Why are we reorganizing our academic programs and structure?

UIS’ academic programs and structure have remained mostly unchanged in a higher education marketplace that has and will continue to evolve in response to our ever-changing world.  To revitalize our programs and attract students, we need to better align programs that relate to each other. This realignment will spark and capture synergies and create opportunities for greater academic collaboration. It is expected that the realignment of units will lead to the eventual addition of new programs in high demand areas. It will also enhance our ability to reinforce our essential and strong programs.

Through reorganization we will create new scholarly communities that will lead to innovation in teaching and knowledge creation so that units are better positioned for future growth and success.

How will the academic structure change?

Before the onset of reorganization, the University had programs offered through 32 academic departments organized under four colleges. These units ranged significantly in terms of their size and their academic impact.  Also, the institution has historically provided little in the way of professional development for unit leadership.  Despite an impressive array of assigned duties and responsibilities, department chairs have been largely disempowered at UIS.  A new structure would bring the programs currently housed in academic departments under larger schools housed within colleges. Many departments, as they now exist will be eliminated, and their constituent programs will be brought together under the new schools. The school structure will streamline our ability to develop strong unit administrative leaders, support school flexibility and responsiveness, and build synergy that will reinvigorate our academic programs and generate administrative savings.

How does/will academic reorganization lead to greater administrative effectiveness?

We anticipate that approximately 15 units will exist spread across four colleges when the reorganization has been completed.  These unit leaders will assume the full roles and responsibilities established for them that, with the addition of professional development, will empower them to become more effective academic leaders capable of achieving goals identified through the UIS Strategic Compass.

How will administrative savings be used?

Administrative savings will be reinvested in academic revitalization as well as to support recruitment and retention initiatives for programs.

What is the process for reorganizing programs?

The academic reorganization process began with the opportunity for faculty to meet and discuss administrative and academic alignments that were perceived to offer students and faculty the teaching and learning, scholarship, and service opportunities they desire for themselves and their students.  Concept papers or white papers were submitted to the Provost’s Office and were reviewed by a faculty advisory committee.  Responses to each submission were drafted and shared with the authors of the concept papers providing feedback, advice, and guidance. Here is a short synopsis:

  • Once white papers are developed, they are shared with the Provost, who reviews them with the Academic Reorganization Advisory Committee and provides written feedback and guidance to the submitting units. View the current listing of white papers and link to responses
  • These units have received feedback on their proposals and are continuing their planning efforts.  Their next decision will be whether to submit a formal request that will go through the governance process.

What is the governance process for the reorganization?

UIS has identified the Levels of Governance required for administrative restructuring on campus, to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, and then to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

What is the timeline for implementation?

Discussions and processes for creating newly aligned units are going at different paces, and each unit may move forward on its own timeline to ensure that there has been adequate time for thoughtful deliberation and the submission of alternative proposals. This means there will likely be a mix of units (departments, schools, divisions, or colleges) at the same time in the future until the process is completed.

How will academic reorganization help stem enrollment decline?

Our academic programs will be stronger due to the synergy and knowledge created by cross-disciplinary collaboration. Stronger programs will attract strong students. It may also free resources needed to reinforce and add programs to meet student demand and need. Finally, better aligning programs under schools and colleges will make it easier for prospective students to find what they are looking for and see more career paths. We will be better able to market programs to students based on their interests.

Where does the library fit into this plan?

The Dean of Brookens Library is also leading discussions of how the library could be restructured to provide even better service to students and faculty.

What will the impact of reorganization be on alumni and donors who are loyal to particular units?

In most cases, we believe that alumni identify most closely with their degree programs and faculty. As programs and faculty will not change as a result of the reorganization, it is expected that interactions between alumni and members of the university community will continue.

How will reorganization affect the marketing of programs?

The new organizational structure will allow the University to increase focus on program-related marketing.  This marketing strategy allows  students to more easily find programs in a broad area of interest as well as specific programs within that area. Until recently, most university-level student recruitment marketing has been focused on building the UIS brand rather than specific programs. There has been little centralized funding to support the marketing of individual programs, meaning that some programs were better equipped to promote themselves than others based on departmental resources. The reorganization supports a shift to a more strategic, program-focused approach that will provide greater visibility to ALL programs through better targeting of messages and materials. Piloting of these efforts is underway.

How will academic reorganization affect students?

By bringing faculty and students who have similar disciplinary programs and interests together into newly aligned units, we will create greater synergy and new opportunities for new programs and additional experiential and active learning.

Will academic reorganization affect a student’s ability to complete the program in which he or she is enrolled? For example, will students have to worry about having to take different core classes they may not have needed in their previous school?

The academic reorganization does not involve any changes in academic programs or degree requirements.  The academic reorganization is primarily an administrative reorganization.  It is anticipated that the realignment of units will stimulate the development of new academic programs and degree options that will prepare students for the changing workplace.

Will academic reorganization affect the name of a student’s degree or what it says on her or his diploma?

No. The names of degrees will not change under any proposed reorganization.

Will graduate programs be eliminated or consolidated in the restructuring?

Restructuring itself will not affect graduate programs.

Will positions be eliminated as a result of the reorganization?

No. Reorganization itself is not about eliminating programs, faculty, or staff but about creating new scholarly communities that will lead to innovation in teaching and knowledge creation so that units are better positioned for future growth and success.

What happens to faculty who a) teach in multiple programs if the programs are split into different schools or colleges under the new structure or b) may feel they are a better fit in another school?

Under scenario a) memoranda of understanding would be prepared between the programs that outline the contributions of the faculty member. That is, the faculty member would remain with their primary unit (in which tenure is vested).  Additionally, the faculty member could seek a joint-appointment in the related unit.

Under scenario b), this sort of change might be pursued AFTER the implementation of the reorganization plan. That is, in the same way, that a faculty member may presently seek a change in tenure home, a faculty member could seek to move from one school to another. Such decisions would be governed by university policy on transfers of tenure/tenure home and would be made on a case-by-case basis.

Our departmental home is where faculty tenure resides. How will the dissolution of departments affect the protection of one’s tenure?

The proposed reorganization will not result in any loss of tenure. A faculty member who holds tenure in an academic department would see her or his tenure transferred to the newly formed unit. (This would be the unit that is home to the academic degree program most closely tied to the faculty member’s academic interests and experience.)

What changes should a tenure-track faculty member expect to see in the tenure (promotion, reappointment) process due to the reorganization?

None. Under the current Faculty Personnel Policy, all of these reviews will follow the process under the existing by-laws until new unit by-laws are established.

As a non-tenure-track faculty member, who will determine my contract status if the leader of the proposed new unit is not familiar with the specific needs/curriculum of the major?

The academic leader of the unit will be responsible for all faculty workload assignments, making recommendations to the dean in consultation with program coordinators. As is currently the case, deans will ultimately be responsible for recommendations to the Provost on reappointments of NTT faculty. Again, this system is presently in place and operating well in the academic units.

Can programs opt to maintain their civil service staff members?

Civil service staff will be assigned based on anticipated workload in consultation with unit leaders, deans, and human resources and in compliance with appropriate policy and practice.  Many staff may remain with their existing unit, while others may take on centralized responsibilities in a newly formed unit school or in another area of campus. We anticipate having flexibility after the reorganization to address longstanding challenges with staffing support. Decisions will be made in consultation with stakeholders after the colleges and units are finalized.

What are the possible “units” addressed in the University of Illinois Statutes?

The UI Statutes (Article III. Campuses, Colleges and Similar Campus Units; and Article IV. Departments) refer to a variety of units, including department, school, division, and college.

A department is defined in Article IV.Section 1.a. (Page 13).

“The department is the primary unit of education and administration within the University.  It is established for the purpose of carrying on programs of instruction, research, and public service in a particular field of knowledge.” (p13)

A school (division) is defined in Article III. Section 4: The School and Similar Campus Units. (Page 11).

“In addition to colleges and departments, there may be other units of a campus, such as a school, institute, center, hospital, and laboratory, of an intermediate character designed to meet particular needs.” (p11)

A college is defined in Article III, Section 2: The College.  (Page 9).

“The college is an educational and administrative group comprised of departments and other units with common educational interests.” (p9)

How will the current work of chairs get done in the new structure?

Administrative responsibilities will be assigned to the Unit Executive Office (UEO) of the units.  For example, if a school was created through the realignment of three existing departments, the Director of the School would perform their assigned roles and responsibilities.  This will significantly reduce the number of individuals performing the set of associated tasks.

What will the responsibilities of the chair/head of a department or the Director of a school be?

The chair/head of a department is the chief academic, administrative, and fiscal officer for the academic unit (UEO). The Director of the school is the chief academic, administrative, and fiscal officer for those academic units (UEO). The director roles and responsibilities will need to be defined but will likely include the responsibilities of current department chairs. Responsibilities of chairs/heads as currently specified in the Faculty Personnel Policy include:

Section 6.  Department Direction

A.       Department administrators, irrespective of whether they are called Directors or Chairs, have similar functions and responsibilities.

Functions of department administrators are the following:

  • provide effective leadership for faculty in the department/division;
  • assume responsibility for seeing that decisions assigned to the department/division by university policies and procedures are made and communicated to others in the University;
  • convey recommendations concerning such matters as curriculum development, budgetary requests, position requests, multi-year schedules, and faculty development activities.

Responsibilities of department administrators include overseeing, supervising, and/or coordinating the following:

  • the work of faculty in the development of department curriculum, educational philosophy and academic standards and the department’s long-term planning efforts;
  • coordinate formal reviews of degrees and certificates (if applicable), oversee the preparation of documents for follow-up and accreditation review, prepare documents for curricular changes, catalog revisions, and other documents necessary to convey the department’s curricular plans;
  • develop multi-year course schedules and staffing plans for curricular delivery, consistent with institutional priorities and student needs.  Prepare annual course schedule documents and faculty assignment summary sheets for faculty approval, and coordinate curricular delivery and make recommendations about non-instructional assignments;
  • lead and participate in the selection and development of full and part-time faculty;
  • oversee faculty searches in accordance with University policies and procedures;
  • develop and coordinate student recruitment, retention, advising, and service activities of the unit;
  • implement and monitor admissions, student progress, and closure requirements of the department’s degree(s) and certificate(s) (if applicable), as well as professional certification or registration of students;
  • represent the department(s) to external organizations and groups, inter-institutional activities, and accrediting agencies;
  • lead the department(s) in developing budget requests and priorities and approve expenditures according to them;
  • oversee the selection and supervision of the department graduate assistants and student workers as appropriate;
  • direct the work of support staff;
  • communicate information to and from the dean and appropriate governance bodies and report the results of department actions and deliberations;
  • ensure representation of the department(s) on appropriate College-level committees;
  • represent department(s) at Campus and University level meetings;
  • lead the development of public affairs activities in the department(s) and the offering of general education courses;
  • oversee students’ clubs, honorary societies, advisory committees, etc.

How can one person do the work that was once done by multiple chairs?

The school model, involving a centralized administrative office working with multiple programs or divisions, exists and functions effectively on many campuses. The Director of the School performs the administrative tasks previously repeated across multiple departments.  Moving forward, the structure of each school’s administrative office may be different based on the needs of the school. For example, some current support staff could move from a department to a central school office to undertake common tasks currently being handled in multiple departments. In contrast, others may stay with individual departments. We anticipate that transition to the school model will allow us to restore critical staffing support where it is most needed.

How will school directors be selected, and how will they be compensated?

The hiring and compensation provided directors of schools will have to be developed along with a description of their roles and responsibilities. Searches for school directors could be internal to the school or could be external national searches. School directors will be individuals with faculty appointments who have an additional administrative professional assignment, just as heads and chairs do now. Compensation for school directors will be determined at the point of hire in the same fashion that compensation for department heads and chairs is currently negotiated. We anticipate that interim director appointments will be made at the point that the schools are initially established. Such appointments would follow campus practice for making interim head/chair appointments, including close consultation with faculty in the school, followed by a term appointment as interim Director pending a formal search for a permanent director.

How will deans be selected, and will current deans remain in their positions?

Current deans will remain in their positions.  At the launch of the new organizational structure, interim dean appointments will be appointed at the beginning of the fiscal year, pending a formal search for a permanent dean.

Would the majors and the curriculum stay the same but just be housed within a new school?

Yes. Degree programs would be housed within a school headed by a director, who would handle many of the administrative functions currently handled by department chairs. The curricula of the degree programs would not change, nor would the faculty teaching the curricula.

Will faculty maintain control of curriculum decisions?

Currently, faculty propose curriculum changes that go through a review and approval process as articulated in department or college by-laws as well as through Levels of Governance. This process will not change, except that curriculum proposals will come through a school curriculum committee rather than a departmental committee. Faculty, via the by-laws, will define how the curriculum committees are constituted and how they operate. The administration is committed to supporting the development of curriculum committee structures that allow for disciplinary oversight of curricula. College-level curriculum committees and constituency group review of curriculum proposals will continue, as is currently the case.

Will majors be eliminated?

Majors will not be eliminated solely due to academic reorganization. Majors will not be broadly consolidated as part of the reorganization unless the faculty chooses to do so. For example, there would not be a social science major with specializations in sociology, psychology, political science, etc. Instead, the majors in sociology, psychology, and political science will remain.

Will there be new programs?

It will be up to the faculty to propose ideas for new programs that might be appealing to both faculty and students. Ultimately, decisions about whether to create these new programs forward will rest with the faculty in the department or school through the UIS Levels of Governance.

How will budgets be managed? If my department currently has a budget for a special initiative, will that funding now be part of the overall budget for the school?

General operating budgets will be managed centrally by the UEO (chair, head, Director), who will serve as the fiscal officer and will consult with program faculty about anticipated needs. Accounts set up to support specific initiatives will likely continue to exist and will be funded through the same process that is currently used.

Can new units retain existing by-laws?

No. Each newly-created unit will develop and submit new by-laws for approval consistent with current practice.  These by-laws should be established during the first year of the unit’s existence.

Where can I go to provide feedback or to offer suggestions about the academic reorganization?

Members of the UIS community may provide feedback or offer suggestions to the Faculty Reorganization Advisory Committee via the Why Reorganize? online form