Academic prioritization worries some, assures others

The academic prioritization process, which helps determine the fate of academic programs at Southern Oregon University, has been on the minds of faculty and staff members ever since the final reports were released in May.

The academic prioritization report ranked 165 academic programs into quintiles of 33 programs each. Eighteen programs were less than two years old and were not ranked. The full report can be read here.

All of the faculty and staff members contacted by the Siskiyou whose programs ranked in  the fifth quintile were either unable to respond to questions posed by email, did not want to comment on the prioritization process, or had not reviewed the prioritization report at the time the questions were posed.

David Humphrey, the director of the performing arts department, said there “were no surprises for us as we have been reassessing all our programs in the performing arts area for the past nine months.”

Humphrey’s department saw their programs spread out over all the quintiles. The theater arts program was ranked in the first quintile, which “reaffirms our belief that our Theatre Arts program is one of the best in the nation,” Humphrey said.

Other performing arts programs weren’t as lucky, such as the Shakespeare studies minor and the theater arts minor, which ranked in the fourth and fifth quintiles respectively.

According to the SOU theater arts webpage, SOU was designated a “Center for Excellence in the fine and performing arts” by the Oregon University system.

According the academic prioritization report submitted by the prioritization board, programs that were ranked in the first quintile are in a position to be enhanced in the future, while programs that were ranked in the fifth have uncertain futures as they may face consolidation, restructure or elimination.

University officials involved in the process, including Daniel DeNeui, an SOU psychology professor who headed the prioritization process, and Jim Klein, SOU provost, have stressed that a program’s ranking does not automatically guarantee elimination or expansion. A host of other factors are also considered, such as how the program contributes to the institution’s future goals and how the program fulfills the university’s immediate needs.

They added that any students currently enrolled in any major will be guaranteed to graduate, regardless of changes made to the department.

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