Learning During Program Discontinuance and Reduction

Chair, Occupational Education Committee

In these tight budget times, colleges are experiencing program discontinuance and reduction. At the Academic Senate's Fall Plenary 03, a breakout was held on this issue. Many local senate presidents did not know what was stated in their college's or district's policy and the necessary procedures to be observed when discontinuing a program. For all attendees, the breakout was an opportunity to learn and plan for what they needed to do in the future.

Four colleges shared their policy and procedures; Mission College in Santa Clara, Sierra College, Santa Monica, and Butte College. The Academic Senate paper, Program Discontinuance: A Faculty Perspective (1998), was also disseminated at the breakout. If you wish to access this paper, it is on our website at http://www.asccc.org/papers/program-discontinuance-faculty-perspective-…. Faculty are responsible for curriculum and "program development" and should take the lead in not only program creation but also the program discontinuance or suspension.

There emerged in our conversations some common themes or key items that should be present in a policy and procedure on program discontinuance. Some items to consider before you begin are: union contracts, FSAs, recurrent targeting (intentional or unintentional) of student populations (e.g., vocational students, basic skills classes), links to planning and mission at your college. Other questions emerged: Who has to approve a district's policy and establish its procedures? Who, outside the college, has to review the proposal to discontinue a program (regionally? Statewide?) Are those considerations contained in the policy and procedures? Once implemented, does the process (or its participants) presuppose a "buy-in" and approval process for the discontinuance of a program, or are participants open to other strategies? How does the policy and procedure function in emergency budget times to ensure open and wide faculty involvement. Are the senates in a multi-college district in accord? Are they speaking with a united voice? And are they aware of how a discontinuance on one campus may impact another?

Key themes that were repeated by many attendees and that are present in the Senate paper are: 1) having union, senate, and curriculum committee involvement, 2) including timelines that are more than one year, 3) developing criteria/indicators that are both qualitative and quantitative, 4) considering an appeals process or plan for improvement, and 5) defining any terms that may be used in the procedure to improve understanding by all. The process should include such data as: how many students are affected, how many part-time and full-time faculty are affected, and how does this impact the community and businesses. What jobs are in our community that cannot now be filled or students who may not be able to advance in their career or improve their life and income? How would this impact college curriculum balance or affect other programs?

This experience was a learning process for this local senate president who found that her college's procedure was just two sentences! Even in these tight budget times, it is not too late to start a process to improve your local policy and procedure. Butte College has already approached our Vice President of Instruction, our College President, and our local senate and Curriculum Ccommittee to create a new procedure. If you do not know what your local policy and procedures are on program discontinuance, I urge to find it and review it. You may want to consider changing what you have and improving on the process.

Good Luck and rise to the challenge!