University of Wyoming administrators have published the latest recommendations for restructuring the state’s sole public four-year university, amended with input from faculty and college deans.
The reorganization, combined with layoffs and across-the-board cuts elsewhere are meant to save the university more than $13 million as plans for future spending come into focus.
Administrators have frequently said the university cannot continue with “status quo” budget cuts and no other changes if it hopes to grow as an organization and assist with economic development statewide.
The university’s new provost, Kevin Carman, has led the efforts since joining the institution early this summer. He worked with 11 review committees, plus five additional committees led by college deans to author the latest plan, he explained in a Tuesday memo to President Ed Seidel.
“This has been a difficult and unsettling process for the university and many of our stakeholders, but the feedback and discussions have been extremely valuable to arrive at the best possible plan for UW,” Carman said in a separate release issued Wednesday.
He hopes to have final recommendations to the university trustees by Nov. 1, and for a vote to be held at that body’s subsequent meeting, Nov. 17-19.
“Implementation of most of the proposed reorganizations will require substantial additional thought and planning and we anticipate establishing several ad hoc committees to flesh out implementation plans,” Carman wrote in the memo to Seidel.
The new recommendations outline a similar but slightly altered plan for reorganizing the university.
The restructuring would go as follows; the College of Engineering and Applied Science would become the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. It would absorb some departments from the current College of Arts and Sciences. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources would become the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, absorbing several departments from Arts and Sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences would become the College of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, “bringing UW in line with the way many universities organize those disciplines,” the university release states.
Previously, departments of chemical engineering and chemistry would have been merged, but are now suggested to remain separate departments within a new college focused on Engineering and Physical Sciences.
The Department of Agriculture and applied economics would not be moved into the College of Business, but instead will live in the new College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Departments in computer science and electrical and computer engineering, which previously would have been eliminated, would instead be consolidated as one department.
The Department of Geology and Geophysics, too, will remain its own department in the Physical Sciences college. It was previously suggested for downsizing.
Some specific degree programs that had been on a list for elimination would be saved under the new recommendations. Those include bachelor’s degrees in German and French, and in Spanish, German and French secondary education.
Master’s degrees in political science, international studies and architectural engineering would also remain, as would graduate degrees in entomology.
Beyond the proposed cuts and changes, trustees have green lit proposals to launch, among other things, an “innovation network” and a new school of computing.
Seidel has acknowledged the university will need outside investments, namely from corporate partners, to make those plans a reality. For now, the institution is using American Rescue Plan Act dollars to get those initiatives off the ground.
The changes, which could see up to 75 employees laid off, combined with across-the-board academic and non-academic cuts would save the university just over $13.6 million. (Details on where exactly that money will come from are outlined in a frequently asked questions page on the university’s website.)
Carman in his Tuesday memo acknowledges that the reorganization itself will not account for the bulk of the needed cuts.
“It is important to remember that while the proposed reorganizations were catalyzed by the necessity of implementing further budget reductions, the proposed reorganizations will not yield substantial budget reductions per se,” the memo reads. “Rather, the proposed reorganizations are intended to position UW for a strong future as it fulfills its tripartite land-grant mission of learning, discovery, and engagement.”
The memo continues to outline recommendations from the previously mentioned committees, and then Carman’s recommendations in light of the committee work. Carman, who joined the university in June, does not always honor suggestions from those committees in his final recommendations.
The memo’s tone often jumps from appreciation of committees whose work aligns with the initial plan, to frustration with those that do not.
For example, in response to recommendations from a committee reviewing agricultural and economics programs in the College of Business, Carman wrote that he disagreed with the committee but, “a well-organized propaganda campaign successfully created confusion and misunderstanding among a broad range of external stakeholders. It became obvious that the benefits of a consolidation would be more than offset by the angst it would create.”
(That full memo, as well as the complete list of programs and departments recommended for changes or elimination is available to download from the online version of this article.)
The university has added pages on its website dedicated to information on the restructuring process. They include procedural outlines, specifics on administrative regulations, admissions data for programs being discontinued, budget summaries and a detailed frequently asked questions page.
The public, faculty staff and anyone else with an opinion on the recommendations can respond to an online survey posted to the Academic Affairs web page. The survey is set to expire Oct. 27. The public can also send questions about the process to firstname.lastname@example.org.