Senate calls for university to reconsider department closures

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The crux of this Wednesday’s Student Government Association meeting was the passing of a resolution to urge Saint Louis University to postpone the recommendation issued by Vice President of Academic Affairs, Manoj Patankar. Patankar advised the University to close the Departments of Public Policy Studies and Family Counseling and Therapy.

Patankar made the recommendation after a review of both departments found they did poorly in metrics put in place for the report. Opponents of the closure feel the areas addressed in the report did not provide a clear picture of the status of the departments.

The input taken on the matter also raised concerns.

“Students, faculty and staff were upset they were not included in the decision,” Education and Public Service Senator, Nathan Klosterman said.

Complaints were raised that while the metrics addressed things like enrollment and business model, they did not look at other areas that were in line with the University’s mission, such as a commitment to service.

“These programs are not just important to the university, but also to the community,” Klosterman said, “Family Counseling and Therapy brings in families for counseling and this can be vital in a city such as St. Louis.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs, Patrick Grillot said senate was not notified about the recommendation and never received a full report on the nature of the decision.

“There is a concern about how this process will be used across the university,” Grillot said, “Assessment is good. It shows how we can improve, but if this is the model that will be used, we don’t support this. I worry this decision puts margin over mission.”

Graduate School Senator Andrew Sova expressed disappointment that senate was addressing the issue, as he felt they were not equipped to debate what has been a strictly administrative decision.

“While it is honorable to consider this institution, this institution is a business,” Sova said. “Regardless of the measurement standard, Patankar’s report is sufficient.”

Commuter Senator Elizabeth Alberty disagreed that the report was sufficient and stressed the importance and benefits of these programs.

“If these programs aren’t profitable, a restructuring should be done, not elimination,” Alberty said.

Grillot restated that the goal of the bill was not to stop the closures, but to ask the administration to slow down and reconsider the closures in light of SLU’s mission.

“I understood where Patankar was coming from, but I read over the report and realized there was no mention of how this reflects the mission and instead focused on the ‘Top 50 goal,” Grillot said. “We want to ask if they have really considered this.”

After a roll call vote, senate decided to pass the resolution, thereby asking the administration to reconsider the recommendation to close the departments and conduct a more thorough report which include input from faculty, staff and students.

Senate also looked at the University’s strategic plan for the future with a presentation by Vice President of Retention and Enrollment Jay Goff. Goff explained how SLU would like to improve the quality and diversity of SLU’s student body by 2018, the school’s bicentennial.

Vice President of Rainbow Alliance Terrence Murphy gave a presentation about Safe Zone, a program that trains students to provide support to members of the queer community. Senate also passed a bill to seat seven new senators and four bills to amend various parts of the SGA bylaws.

Senate then addressed a proposed referendum to increase the Student Activity Fee in the upcoming election and a bill to create a committee dealing with the Wellness Fee. After a presentation to layout how these changes, if passed, would look in senate, SGA passed the referendum to put the Student Activity increase on the ballot and tabled the bill to create the Wellness Committee.

Finally, senate reviewed the updated guidelines for 2012 Annual Funding.

The changes made to the guidelines look to shift to student group accountability and create a clearer definition of what can and cannot be funded. After some amendments to clear up wording and definitions, SGA voted to pass the updated annual funding guidelines.