Some students returned to California State University, Stanislaus for the start of fall semester on Monday, only to find their academic college had been eliminated in a surprise reorganization.
CSU Stanislaus announced Monday that the university’s College of the Arts and College of Human and Health Sciences had been merged into other existing CSU Stanislaus colleges. The change took effect immediately, and had not been publically announced prior.
CSU Stanislaus Provost James Strong said the change is merely organizational, and will not affect any students, programs, or graduation requirements.
“Our academic programs are not affected at all,” Strong said. “This is simply an organizational structure change.”
The former College of the Arts will become the School of the Arts, and will merge with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The College of Human and Health Sciences will split; the programs in nursing, psychology, and child development will merge with the College of Natural Sciences, and the department of social work will merge with the College of Education.
Only the College of Business Administration will remain unchanged.
Strong emphasized the word merge, noting that the reorganization will effectively create three new colleges. All three new colleges will be renamed in the coming months, to more accurately reflect their new course offerings.
The reorganization is expected to save the university $250,000 annually through the reduction of two deanships and three support employees.
“It’s not something we necessarily wanted to do, but under the circumstances the first priority is to protect students,” Strong said, noting the savings can be redirected to improve class offerings.
Two of the five eliminated positions were vacant, including the deanship of the College of Human and Health Sciences. A further two employees were temporary employees, whose contracts will not be renewed.
Former Dean of the College of the Arts Daryl Moore will return to a faculty position, teaching one class this semester. Moore had previously taught one class even while serving as dean; he is expected to assume a full teaching course load for spring semester.
Surprise reorganization long in planning
Reorganization was first considered in 2010, when the University Budget Advisory Committee debated whether CSU Stanislaus should consider reducing the number of colleges in a budget savings measure.
With approval from then-President Hamid Shirvani, a committee, chaired by Physics, Physical Sciences, and Geology Department Chair Ian Littlewood, investigated if such a consolidation would produce enough savings to make the move worthwhile. The Littlewood committee found that considerable savings could be found, and recommended about five different potential structures for the university’s colleges.
That committee’s findings were reviewed by another committee, chaired by Biological Sciences Professor Ken Schoenly, in February 2012. At that time, a search was ongoing for a new dean for the College of Human and Health Sciences, while CSU system officials were warning of potential budget cuts.
“I went to that college, and I said I thought that perhaps suspending the search and maybe even considering reorganizing that college made sense, given the dark budget clouds on the horizon,” Strong said.
The College of Human and Health Sciences then approached the Schoenly committee, which made a recommendation in late spring to proceed with the reorganization which took place Monday. The recommendation was approved by Shirvani, and recently affirmed by Interim President Joseph Sheley.
Though substantial, the annual savings is far short of the anticipated trigger cut of $4.1 million CSU Stanislaus must absorb should voters not approve Proposition 30 on the November ballot.
“It’s not, obviously, anywhere near what we have to do, but a quarter-million dollars is a significant sum annually,” Strong said.
The Gov. Jerry Brown backed tax package would raise income tax on earnings over $250,000 for five years, and increase sales and use taxes by ½ cent for four years. Should Prop 30 fail, the CSU system as a whole would absorb a $250 million budget cut, potentially leading to a mid-year tuition increase, enrollment cutbacks, and salary reductions.
It’s a period of “maximum uncertainty,” Strong said, but at this time CSU Stanislaus does not anticipate further cuts prior to the November election – for now.
“The campus does not plan any budget decisions before the November vote at this time, but that could change,” Strong said.