Some 100 honors students at UCM received a troubling email March 10 about the potential demise of the Honors College.
“I regret to inform you that as of June 1st, The Honors College will be forced to close its doors due to our university’s budget cuts,” the email said. “We know that some sort of honors program will be implemented, but what it entails has yet to be released.”
That email was sent by psychology major Hailey Politte, the public relations chair for the Honors College Student Association. She said she sent the email after the dean of the Honors College met with the HCSA executive board and gave them insight on what was happening.
“I know that there was a lack of informing,” Politte said. “There’s a lot of students who did not know what was going on and it took emails to truly get the word out.”
In the email, Politte urged students to start a letter-writing campaign to voice their opinions and fight for the Honors College.
Interim Provost-Chief Learning Officer Mike Godard said the Honors College is not closing during a meeting with the Psychology Club Tuesday evening.
“I’ve seen a little bit on social media, and then I’ve seen a little bit in terms of some of the letters that you all have put together, and that’s regarding our Honors College,” Godard said at the meeting. “The Honors College is not going away. We are restructuring how we are going to deliver honors programming, but the Honors College is not going away.”
Godard said the Honors College might move to a different area but did not say where. He said the restructured program will be a more robust experience for students.
“We want to enhance the experiences that our students are having, not diminish those experiences,” Godard said. “I will tell you part of my goal with this transition as we go into a different structure for it is to have much more integration within the academic programs for those honor students.”
Godard said the Honors College curriculum requirements will not change and will remain consistent so as to not be disruptive to students.
He also addressed concerns about the rumored demise of the study abroad program at UCM.
“We are absolutely going to still have study abroad experiences for our students as we move forward,” Godard said. “Again, how we are going to structure that and serve our students might be in a slightly different area, but we are going to do it in a manner in which we think it’s going to provide the most efficiencies and resources and services that are going to best serve our students.”
Godard said study abroad will be aligned under the Office of Extended Studies.
He also addressed questions about the realignment of academic colleges, specifically how the psychology department might be affected.
“I just left a meeting with all of the academic chairs on campus – and that’s called our Academic Council – along with all the deans, and I actually presented to that group what a rough draft outline might look like in terms of the restructuring, and in that rough draft outline we do have psychological sciences remaining in a STEM area,” Godard said. “And what is that college going to be called? I’d love to be able to tell you that, but it is (still) in the sciences, OK, which is what I’m hearing from you all was important.”
He said the university is working to realign its student success services to have less duplication across campus and more holistic care for students as they move through their degree programs. He said they are not talking about cutting academic programs.
“We go through a comprehensive review of our academic programs as per state regulations periodically to ensure that they’re viable and they’re doing what they say they’re going to do in terms of preparing our students for jobs in the workforce – that happens all the time,” Godard said. “There are no cuts to academic programs that are happening based upon any budgetary concerns, that’s a whole other process that happens, and again that happens regardless of where we’re at budgetarily.”
David Kreiner, the department chair of psychology, said a lot is still unknown about the reorganization and cuts.
“But what we do know is that we’re moving toward, in the reorganization, having a different college structure, fewer colleges and then departments being combined into larger schools,” Kreiner said. “So how will that affect psychological science? We will very likely be part of a school as opposed to a department that is just psychological science.”
Kreiner said it’s still not clear how exactly the psychology department is going to be combined.
“I would just say it’s a really complicated situation, and I think students are probably becoming more aware of how complicated it is,” Kreiner said. “I think it’s a real positive that our students reached out to talk to the administration and to try to get some answers about it, but I think everybody’s going to have to understand that it’s an uncomfortable situation and when there’s that big of a hit to the university budget, it’s going to affect us all in some way and it’s going to be uncomfortable.”
Godard said he wanted students to hear from him that there’s not going to be a diminishing of services to students as a result of the changes.
“Even though we have budget situations that we are dealing with, you are our priority,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. We are all here as faculty, as administrators, to make sure that we support you, to make sure that you’re successful.”