Saturday, November 15, 2014

On APP Recommendations and Senate Oversight

As specified in the committee's charge, and assuming that everything runs to schedule, the work of the APPC will end with the delivery of its final recommendations in June 2015.

In this post, we'll take a look at the question of what might happen after that.  This includes the safeguards and oversight that is built in to the process as well as the role of the Senate in shaping the ways in which the recommendations are used and the scheduling of future iterations of the APP process.

As described elsewhere, the main product of the APP process will be a mapping from academic programs in to categories that, in each case, also records associated recommendations, supporting rationale, and, where appropriate, responses from the program.

The first thing to note is that APPC is limited to making recommendations and has no special power to enact or implement any of those recommendations.  As such, recommendations resulting from the APP process have no more authority or priority than any other recommendations that might be generated by other means.  The only difference is that, instead of being developed in an ad hoc manner, APPC recommendations are the result of a systematized process that, by design, benefits from a broad, university-wide perspective.

To move forward with any of the recommendations that are generated, it is necessary for them to be translated into concrete proposals for consideration by the Senate and its associated committees, including the Educational Policy Committee and the Budget Committee. Specific details about the processes that will be used to generate proposals from recommendations have not been established at this time. Recognizing this gap, APPC expects that Senate conversations during the 2014-15 Academic Year will be needed to develop and codify the necessary processes before the final APPC recommendations are delivered in June.

The Office of Academic Affairs, on behalf of PSU, has long maintained a collection of policies and procedures for responding to proposals for handling curricular changes (such as the introduction of new academic programs or changes to existing programs, including minors and certificates); these may be found on the web at: There are also established procedures and policies for handling changes that might result in the creation, elimination, or alteration of academic units, including centers and institutes; these documents can also be found online at:

These policies and procedures provide a safeguard for controlled evolution of our portfolio of academic programs.  If, for example, a recommendation from APPC suggested the possibility of eliminating a particular program, there is still a strong need for due diligence to vet the recommendation, consider alternative approaches, and, if necessary ensure that an appropriate teach-out plan is in place to ensure that the needs of any students still in the program are handled in an appropriate way.  In addition, a special proviso that was written in to the charge for the APPC indicates that "The President and Provost, in consultation with the Faculty Senate Steering Committee, have given assurance that no tenure-line positions will be eliminated as a direct result of the Academic Program Prioritization Process, although tenured faculty may be assigned to another department or program depending on needs and expertise."

The 2014-15 APP process is expected to be the first iteration of a process that will be refined and repeated at regular intervals in the future as a tool to support well-informed, faculty-driven, evolution of the portfolio of academic programs that are offered at PSU.  The Senate will also play a key role in develop policies around the questions of how often the APP process will be conducted, and how information from one iteration, including the committee that organizes it, will be passed on to future iterations.  There is also a possibility that the Senate will develop policies that allow for use of multiple iterations of APP as a trigger for generating proposals for change. One example of this that we have seen in other institutions is a process that might allow recommendations for reorganization or elimination of a program that is struggling to be deferred, under appropriate conditions, to the next APP cycle, offering the program an opportunity to propose and pursue remedial plans for restoring the program to a healthy condition.