University of Wyoming trustees voted last week to take until July 2023 to refine and implement what Provost Kevin Carman has called “probably the most significant reorganization to the university in the institution’s history.”
Many of the plan’s proposed changes — including a notable downsizing of the College of Arts and Sciences — can now be implemented without any further votes from the board of trustees. That’s because the body also gave administrators broad authority on the reorganization proposals.
While stakeholders will continue to refine the reorganization plans through 2022, the trustees’ vote means that no further action is needed for implementing any changes that fall in line with the plans administrators presented last week, UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said in an email.
“If any of the reorganization details fall outside of the submitted report, the president and the provost will seek board approval if required by UW regulations, policies or procedures,” Baldwin said.
Trustees voted in support of the reorganization Thursday after administrators gave a lengthy presentation on the university’s tentative plans. The motion authorized administrators to “reorganize the Colleges of Arts & Sciences, Agriculture & Natural Resources, and Engineering & Applied Science to better align the life and physical sciences and the humanities, social sciences and arts, with full implementation on or before July 1, 2023.”
Trustees passed the motion on a 10-2 vote after Vice Chairman John McKinley successfully lobbied to strike the words “as presented to the board” from the original motion, noting that many details are likely to be changed.
After that change, some trustees expressed uncertainty about what the final vote meant.
“I take it that if this motion passes, this is the last time we’re going to discuss it. That’s it. The administration is going to implement it and we have no need for any further discussion,” Trustee Kermit Brown said. “That’s the gravity of the vote we’re about to make.”
In response, Trustee Dave True, who formerly chaired the board, noted that administrators would still need to seek trustee approval for the elimination of programs.
“If it’s the implementation of shifting departments, that detail of implementation doesn’t come back here, but there are still some things that need to come back to this body,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s accurate but that’s my understanding.”
Amid the confusion, Chairman Jeffrey Marsh recessed the meeting to seek “legal advice.”
About 10 minutes later, Trustee Michelle Sullivan — at Marsh’s behest — called for an executive session for the same reason. That motion failed after a tie vote, however, and there was no executive session.
Trustees then voted on the motion to reorganize. Only Brown and Trustee Brad LaCroix voted “nay.”
“I want to encourage the administration to go forward. I want to see this reorganization done, but I want to be better informed before I give out a carte blanche when it’s such a fundamental reconfiguration of this university,” Brown said.
McKinley ultimately voted in support, though he earlier expressed concern that only a few of administrators’ proposals — namely the elimination of four degree programs at the end of the current academic year — were ready for “prime time for a motion by the board.”
Like McKinley, Trustee Sullivan said she supported the reorganization but also expressed some concern about the details.
“I want to be supportive of the process and, at the same time, I don’t feel like I know what we’re being asked to vote on as it relates to the specifics,” she said.
In the wake of the trustees’ vote, administrators will immediately proceed with the following measures, Baldwin said:
- Finalizing the reorganization of the College of Education, which will suspend new admissions to the Ph.D. program in counseling and the Ph.D. program in learning, design and technology.
- Consolidating the Departments of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering.
- Moving the Agricultural Communications program from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to the Department of Communications and Journalism in the College of Arts and Sciences.
- Moving the American Studies program into the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice.
- Discontinuing four degree programs: M.A. in philosophy, M.B.A in finance, M.B.A. in energy, Ph.D. in statistics.
Administrators hope to revive the two Ph.D. programs in the College of Education once “additional resources can be identified to support the programs,” Baldwin said.
There are a few aspects of the reorganization that will definitely return to the trustees for final approval, Baldwin noted. Trustees will be asked to establish a new School for Computing at their January meeting, and administrators will also seek approval for the “consolidated life-sciences departments” that will be located in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.