administration and work its way down.

  4. Curious

    Will this story be updated? Many unasked, unanswered questions. Start with, “How much savings will the cuts the Chancellor is making affect the debt?” “What is the current status of the debt after the cuts?”

  5. T100

    Eliminating degree programs whose names end in “Studies” is a step in the right direction.

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