On Monday afternoon, members of UNCG’s Faculty Senate voted to censure Chancellor Frank Gilliam and Provost Debbie Storrs for their actions related to the ongoing academic review process.

In a short email sent to Triad City Beat, the statement reads that the Faculty Senate, which acts as the representative body for the university faculty, voted to “censure the Chancellor and the Provost for not initiating consultation with the Senate at the start of the APR process and not providing a clear rationale of the choice of program closures.”

APR is short for academic program review and references the yearlong process that was initiated by university administration in partnership with consultant group rpk, to determine which academic programs to cut.

The vote was 25 in favor, 10 against from a total of 39 individuals, according to the email.

In a release to the media, Chancellor Gilliam and Provost Storrs responded by pushing back against the Faculty Senate’s decision.

“Although without operational consequence, the vote to censure us — as the Chancellor and the Provost — by some members of the Faculty Senate (not a vote of the General Faculty) extends beyond critique,” the statement reads in part. “This action is a consequence of mis- and dis-information intended to protect the status quo. Although such an action is a disappointment, we remain undaunted in our commitment to meet the challenges ahead.”

The statement makes the argument, which has been made by administration throughout the process, that the academic program review was necessary because “UNC Greensboro faces rapidly changing conditions, from enrollment challenges to shifts in student and regional needs.”

As for the way the review was initiated, the administrators said that they “have worked within [their] authority to initiate an Academic Portfolio Review, and multiple levels of the campus community have effectively engaged in the process in the interests of their units and the University. The process has been collaborative, thorough, and transparent, making data available to [the] community while including diverse and independent analyses across academic units.”

But over the last year, multiple faculty members, staff and students have raised concerns about the way the APR process was initiated. They called the move unprecedented and going against standard procedure.

As reported by TCB, critics of the administration have pointed out that typically, an academic program review is initiated for one of three reasons: adequate cause, bonafide financial exigency or by faculty will. Faculty members that TCB has spoken to argue that none of the three conditions have been met for the university to engage in the current process.

Mike DeCesare, the senior program officer in the national American Association of University Professors’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance, told TCB in December 2023 that the way UNCG’s administration has gone about their APR process goes against best practice.

“Under AAUP standards, faculty should be intimately involved with the budget,” DeCesare said. “Especially when it comes to declaring financial exigency. Right from the very start, faculty should be involved meaningfully in that process under our standards.”

This is not the first time faculty has taken steps to express their concerns beyond public discourse.

In December, the College of Arts and Sciences faculty drafted a resolution asking for an extended timeline for the APR process.

Earlier this month, Charles C. Bolton, the associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and the interim head of the Department of Anthropology at UNCG turned in a resignation letter to the college’s dean to protest the APR process. And not long afterwards, the Department of Religious Studies gathered more than 3,000 signatures of support for their department.

At other universities around the country that faced similar program cuts, faculty engaged in actions that mirror the ones taking place at UNCG.

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.

In their response to UNCG’s Faculty Senate vote, Chancellor Gilliam and Provost Storrs noted that “although such an action is a disappointment, we remain undaunted in our commitment to meet the challenges ahead.”

“We have and will continue to work collaboratively with faculty partners who are dedicated to taking necessary steps for the best interests of the University, its students, and its mission,” they said.

The deadline for the chancellor to release his final recommendations for academic cuts is this Thursday, Feb. 1. A Faculty Senate meeting is set to take place on Wednesday afternoon.

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

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