Committee retains departments, but eliminates programs

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The Academic Affairs Committee of the board of trustees reached a decision regarding the recommended closures of the Department of Counseling and Family Therapy and the Department of Public Policy on April 3. The board decided to retain both departments, but instead eliminated three programs from Counseling and Family Therapy and four from Public Policy.

“The department was retained, which was positive, but eliminating the programs was not,” said Chair of Public Policy, Robert Cropf. “We had to recommend that those programs be eliminated in our response to the recommendation, however.”

The decision comes as another part of a review process that began in the fall of 2011. The review is a part of the University’s strategic plan to improve the quality of the academic and research programs at Saint Louis University. As the University adds new academic programs, it becomes necessary to close programs that have not met University standards. This way, resources can be better allocated to new programs or be used to strengthen existing ones.

According to the board, Counseling and Family Therapy and Public Policy were recommended for closure in February due to their relatively low enrollment and because they did poorly in the frame of the metrics set forth by Vice President of Academic Affairs Manoj Patankar.

The announcement of the recommendation garnered a passionate response from not only the two departments, but also from the SLU Student Government Association. In the February 8 SGA meeting, the senate voted to pass a resolution asking the University to reconsider their recommendation to close the departments and conduct another review featuring more input from faculty, students and staff. In addition, the departments and senate called for the departments to be evaluated by a different set of standards, namely one that took into account their relevance to the Jesuit mission.

In the February 10 board of trustees meeting, the board decided to postpone the final decision regarding what to do with the departments until further research was conducted.

This research and the resulting deliberation lead to the decision to keep the two departments but close some programs within the two departments that were underperforming. The Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy and the Masters programs in both Family Therapy and Counseling were cut from the Department of Counseling and Family Therapy.

“[The department] regrets that a seeming compromise was reached without recognizing that the Department’s Master’s degree program is a vitally important component of the Department and in providing the community with well-trained mental health practitioners,” said Chair of Counseling and Family Therapy, Craig Smith. “The practice degree for Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed Marital & Family Therapists is the Master’s degree, comparable to the MSW for Licensed Clinical Social Workers.”

Policy recommended to the Academic Affairs Committee that instead of closing the entire department, they should eliminate the Certificate of Geographical Information Studies, the Certificate of Organizational Development and the Masters in Urban Affairs. All these programs were shut down with the addition of the Bachelors in Urban Affairs.

“These weren’t large programs. We had one student in GIS and one student in organizational development,” Croph said. “The programs cut were all our recommendation except for the Bachelor’s in Urban Affairs.”

Immediately following the announcement, the Academic Affairs Committee mandated that enrollment in any eliminated programs should cease and students enrolled in any upcoming semesters should be notified of the closures so that they can make other arrangements.

“With the Vice President’s authorization, we interviewed and offered admission to students in early March. Students have been accepting admission and enrolling,” Smith said. “The department is not able to address this situation. We were told by the VP’s office that the Dean of Admissions was responsible for contacting those students and informing them of their options. We do not know what those options are.”

Students currently enrolled in the programs will be allowed to finish their degrees.

In addition to the eliminated programs, the committee asked that each department develop proposals to restructure and revitalize the programs they retained. The proposals from each department will be due by September 1, 2012. Furthermore, the committee instructed that each department should aim to improve both their enrollment numbers and financial plans by March of 2014. Failure to improve will result in the actual closing of the departments, according to the document detailing the final decision regarding the reorganization and reallocation released to the departments by Patankar.

Patankar could not be reached for comment as he is currently out of the country.

Academic Vice President of SGA, Patrick Grillot, says he is satisfied with the decision the board has made.

“I think its important that we assess academic programs and, while these decisions specifically impact the students in those programs negatively, it also benefits the university community because it makes sure that we are putting our resources into programs that will be productive and helpful for students,” Grillot said.

Review of academic programs in all the schools and colleges at SLU will continue in an effort to improve the quality of what is offered at the University in the coming years.