APSCUF’s February 2018 legislative assembly approved the following statement on the use of program review as a justification for retrenchment:
Periodic program review is a best practice in American higher education that involves stakeholders in the continuous improvement of existing academic programs in support of the student experience. – Opening sentence of PASSHE Policy 186-04-A; Program Review
APSCUF is committed to and appreciates the value of comprehensive and effective program review and, as recognized by PASSHE, understands that it is, first and foremost, a means of enhancing the student experience. Increasingly, however, it has been used as a tool to justify threats of retrenchment. APSCUF also recognizes that “sustainability” is one of many dimensions of program review, but we are troubled by the emphasis on this poorly defined term, which is secondary to “student experience” and “accreditation standards” in PASSHE policy 1986-04-A: Program Review.
Retrenchment has costs of its own; it should be a last-resort consideration, and its broad impact on the “student experience” must be understood before it is evoked as a negotiations tool. The immediate impact on students, the long-term trends in student demand, and the relative short- and long-term costs of retrenchment must be fully considered by all parties before a university acts to reduce its faculty ranks. Many relatively small programs serve vital roles in the student experience, and their value cannot be derived from enrollment alone. Program reviews, which provide a wealth of information, are diminished when their only yield is a simplified interpretation of enrollment trends aimed at proposing a single, short-sighted solution to every financial concern.
APSCUF is committed to comprehensive and effective program review as one of many ways to direct evidence-based improvements in the student experience and the quality of our university programs. We do, however, strongly recommend that the matter of evaluating “Academic Program Sustainability” (a secondary program-review objective) not be the sole purpose of program review and that retrenchment not be regarded as the sole solution when “Program Sustainability” is brought into question.
—Academic Affairs Committee