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WVU announces final recommendations for several academic programs under review

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On Tuesday (Aug. 29), WVU announced final recommendations for the following four programs as part of the ongoing Academic Transformation portfolio review process: Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, the School of Public Health. (WVU Graphic)

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The West Virginia University Office of the Provost announced final recommendations on Tuesday (Aug. 29) from the first four appeals hearings held as part of the Academic Transformation program portfolio review process. This is the next step following the announcement of the preliminary recommendations on Aug. 10.

Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics

In 2021, several programs in the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics were put on notice because of low and declining enrollments. A letter outlined the need for an improvement plan and specific steps that should be taken, including a recommendation that the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences develop options to consolidate majors and eliminate the requirement of a foreign language for its Bachelor of Arts majors. Read the Sept. 23, 2021, letter.

Those same concerns served as the basis for putting the Department under formal review in July and issuing a preliminary recommendation under the academic program portfolio review process on Aug. 10.

An appeal presented during an Aug. 25 hearing has resulted in a final recommendation to eliminate foreign language majors and master’s degree programs but to continue to provide face-to-face instruction in two languages. It is recommended the Department reduce the number of faculty positions to five and move them into another unit yet to be determined.

The number of foreign language degrees awarded has been on the decline both nationally and in WVU’s main recruiting market over the past 12 years. Despite this trend, the final recommendation addresses many of the concerns brought forward in the past two weeks including the importance of offering language instruction at a land-grant institution.

“We listened to our students’ feedback and have provided an option for face-to-face language instruction,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said. “This final recommendation will allow students to take language courses as electives and potentially as minors. This will also support our students pursuing prestigious scholarships and membership in honorary organizations such as Phi Beta Kappa. We feel this recommendation addresses the continued enrollment decline while serving the needs of our students.”

Under the recommendation, instruction in Spanish (a high demand language) and Chinese (a critical need language) would be offered based upon student demand and instructional capacity.

With only one first-time undergraduate student enrolled as a primary major in languages this fall, the Department did not appeal recommendations to discontinue the programs below:

·      BA Chinese Studies: Discontinuance

·      BA French: Discontinuance

·      BA German Studies: Discontinuance

·      BA Russian Studies: Discontinuance

·      BA Spanish: Discontinuance

·      MA Linguistics: Discontinuance

·      MA TESOL: Discontinuance

“While we are committed to providing some language instruction on campus, we will continue to explore additional language learning opportunities, such as establishing curriculum partnerships with other universities,” said Provost Reed. “Further, we will seek to create greater access to study abroad opportunities, where students can gain language proficiency through immersive experiences.”

Additionally, the Provost’s Office will pursue the elimination of the language requirement currently self-imposed on Bachelor of Arts majors in the Eberly College and a few other majors across the University. More details will be available by Sept. 15.

Division of Forestry and Natural Resources

In the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, the BSR in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources will be recommended for discontinuance in line with the preliminary recommendation.

A 2021 letter to the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design suggested a new cooperative Wood Science and Technology major within the existing BSF in Forest Resources and Management for increased curriculum efficiencies. That and other aspects of the preliminary recommendation were not appealed during an Aug. 24 hearing and will be presented in the final recommendation to the Board of Governors as originally suggested. 

Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

Similarly, the final recommendation for the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering is unchanged from the preliminary recommendation after its Aug. 24 appeal.

Key components that led to the committee’s decision to ultimately recommend discontinuing the BSBSE Biometric Systems Engineering program included it has nine students this fall, seven of which are seniors and would be unaffected. Additional factors were not addressing faculty workload and not refocusing curricular offerings, among others.

Other programs would continue with specific actions required, including reducing the number of faculty positions.

School of Public Health

A self-study from the School of Public Health and the preliminary recommendation proposed a plan to reduce the number of faculty positions by 14, and its appeal on Aug. 25 adjusted that reduction to 11.

“We have been careful to consider every aspect, from the quality of our programs and the innovative ways we serve students to nurturing talented faculty and balancing the cost of delivery realities,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, chancellor and executive dean of Health Sciences.

The adjustment reflected in the final recommendation will permit the School to maintain the accreditation for and operation of its current academic programs. Several other aspects of the preliminary recommendation were not appealed.

Programs that did not appeal, next steps

The School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, Department of Philosophy, Management Department and Department of Mining Engineering did not file a notice of appeal to the preliminary recommendations announced Aug. 11.

The Board of Governors will hear public comments from those who have signed up or submitted their comments in writing in advance of Sept. 14 before a planned vote on the final recommendations during its regular meeting on Sept. 15.

The University will announce final recommendations through Sept. 5 as additional appeals are heard.

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