Featured photo: Students and staff advocating for the continuation of their programs show up with signs at the UNCG Faculty Senate meeting on Jan. 31 (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

On Thursday afternoon, UNCG’s Chancellor Frank Gilliam sent a mass email out to the university listing out his final decisions for academic programs to be cut.

The list, which can be viewed below and on the university website, is nearly identical to the preliminary list that was released on Jan. 16.

Undergraduate Majors

  • BA, Anthropology
  • BA, Secondary Education in Geography
  • BS and BA, Physics
  • BS, Physical Education, Teacher Education (K-12)
  • BA, Religious Studies (will now be a concentration within the Liberal and Professional Studies Program — see below for details) 

Undergraduate Minors, Certificates, and Course Offerings 

  • Chinese minor
  • Russian minor
  • Korean language courses 

Graduate Programs

  • Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Nursing
  • Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Advanced Practice Foundations (Nursing)
  • MA, Applied Geography
  • MFA, Drama Concentration in Directing (Concentrations in Musical Direction for Musical Theatre, Theatre for Youth, and Design will continue)
  • MFA, Interior Architecture
  • MA, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
  • MAT, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures in Teaching
  • MA, Mathematics (all concentrations)
  • MEd, Special Education
  • Dual Masters in Nursing Science and Business Administration (The stand-alone MBA and standalone MSN are not affected)
  • PhD, Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • PhD, Computational Mathematics

The one major change from the preliminary list is the decision to discontinue the Bachelor’s in Religious Studies program but to offer a Religious Studies concentration within the Liberal and Professional Studies Program (LPS).

“While the BA in Religious Studies will be discontinued, I have accepted a thoughtful recommendation by Dr. Gregory Grieve and the Religious Studies faculty to retain their expertise,” Gilliam writes in the email. “This comes with an expectation they will recruit new students and generate additional student credit hours with online offerings and shorter term semesters to meet a growing need for flexibility of working adults.”

The minors in Islamic Studies and Jewish Studies will also be housed within the Liberal and Professional Studies Program.

Gilliam also clarified that university will “continue to offer the lower-division physics courses required for STEM majors.” 

The move to cut the 20 programs comes as a culmination of a more than yearlong process initiated by the university administration which touted budget issues, changing demographics and stagnating enrollment numbers as reasons for change.

In a call with Triad City Beat, Mark Elliott, an associate head of the History Department and president of UNCG’s Association of University Professors chapter, said that “people are devastated and shocked” at the chancellor’s final decision.

“They thought they would take some of these programs off the list and they did not,” Elliott said.

When asked what the faculty’s next plans were, he said that as of right now, there is no plan.

“I do think that’s the question: What now?” he said. “Right now, there’s no plan; there’s no rally plan. We decided to wait and see what the results were first. I think to be honest, a lot of people were hopeful because it seemed that so many of the programs were unfairly put on the list so we were anticipating that the list would be much smaller today. It’s really disheartening that administration did not listen to faculty.”

As TCB has reported over the last several months, many faculty members, staff and students have aggressively pushed back on the process, calling it unprecedented, unnecessary and opaque.

On Wednesday, members of the Faculty Senate, which acts as the representative body for UNCG faculty, met to discuss the academic program review process. Earlier this week, the same members met and voted to censure both Chancellor Gilliam and Provost Debbie Storrs for their actions related to the process.

Both Gilliam and Storrs were present for the first half of Wednesday’s meeting.

Faculty Senate Chair Tami Draves speaks during the UNCG Faculty Senate meeting on Jan. 31 (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

During Wednesday’s meeting, Faculty Senate Chair Tami Draves, called the move by the rest of the Faculty Senate “not a best practice” and “rushed.” She also read out statements from anonymous faculty members in support of the APR process which called for the identification of those who voted to censure Gilliam and Storrs. The vote had passed 25-10, with 39 people present.

The call to reveal the names of the voters garnered snickers from the gallery, to which Draves responded, “Please be quiet.” That resulted in more laughter.

By the end of the two-and-a-half-hour session, senators found themselves in a tight spot as they contemplated their next steps. According to one faculty member, department deans were already hearing from administrators about the cuts that were announced on Thursday. After many faculty members spoke out against the process, again, the meeting ended in a closed session in which the Faculty Senate deliberated on whether or not to pass a vote of no confidence against Provost Storrs. A vote did not take place on Wednesday.

UNCG Faculty Senate meeting on Jan. 31 (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

During the Wednesday meeting, Alicia Aarnio, an assistant professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department, spoke once again, in support of her department.

She noted the small size of the department but pointed to the crucial work of increasing diversity within the field.

“We alone will likely move the needle nationally on numbers of underrepresented folks earning physics PhDs,” Aarnio said.

She noted how in 2019, just eight Black men and one woman earned physics PhDs nationwide. But right now, there are two more Black students on their way to graduating with PhDs from UNCG’s program.

“They will increase the number of Black men physics PhDs by 20 to 25 percent that year,” Aarnio said. “And our small department did that.”

After her comments, Aarnio returned to her seat in the gallery where her shoulders shook as she cried into her colleague’s shoulder.

Professor Alicia Aarnio cries into a colleague’s shoulder during the UNCG Faculty Senate meeting on Jan. 31 (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Other professors in the religious studies, math and communication disorder programs spoke in support of their programs on Wednesday as well. All three of them were on the final list released on Thursday.

Talia Fernos, an associate professor within the Department of Mathematics and Statistics sent TCB a statement via email.

“What we mourn the most is the loss of access the population of students that UNCG serves to the power and beauty of mathematics, as well as the loss of the diversity of thought to the profession of mathematics,” she said.

On the final cuts, Gilliam said that “the programmatic choices were difficult” and that he recognized that the results would “disappoint some of us.”

“Provost Storrs and I independently reviewed all forms of data and listened carefully to everyone who contributed to the APR process,” Gilliam wrote in his statement. “We closely reviewed the letters, emails, online submissions, spoken remarks, and additional documents provided in recent weeks.” 

Still, many students, especially ones enrolled in popular programs like Anthropology and Korean may be left wondering what specific factors played into the cut of their classes. Particularly for Korean, which boasts “robust” enrollment, according to Ignacio Lopez, the associate department head.

Korean, which is not a major or minor at the university, is taught by a single professor, Daniel Kim, who currently makes $41,600 per year. South Korea is also UNCG’s most popular study abroad destination.

During Jan. 23 community forum, Chancellor Gilliam listened to dozens of students, including many who took Korean language courses, plead with him to keep the classes at UNCG. After one particularly heartfelt comment by a student, Gilliam noted that he would talk with Dean John Kiss of the College of Arts and Sciences about the Korean studies program to possibly reconsider his decision. The final list shows that he did not.

On Facebook, the university’s anthropology department posted an update.

“It is official, the department will be discontinued,” the post read. “We do not know any further details at present. Thank you all for your support and as you can imagine we are heart broken at this news.”

Students and staff advocating for the continuation of their programs show up with signs at the UNCG Faculty Senate meeting on Jan. 31 (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

University administration has told students that the program cuts would not impact those currently enrolled at UNCG. In the email on Thursday, Chancellor Gilliam reiterated that “all current students in affected programs can complete their chosen studies at UNCG as long as they maintain good academic standing.”

But what of the professors?

“Now that the decision-making is concluded, academic deans and others will work with affected programs to craft detailed discontinuation plans, including timelines,” Gilliam wrote. “We will develop a plan of study for students in discontinued programs to enable them to complete their degree in a timely manner. We will follow institutional policies regarding any future employment changes and anticipate that no significant changes to faculty or staffing assignments will take effect in any of the discontinued programs in the immediate future.”

But other cuts prompted by collaborations with consultant groups like rpk Group, which UNCG administrators worked with, have led to firings of tenured faculty and drops in enrollment.

At Emporia State University, which used data presented by rpk Group to initiate an APR process, 11 professors are involved in an ongoing federal lawsuit against the Kansas Board of Regents for “conspiring to fire tenured and ‘problematic’ professors.”

And at West Virginia University, which worked with rpk Group worked to initiate an APR process that eliminated 28 different undergraduate and graduate programs — half of them in the humanities — and cut 143 full-time faculty positions, faculty passed a no-confidence resolution against their president, Gordon Gee in September 2023.

Read past reporting on UNCG’s academic program review process here.

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