California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Prioritization Recovery Planning Committee

Rumors, Objections, Concerns, and Questions (ROCQ)
Revised 6/17/06

 

Back to Documents Page | Revised Criteria (March 30, 2006) | Progress Report (April 19, 2006)

1. “This looks like Strategic Planning revisited”

2. "We are an FTE driven school and that will never change..."

3. "What would happen if my department refuses to participate?"

4. A department chair ...wonders if our data gathering will end up ignoring the great things going on.

5. "Dickeson points out the need to have the process supported by the governing board..."

6. “ In the past, institutional resource numbers were always used in spite of those generated by the college. ... Will colleges be considered as respected sources of valid information?"

7. "What if we have a new program we want to initiate? Where is that considered in the criteria?"

8. “I am from a big college that doesn’t have representation on the PRPC committee. I realize it is a charter committee, but I am not sure I feel represented.”

9. "How will the committee know they can trust the information submitted on the instrument? How will they know if what they are reading is the truth?"

10. "What makes the committee qualified to decide what is quality and what is not quality in areas other than their own discipline?"

11. "Trend data can be misleading. How do you know if you are looking at a trend or a just the upside of a cycle? Some disciplines run in cycles."

12. "Seems like this process is similar to what we did in the 90s. Both seem to be sub-optimizing the campus."

13. "Why don’t we just get rid of small programs? They are a drain on our resources."

14. "Is there any consideration for rewards other than increased funding?"

15. "It seems like we are putting more emphasis on teaching and discouraging research."

16. "There appears to be a lack of communications regarding the prioritization process at the faculty level. Information is not reaching the faculty."

17. "Will there be an undue emphasis on satisfying external stakeholders that will harm service programs?"

18. "Money still seems to be the driving force around here. I am afraid there will be undue bias toward programs that generate overhead money from grants or do a lot of fundraising."

19. "How will we guarantee that the prioritization process will not threaten the concept of a broad education for our students?"

20. "It seems like the use of statistics in analyzing matrices filled with data has the danger of missing or losing important points."

21. "Robert Dickeson has taken what some believe to be controversial positions in some recently published papers. Aren’t we really buying into Dickenson’s unpopular schemes if we continue with prioritization?"

22. "We know our program is at least 30 years old, but do not seem to have information that pre-dates that. Is that enough to complete the historical narrative in the template?"

23. "When we complete Criterion #4, will members of the committee be familiar with the terms and explanations used by the program? If you are not, will you consult with the faculty for an understanding?"

24. "What is the purpose of the college response? It looks like it is counter to the purpose of the prioritization process."

1. “This looks like Strategic Planning revisited”

There is a sense in which Dickeson’s prioritization process can accomplish some of what the strategic planning process accomplishes in the early stages of assessment. There are some parallels. Dickeson’s approach does not address implementation with any depth. That is left up to campus leadership. One very significant characteristic of the Dickeson approach is that the focal point of the process is identifying and addressing “programs”…not departments, colleges, or divisions. This subtle difference is worth reflection. In many ways this approach aligns more comfortably with the Cal Poly Pomona culture and the “shared governance” tradition of the academic community in general. With thoughtful consideration, the results could be helpful in the WASC reaccrediting process.

2. From Fall Conference 2005, one long term department chair commented: "We are an FTE driven school and that will never change. I don't want to give up anything that is generating FTE, whether I like the program or not. The Prioritization process will not change the FTE culture. Budget is allocated by FTE no matter what the administration says. When times are tough, the dean will look at your FTE, nothing else." Similar concerns have been expressed: “FTES generates dollars for the campus, so if it gets redistributed based on mission and merit, the program rewarded may not generate the FTES to cover those costs”, “Will the FTES driven nature of the CSU be changing?” and “Does the Chancellor know we do not care about FTE any more?”

The President made an initial response by saying that the CSU is not changing the allocation of budget based on FTES, but we intend to change our culture internally to be less FTES driven. The campus has no intention of reducing FTES generated unless it is planned. The expectation is that this process will actually produce FTES more easily and efficiently by shifting some resources to programs that are in demand and are well-managed, or to needed, effective support of the programs.

In reality, we are a "pseudo-FTES" culture. We only use FTES to allocate budget in one of the four divisions right now. Then within that division there are a number of academic support programs that do not generate FTES. Besides that, we do not equally divide up dollars based on FTES the same for each college. Historically, we have used FTES targets and actual FTES to make adjustments to college allocation. The targets are historical numbers and not based on mission, quality or efficiency in any consistent manner. In addition, FTE allocation methods vary within the colleges.

3. What would happen if my department refuses to participate?

The approach taken within Academic Affairs is to allow each college to provide input on the criteria indicators and later on the weighting of the criteria. If someone chooses not to participate, then the final approach will, unfortunately, be lacking their input. At some point Deans will be asking each Department to provide information about their programs. Deans will have to decide how to handle situations where departments choose not to provide the information. Decisions will ultimately be made about funding for each program on campus.

4. A department chair asked if the criteria used would include great things that the departments are doing that are not reflected in FTE. He said he spends a lot of time making end-of-year reports that don’t seem to have any use and wonders if our data gathering will end up ignoring the great things going on as well.

There are several areas where a program’s uniqueness, value, and strengths can be mentioned. The Opportunity Analysis section can be used to show how funding would be used to enhance the program’s success in these and other areas.

5. Dickeson points out the need to have the process supported by the governing board, otherwise those parties that are unhappy with the outcomes can run to trustees they have influence with and get the decisions reversed.

The committee has been informed that the Chancellor and many other campuses are aware of what we are doing and are watching with interest. The degree to which trustees are aware of what is going on at Cal Poly Pomona is not known to us at this time.

6. “Without having valid campus data from institutional resources, then the weight continues to fall on department chairs to track and generate real numbers. In the past, institutional resource numbers were always used in spite of those generated by the college. Many times the data within the college was up to date compared to older stats from the computerized data center. Will colleges be considered as respected sources of valid information?”

We will use institutional numbers as much as possible to reduce variation issues when comparing programs to each other. This concern was also brought up at a focus group on March 17 where department chairs from six different colleges and schools were asked to review the critieria and indicators for feedback on the usability of template. At their suggestion optional fields were added to the template where programs could comment on institutionally provided data if they felt it was appropriate.

7. What if we have a new program we want to initiate? Where is that considered in the criteria?

When first asked this question, it seemed like the appropriate response was to say new programs should be included in the “Opportunity Analysis” section of the criteria where we ask, “If you had additional funds, what would you do?” Perhaps a more appropriate response should include that the normal process for getting an academic program adopted would not change. However, at this point it seems realistic to run a proposed program past the criteria to see if it would pass muster next to other programs. Ultimately, the level any new program is funded becomes an Administrative decision.

Perhaps it would be good to ask what the college and/or division’s policies and procedures are for adding programs.

8. “I am from a big college that doesn’t have representation on the PRPC committee. I realize it is a charter committee, but I am not sure I feel represented.”

There apparently was thoughtful discussion on this point when the committee was being planned by the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate. The committee is supposed to be setting up and implementing a balanced, fair process, not creating a venue for a potential turf battle. Looking at what other universities have done seems to indicate that the approach taken here was appropriate.

9. How will the committee know they can trust the information submitted on the instrument? How will they know if what they are reading is the truth?

We always have this concern with proposals or self-reviews: program reviews, leave proposals, grant proposals, and self-studies of all kinds. The committee has already discussed this topic and plans to address it in our methodology.

10. What makes the committee qualified to decide what is quality and what is not quality in areas other than their own discipline?

Similar to the previous question, the process needs to address this issue. How the responses are evaluated and how the recommendations are reviewed needs to be done in such a way that collective wisdom is employed. Asking for college feedback on the criteria indicators, weighting process, and allowing for responses to recommendations are additional ways that misinterpretations in assessing quality can be minimized.

11. Trend data can be misleading. How do you know if you are looking at a trend or a just the upside of a cycle? Some disciplines run in cycles.

One reason the PRPC has requested that the environmental scan be updated is to provide some guidance about long term trends in various job markets within the state. These forecasts are available and would be helpful if used as part of a balanced review.

12. Seems like this process is similar to what we did in the 90s. Both seem to be sub-optimizing the campus.

The approach we are taking is an attempt to prioritize programs for funding decisions using balanced, mission-driven criteria. While admittedly suboptimal in some respects, campuses that have undergone this approach report great satisfaction with the results and success with programs that were deserving of additional funding.

13. Why don’t we just get rid of small programs? They are a drain on our resources.

Program size is not necessarily a reason for discontinuance.

14. Is there any consideration for rewards other than increased funding? If I get increased funding to support more or larger programs in my department I am just going to be more overworked than I already am.

Without being able to probe the question, it seems that increased funding can be used to hire additional faculty, buy new equipment, and increase support services that might be the sources of overwork and stress. Increased funding can be used for release time, travel, research and faculty development that could be helpful in reducing stress and increasing the joy of working in academia.

15. It seems like we are putting more emphasis on teaching and discouraging research.

There are many of kinds of research that are very appropriate for a comprehensive university like ours. In Scholarship Reconsidered, Boyer discusses the scholarship of discovery, scholarship of integration, scholarship of application, and scholarship of teaching as being vital areas for research. We have the rich opportunity to engage in all of these areas well within the purview of our various programs.

16. There appears to be a lack of communications regarding the prioritization process at the faculty level. Information is not reaching the faculty.

The PRPC has made presentations and/or met with the Deans Council as well as the chairs of Science, CLASS, Engineering, Business, and Agriculture. PRPC representatives have met with the entire faculty of CEIS and with the University Council of Chairs and the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate. The purpose of these meetings was to share our progress, answer questions, and hear concerns. In November, each college was asked to review the proposed criteria within the college and provide feedback. The expectation was that all faculty would receive a copy of the proposed criteria and have a chance to provide feedback. The reality is that trickle-down communication on campus is very inconsistent. We have recommended that direct communication with faculty be used to explain and clarify the university-wide prioritization process on our campus. As of this writing, it appears that these recommendations are being adopted and the results will be forthcoming.

17. Will there be an undue emphasis on satisfying external stakeholders that will harm service programs?

Apparently there was some perceived bias toward external stakeholders regarding the planning or program review efforts of the past. That is not the case in this process. Internal and External demand are equally important in our campus culture and environment. Internal demand takes on several forms, most notably service courses and General Education courses and programs. The Senate Steering Committee has put together a trustee committee which includes individuals with very deep understanding of these issues and the need for appropriately recognizing service related programs

18. Money still seems to be the driving force around here. I am afraid there will be undue bias toward programs that generate overhead money from grants or do a lot of fundraising.

As of this writing, there are 14 major criteria (not necessarily of equal weights) that have been developed to encompass the university goals in the prioritization process. Success related to grants and fundraising are portions of three of these criteria. In reality, the process prevents the bias of the prioritization of programs toward any one type of criteria or type of program.

19. How will we guarantee that the prioritization process will not threaten the concept of a broad education for our students?

Probably the most appropriate response to this concern is that the recommendations of the PRPC will be delivered to the Senate and the President for consideration. Final decisions about how to shift any funding or combine or eliminate programs throughout the university can take into account the broader issues and direction the campus community wants to go. Also, the prioritization process does not undermine the curriculum process, which is really the driving force in providing a broad education.

20. It seems like the use of statistics in analyzing matrices filled with data has the danger of missing or losing important points.

Each of the criterion (of which there are 14 at this time) is composed of multiple indicators. Some indicators have been developed that are qualitative and some are quantitative. While statistical data are involved, the evaluation and weighting process will provide balanced results. No single indicator or criterion will have an overriding effect on a program’s final ranking.

21. Robert Dickeson has taken what some believe to be controversial positions in some recently published papers. Aren’t we really buying into Dickenson’s unpopular schemes if we continue with prioritization?

(Revised 4/30/06) Dickeson’s book about the prioritization process provides a basic “program” oriented approach that any campus could use for deciding how to allocate budget cuts, realign current funding, or pass out budget increases. Dickeson proposes that mission-driven criteria be used to evaluate, rank, and eventually prioritize programs and services for funding purposes. This basic approach was used to design the charge for the PRPC with autonomy to figure out the best way to accomplish the task based on campus culture and institutions. As one committee member puts it, "He provided a framework, not a mandate."

While Dickeson was kind of the catalyst, the committee also reviewed many other authors who have written on the subject of academic program planning, accountability, resource allocation, state funding criteria, etc. For example we examined and found very helpful the writings and research from Fred Volkwein of Penn State, (Establishing academic priorities, Journal of. Higher Education 49: 472-488). Also helpful was Honoring the Trust: Quality and Cost Containment by William F. Massy (in fact the cabinet, possibly including the leadership of the Academic Senate actually had a phone conference with him). Professor Joseph Burke has written extensively on the subject of accountability in higher education. Two of his titles include "Performance Funding for Public Higher Education", Jossey-Bass (1998) and Accountability in Higher Education, Jossey-Bass (2004). We had Sally Johnstone on campus speaking about some of the same issues. In a recent contact, Professor Fred Volkwein said he would be willing to work with us when we begin to look at the data.

In reality, besides the basic prioritization approach of evaluating programs rather than departments, disciplines, colleges, or divisions, the PRPC has carved its own path on how to fulfill the committee’s charter (for example, we have 14 criteria, as compared to Dickeson's recommended 10). Reviews of prioritization efforts at other universities continue to show that each campus is customizing their approach to prioritizing programs to match their campus culture, circumstances, and needs.

Since the chartering of the PRPC, two articles written by Dickeson that address accreditation and the cost of higher education have been published. Dickeson’s recent articles and whatever ideas he may have about accreditation and the cost of higher education are not something that the PRPC has had on the radar screen. The PRPC has no intention of being poster children for Dickeson or his ideas on accreditation, faculty, or the cost of higher education. Dickeson's book on prioritization is a fast read and stands on its own merits. All faculty and staff are encouraged to read the book and see for themselves the rationale behind the basic process.

22. "We know our program is at least 30 years old, but do not seem to have information that pre-dates that. Is that enough to complete the historical narrative in the template?"

The purpose of this section of the template is to briefly provide the reader with the context of the program within the fabric of the university. If 30 years is enough to do that, then it seems unnecessary to dig further back.

For anyone who would like to find out when a program actually began, probably the best resource is the catalog collection in the Special Collection Section on the 3rd floor of the Library. Below is a link showing their hours:
http://www.csupomona.edu/~library/specialcollections/

Sometimes emeritus faculty are available by email who can relate why a program was started it if is not commonly known. All that being said, if a quick look at the archives or inquiry with emeritus faculty doesn't produce any useful insight, then it would probably be more effective use of time to indicate the best collective historical information from the faculty to state the context of the program and move on to developing input for other narratives on the template.

23. "When we complete Criterion #4, will members of the committee be familiar with the terms and explanations used by the program? If you are not, will you consult with the faculty for an understanding?"

Reasonable question. We have already anticipated that we could be asking questions for any template narrative that could use clarification, not just for Criterion #4. We are not afraid to seek out the proper people and ask questions.

24. "What is the purpose of the college response? It looks like it is counter to the purpose of the prioritization process."

The college level response is supplemental information only. Early in the Spring quarter the Deans expressed concerns about the Prioritization & Recovery process that program information would be submitted without any context from the college level. Dean Barbara Way brought that concern back to the committee and we thought it was reasonable. (Our research showed that some campuses who had implemented this process had solicited parallel input for contextual purposes from colleges or deans, such as Chadron State College, Nebraska). So, at the Monday, April 3, Dean's meeting, Barbara Way announced that each college could put together a college level review process and submit any recommendations, remarks, or plans they wanted to at the same time the program information was due (June 15). These recommendations would be available to our committee for consideration, but were not a substitute for the PRP process. Each college could choose to complete the process with existing organizational structure or create something ad hoc just for this purpose. The only requirement was that at a minimum we wanted a "college" opinion about how they would rank the Criteria 4 spending requests for their college. Everything else was optional. (Note: This was specifically not to be a "Dean's" response.) Some colleges created a plan and deadlines so they could complete the college-level process before June 15. Other colleges waited until programs submitted Criteria 4.1 narratives to begin the review process which produced a serious time crunch in meeting the deadline.