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The AAUP has updated its general procedural guidelines for universities in financial distress. Here is what they recommend for universities contemplating programme closures due to finances:
First, as to governance and consultation, this report insists that faculty members must be involved in consultation and deliberation at every stage of the process, beginning with a determination that a state of financial exigency exists. We offer specific recommendations for such faculty involvement:
1. Before any proposals for program discontinuance on financial grounds are made or entertained, the faculty should have the opportunity to render an assessment in writing on the institution’s financial condition.
2. Faculty bodies participating in the process may be drawn from the faculty senate or elected as ad hoc committees by the faculty; they should not be appointed by the administration.
3. The faculty should have access to, at minimum, five years of audited financial statements, current and following-year budgets, and detailed cash-flow estimates for future years.
4. In order to make informed proposals about the financial impact of program closures, the faculty needs access to detailed program, department, and administrative-unit budgets.
5. The faculty should determine whether “all feasible alternatives to termination of appointments have been pursued,” including expenditure of one-time money or reserves as bridge funding, furloughs, pay cuts, deferred-compensation plans, early-retirement packages, deferral of nonessential capital expenditures, and cuts to noneducational programs and services, including expenses for administration.
6. Faculty members in a program being considered for discontinuance because of financial exigency should be informed in writing that it is being so considered and given at least thirty days in which to respond. Both tenured and nontenured faculty members should be involved.
They suggest that most programme closures fail to meet these kinds of procedural standards. I joined Academic Board at Canterbury after the last round of programme closures and so have little to say about our own performance. But I will be thinking about the report should programme closures again loom. Hat Tip: Inside Higher Ed. The full AAUP report is here.