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WVU announces additional final recommendations for programs under review

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The WVU Office of the Provost announced seven additional final recommendations on Thursday (Aug. 31) from appeals hearings held as part of the Academic Transformation program portfolio review process, including those for Chemistry, Plant and Soil Sciences, Theatre and Dance, Art and Design, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Law, and Mathematical and Data Sciences. (WVU Graphic)

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The West Virginia University Office of the Provost announced seven additional final recommendations on Thursday (Aug. 31) from 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 Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will develop an occupational-focused pathway for students under a final recommendation issued following a hearing Aug. 28. The unit had already considered, but not yet acted on, creating such an option.

Additionally, the Program Review Appeal Committee unanimously denied the unit’s appeal to scale down the recommended faculty reduction, in response to a sustained enrollment decline in the BA/BS Chemistry program. As a result, the preliminary recommendation to reduce the current number of positions in the unit to 23 faculty stands.

Division of Plant and Soil Sciences

A successful appeal held on Aug. 28 of the preliminary recommendation will amend the number of suggested faculty position reductions in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

The final recommendation noted key considerations, including that a faculty of 12 would align the division with average student-to-faculty ratios and additional cost-reduction measures presented would better align expenses with program size.

Several recommendations, including those to develop undergraduate cooperative programs in sustainable food and farming, environmental microbiology and horticulture, were not appealed.

School of Theatre and Dance

From the College of Creative Arts, the School of Theatre and Dance’s appeal was approved to keep the MFA Acting program that had been recommended for discontinuance because it is central to all School operations and both undergraduate and graduate programs.

The preliminary recommendation also called for the development of a cooperative program to include all MFA production-related majors into a single major; however, that was removed from the final recommendation because it was determined there are no significant savings or efficiencies to be gained.

On appeal, the Committee also amended the recommendation to reduce the number of faculty in the unit to 17 which will bring the School further into alignment with student-faculty ratios.

Several preliminary recommendations, including for BFA Puppetry to develop a cooperative program, were not appealed.

Like other hearings, faculty members from the unit participated in the appeal process by submitting additional documentation and information in advance of the School’s Aug. 28 hearing.

School of Art and Design

The School of Art and Design will continue to offer a BA in Art History under a final recommendation after an Aug. 29 hearing; however, the program will change its name and curriculum by January to reflect a new focus on both art history and museum studies and professions.

“As we look to the future and the larger context of Academic Transformation, this is an example of how we can envision new and unique offerings for students and faculty,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed. “The merger of the College of Creative Arts and the Reed College of Media provides a platform for innovative curriculum development and collaboration.”

The Committee granted the School’s appeal on the recommended number of faculty reductions to ensure that it is able to continue to meet accreditation requirements and maintain necessary expertise to deliver its studio programs. The final recommendation will result in 16 faculty remaining in the unit. 

Among several others, a preliminary recommendation to discontinue the BA in Technical Art History was not appealed.

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources provided additional ideas during its Aug. 29 hearing that are now part of a final recommendation.

Among them, reducing the number of required credit hours in the program to 123 and working to increase efficiency of course delivery.

The Department lost its appeal regarding faculty position reductions. Citing sustained declines in undergraduate enrollment and student credit hour production, the Committee retained the preliminary recommendation to reduce the number of faculty positions associated with the program from its current number to 14. Additional considerations included the prolonged period without significant curricular revision and that the unit has not reduced faculty in parallel with enrollment trends. 

College of Law

Recognizing its singular role in the state while acknowledging a significant annual operating deficit, the Aug. 29 hearing for the College of Law centered on final recommendations that will lead to a revision of curriculum that eliminates inefficient and unnecessary program requirements. 

The College must also demonstrate by May 2024 that it has implemented a meaningful assessment of learning outcomes to identify programmatic improvements that will increase students’ success, including bar passage rates.

The preliminary recommendation to reduce the number of faculty positions from the current number to 24 withstood the appeal. The proposed reduction will not affect the College’s ability to deliver its curriculum and maintain American Bar Association accreditation.

School of Mathematical and Data Sciences

The School of Mathematical and Data Sciences in the Eberly College appealed the number of recommended faculty reductions, as well as the discontinuation of all doctoral instruction, but it did not appeal the preliminary recommendations to discontinue the current PhD or MS Mathematics programs.

The Committee, through its final recommendation, recognized the School’s desire to develop an Intent to Plan for an applied mathematics/data sciences degree program at the doctoral level.

“As we look to the future, we see data science and analytics as a potential growth opportunity for the University in both graduate curriculum and research, given the growing demand in that area,” Vice President for Research Fred King said.

King also dispelled the notion that the absence of a math PhD program would harm the University’s R1 status should a new program fail to materialize, or if there was a gap between the end of the teach out for the current program and the launch of a new graduate-level program.

“The presence or absence of a math PhD is not a determining factor in the Carnegie R1 classification and MA or MS degrees are not included in the calculations that Carnegie uses to determine R1 versus R2 status,” King explained. “The reality is that we are looking to the future and other R1s are likely to follow suit.”

Recommendations at the bachelor’s level include conducting a meaningful revision of curriculum to improve efficiency, providing stronger instruction to support student success, eliminating required areas of emphasis entirely and developing a pathway for students interested in a more applied focus.

The Committee amended the faculty position reduction recommendation to 32, enabling the unit to continue to appropriately staff the teaching of its service courses. Key considerations for reducing personnel overall included declines in enrollment across the school’s degree programs and a decrease in student credit hour production.

Next steps

The WVU 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 for eight more units through Sept. 5 as additional appeals are heard.

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