South Campus

People walk in and out of Western Kentucky University's South Campus on Monday, April 16, 2018. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

New details have emerged about how Western Kentucky University plans to dissolve its University College and reorganize the interdisciplinary academic programs it contains, such as Gender and Women’s Studies, African American Studies and the Honors Academy.

WKU announced the move in February as part of a broader package of budget cuts. On Thursday, WKU Provost David Lee shared more details on the changes in a faculty and staff email.

Although the changes will involve moving faculty and staff around, Lee told the Daily News it won’t affect students’ ability to complete their degrees.

“No academic programs are being changed,” he said. “Students who are in these programs shouldn’t have any concern about a change in their requirements.”

The University College, which will be phased out effective July 1, offers a range of academic programs. Its academic units include Diversity and Community Studies, the School of Professional Studies, the School of University Studies and the Systems Management program.

Lee wrote in his email that Diversity and Community Studies will move as a department into the Potter College of Arts and Letters. The department contains WKU’s Gender and Women’s Studies Program, African American Studies and the university’s Center for Citizenship and Social Justice.

Although the Honors Academy has been dissolved as an academic department, Lee told the Daily News that its faculty will be moved into the Potter College and continue teaching Honors Academy students.

The School of Professional Studies will be moved to the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. The unit encompasses Real Estate, Paralegal and Interdisciplinary Studies, among other programs.

WKU is also disbanding the School of University Studies, and its faculty will move into other departments. All classes for summer and fall 2018 have been relocated to main campus.

Lee said Larry Snyder, dean of the Potter College, will determine the best way to restructure Diversity and Community Studies by working with its faculty and Potter College faculty.

Snyder told the Daily News that WKU is considering several options, whether that means moving faculty members into other departments or creating another college.

“We’re looking for ways to preserve those programs and those faculty lines even if the current department does not exist,” he said.

Jane Olmsted, the department head of Diversity and Community Studies, said she opposes splitting up faculty in the department.

She doesn’t see sending faculty members to different departments like English or history as a viable option.

“Not all of us fit neatly into a disciplinary home,” she said, adding that Diversity and Community Studies is defined by its ability to work across academic silos. “We’re interdisciplinary.”

Olmsted raised concerns about the ability of faculty to teach full-time course loads in the Gender and Women’s Studies and African American Studies programs while also teaching English or history classes.

“I’m pretty sure that all our faculty want to stay together,” she said.

The department’s reorganization will coincide with a separate, campuswide process called academic program review.

Lee said this process will play out in the coming academic year under a new provost. Lee is preparing to retire. During the process, which occurs about every six years, programs’ viability is evaluated.

“We don’t know exactly what the effect of that’s going to be,” Snyder said of the process. “It could lead to the recommendation for the elimination of programs.”

Overall, Snyder said he expects the process to eliminate some programs and create others.

Lee said that, if a program is eliminated, the university’s accrediting body requires the program be taught for three additional years before it can be phased out. This is to allow students to complete their degrees.

Additionally, WKU would be obligated to find a new academic department for tenured faculty, he said.

Unlike most other academic programs, which are rooted in a single discipline, Olmsted said her department’s programs are based on themes and problems.

Students are asked to make connections and examine a wide range of perspectives on a specific problem or theme.

She takes pride in the fact that her department’s disciplines grew out of the most significant social movements of the 20th century, such as the civil and women’s rights movements.

“We share a history of social action,” she said, adding that’s something that can’t be duplicated anywhere else in the university.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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