Reviewers rank programs, hold listening forums

By Heather Scroering

Exams and final projects were not the only things receiving scores during winter break. Assistant and associate vice presidents of Columbia’s support and operations departments were doing some ranking of their own.

The administrators, who are evaluating Columbia’s departments as part of the yearlong prioritization process, are doing so in three groups: first, non-academic support and operations; second, academic support; and finally academic programs.

The process requires scoring of the Program Information Requests, informational forms that were filled out by chairs and center directors of every department and office on campus. PIRs for the support and operations departments, such as Business Affairs and Institutional Advancement, were completed and made public to the college community on Jan. 5.

The prioritization process, which began in fall 2011, evaluates every aspect—both academic and nonacademic—of the college to reallocate funds and determine the future of academic programs, clubs and other student services.

Those who ranked the PIRs gave each program a score out of 40—20 points for essentiality of the program, 10 for efficiency and 10 for effectiveness—according to Andrew Whatley, assistant dean for Faculty Advising and LAS Initiatives and member of the Support and Operations Team, the prioritization committee formed to assess the business aspects of the college.

Scorers were also asked to reflect upon the unmet needs and demands for resources of each program and rank them as low, medium or high, according to the reviewer worksheet.

The numerical score and ranking of unmet needs and demands helped determine how the ranker categorized the program, Whatley said. Programs were put into four categories: “Growth and Investment,” “Maintain Stable Resources,” “Reorganization/Restructuring/Consolidation” and “Reduce in Size or Scope,” according to the ranker worksheet.

“A program could be very well-run but not need anything in addition,” Whatley said. “A program with a lower score could perhaps improve how they operate if they had more resources. So you might have a program score low but still have high unmet needs, high score, low unmet needs. Those things together result in this ranking which tells us how the [administration] recommends moving forward.”

Of the 79 nonacademic support & operations programs, 42 were ranked “Maintain Stable Resources,” 32 scored “Growth and Investment,” four for “Reorganization/Restructuring/Consolidation” and one for “Reduce in Size or Scope”—the

University Cafe.

The four programs ranked for reorganization and consolidation were Building Services, Critical Encounters, the Recycling Center and the Travel Office.

The number of programs that scored a “low” for unmet needs and demands was 33, while 26 were “moderate” and 20 were “high.” Administrators were also asked to provide a rationale explaining the importance of the program to the college, according to the form.

Four listening forums hosted by the AVPs and directors who ranked the PIRs were held between Jan. 11–13 in the Music Center Concert Hall, 1014 S. Michigan Ave. According to Whatley, forums were to give programs a chance to respond to rankings. Ground rules for the forums were set by the academic and support and operations teams.

According to a Jan. 5 email sent to the Columbia community, forums were open to all members of the community. However, the email asked only one representative of each program to respond to the rankings with a prepared statement.

Debra McGrath, associate vice president of Enrollment Management, and Susan Marcus, associate vice president of Academic Affairs, held the first forum. Stephen DeSantis, director of Academic Initiatives, was the only representative to speak. He used his time to explain the reorganization of Critical Encounters, an initiative that began in September 2011.

“There [wasn’t] a distinct place within the PIR to be able to put an entire five-year reorganization plan,” DeSantis said. “The thing about the prioritization process and questionnaires is they’re very limited in scope. So [the listening forum] is the opportunity to respond to that.”

Tim Bauhs, associate vice president of Business Affairs; Kevin Doherty, associate vice president of Business Affairs & Controller; Bernadette McMahon, associate vice president and chief information officer; and Patricia Olalde, director of Human Resources, hosted the second forum on Jan. 12. No representative spoke, nor did anyone at the third forum on Jan. 13, hosted by Sharon Wilson-Taylor, associate vice president and dean of students.

The last forum, also on Jan. 13, was hosted by Michael Anderson, associate vice president of Institutional Advancement; Diane Doyne, associate vice president of Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising; Mary Forde, assistant vice president for Creative Services; and John Kavouris, associate vice president of Facilitates and Construction.

Melissa DaRocha, operations manager of Facilities & Operations, responded in support of the building service’s program ranking, which received a 25.10, moderate for unmet needs and was ranked reorganization/restructure/consolidation by Kavouris.

Joanne Harding, operations coordinator of Building Services and Facilities & Operations also responded to the recycling program evaluation, which received a score of 17.10, a low for unmet needs and was ranked as reorganization/restructure/consolidation by Kavouris.

She said the recycling program is necessary to the college because of its developing sustainability policies. She added the recycling program’s events are necessary for recruitment and retention because campuswide events have brought students and the community together.

Though permission to rebut was not indicated in the listening forum ground rules, Kavouris responded to Harding’s statement, saying he believed recycling was necessary but the events sponsored by the recycling program should go through the Office of Student Affairs.

“Events are something that have always confused me,” Kavouris said. “There is no evidence that I have seen that indicates that they are essential to retention or recruitment. In fact, in the engineering community and facilities community, the green movement is less on education and more on actual, practical application.”

The next level of ranking will be by the vice presidents, who will also hold listening forums after scoring, Whatley said. The Support and Operations Team will then rank the PIRs before passing them to President Warrick L. Carter, who will make the final decisions.