PLANNING AND EVALUATION
The past ten years of planning and evaluation at URI divide into two distinct five-year periods. Prior to 1987, URI had conducted limited planning and evaluation activities. NEASC criticized the institution for this problem. Shortly after that, then-President Edward Eddy moved to hire Lawrence Mann as institutional planning director. A University report was produced in answer to the assigned task of long-range planning. The 1990 report laid out a blueprint for planning. In 1992, the NEASC stipulated that more action was needed in regard to planning. At this juncture, a major shift in planning and evaluation occurred.
The modern era of planning at URI began on January 17, 1992 with a speech from President Robert L. Carothers outlining the principal difficulties facing URI and challenging the University community to develop and implement a plan for a bold recreation of the research university in all its many aspects. This was followed on February 12, 1992 with a memorandum from the Provost and the Chair of the Faculty Senate to all faculty establishing a Joint Academic Steering Committee (JASC) for academic planning to be comprised of deans and faculty members, as well as graduate and undergraduate students and alumni, and chaired by the Provost. At the same time, another memorandum from the Provost and the vice presidents to all staff established a Staff Steering Committee (SSC) for planning to consist of a cross-section of non-faculty staff members, along with student and alumni representatives, and chaired by the Vice President for Business and Finance. The SSC submitted its report on May 14, 1992, and the JASC report was submitted on March 1, 1993. Their procedures and recommendations are outlined later.
Also, in response to the challenge from President Carothers, the Faculty Senate adopted a Vision Statement for the University to guide our subsequent planning and decision making, as follows:
Following up on the reports of the steering committees and the Vision Statement, President Carothers issued a strategic plan entitled "Building a New Culture for Learning" on September 8, 1993. Key components of the President's proposal were: a new structure for general education; more clearly defined learning goals and performance standards for degree programs; the establishment of Partnerships coupling education and research more closely; and the realignment of academic programs to achieve theseends and reduce costs. Also contained in the President's plan were recommendations for enhancing the University's "service sector," including human resources, residential life, communications and information, and asset protection. The Provost was charged with the responsibility to recommend program realignments within Academic Affairs. Her report, entitled "Academic Organization: Building Continued," was submitted in March of 1994 and included many specific proposals for the refocusing and merging of academic programs.
In response to the Provost's realignment recommendations, the Faculty Senate appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on Configuration of Colleges and Units within Academic Affairs (CCUAA) on May 12, 1994. The Faculty Senate charged the committee "to evaluate the current educational configuration in Academic Affairs and recommend a new configuration...." This committee, which held open meetings and fostered an electronic- mail discussion of reconfiguration issues, submitted its report on March 20, 1995. The conclusions and recommendations of the CCUAA include the following key statements: "Based on our findings, we believe the focus on [large-scale] restructuring as a partial solution for the problems faced by the University is misplaced...." "The committee strongly endorses reconfiguration which takes place within a context of collaboration between administration and the departments and colleges affected...." And, "In regard to 'reconfiguration,' then, it is our main recommendation that the University's leaders take the steps necessary to create an environment in which on-going change is expected and facilitated...." No specific proposals for reorganization were made.
In an attempt to bring closure to these efforts at program realignment and the reallocation of resources, the President appointed an Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee of administrators and faculty in May of 1995. Added impetus was provided by the newly appointed Vice President for Business and Finance in a report to the Faculty Senate. In that report, Vice President Kermes projected that costs were rising faster than revenues and that URI would confront a deficit of approximately $7 million in 1995-1996 and some $25 million by the year 2000. The task of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee was to develop a plan which could stave off these projected deficits, but that would also be in keeping with the foregoing planning efforts that had established, in broad terms, a direction for the University. Central to this process, a financial evaluation system entitled the Program Contribution Analysis (PCA) was developed to identify the costs incurred in the delivery of individual academic programs and the revenues generated by them. This analysis was performed in the summers of 1995 and 1996 and is underway again in 1997. The PCA is described in greater detail in later sections.
Extending planning activities in different ways, for three days in July 1996, some 150 faculty, staff, students, administrators, Board members, alumni, legislators and others met to work together on a "common agenda" for the coming year, a concept that Professor Alvin Swonger had first proposed in the electronic-mail debates of the previous spring. What he and others sought was a forum where we could attempt to create a greater sense of shared purpose and some specific direction for the work to be accomplished in the year ahead. The idea was not to institute yet another planning exercise, but rather to identify which of our previously developed goals the broad community thought were particularly important to address in the 1996-1997 academic year and what stood in the way of our accomplishing these and other important objectives. The process used, known as "open space technology," encouraged individuals to identify issues and then to lead groups of people with similar interests and concerns in explorations of these issues and the development of findings and position papers. In June 1997, another three-day "Common Agenda" convocation was implemented, resulting in the identification of and planning for such key issues for 1997- 1998 as "Research and Graduate Studies," "Morale and Equity," "'Futures' Planning and Technology," "Diversity Day & Peace Studies," "Summer at URI," "Face to Face(academic and creative opportunities for talented students), "Clustered Learning, Co- Curricular Transcripts, & Leadership," "Alcohol Research & Prevention," and "The Physical Environment." It is anticipated that these annual common agenda exercises will be a key element of systematic planning and evaluation efforts.
In addition to these university-wide planning efforts, a particular area of emphasis for strategic planning has been the University's infrastructure for computing and telecommunications. Major milestones in this process have been the reports of the University Communications and Computing Committee in March 1993; the Committee on Libraries, Computers, and Media in November 1993; and the External Committee on Telecommunications and Higher Education of the Rhode Island Board of Higher Education in March 1995. Key findings and recommendations of these committees include the following:
The use of information technology at URI is diverse and uneven and is falling behind that of peer institutions. The University requires a campus-wide communications infrastructure that will make information available to people when they need it, where they need it, and in the format best suited to the purpose.... Libraries, computers, and media must be 'tied together' in a number of ways in the future...Networking the campus--and the attendant upgrades in access to information--are key to the future of the institution and should be a high priority even in difficult financial times.... In looking at the shortcomings of the telecommunications and computer networks throughout the public system of higher education, it became abundantly clear the current funding was insufficient to improve these areas to the extent necessary. Consequently, it is recommended that the Board of Governors seek increased financial support for the facilities, equipment, software and personnel necessary to promote and maintain telecommunications and computer networks at the institutions at a level at least comparable to peer institutions.
For the second consecutive year, URI is participating in the national benchmarking project sponsored by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). The project will help us compare our operations and costs in over 35 administrative areas with over 70 other institutions. In addition, a process costing study will be completed for the following six areas: processing a purchase requisition, processing an invoice, processing a student application, hiring an employee, producing a grade report, and managing sponsored programs. Over 50 URI functional managers are currently assisting us in completing benchmarking forms. Another part of the NACUBO study includes a customer satisfaction section for the following areas: accounts payable, bookstore, budget, central stores, safety and health, facilities & operations, dining services, human resources (benefits, general, and hiring), information technology for faculty/staff, information technology for students, mail, parking, payroll and police.
Finally, many divisions, colleges and departments of the University have conducted major strategic planning in recent years. These efforts are listed later in this report. The processes and recommendations of the key evaluation and planning bodies as outlined above are more fully described in the following sections.
Joint Academic Steering Committee (JASC). JASC was jointly appointed by the administration and the Faculty Senate and consisted of 24 members from the administration, faculty, student body and alumni. Its charge from the Provost and the Chair of the Faculty Senate was to "Identify challenges and opportunities facing URI, explore options for meeting these challenges, suggest mechanisms for implementing the options, develop a timetable for its activities, and prepare an academic plan to be forwarded to the President with copies to the Council of Deans and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee." The committee had its initial meeting on March 25, 1992 andrequired almost one year to complete its work. Included in this process were three all- day meetings with Dr. Robert C. Shirley, President of the University of Southern Colorado and a well-known national expert in strategic planning for higher education. In accordance with established strategic-planning principles, working subcommittees were formed on Internal Strengths and Weaknesses; External Opportunities, Threats and Challenges; and Values and Cultures. These subcommittees held meetings with various campus groups and collected data throughout the spring and fall semesters of 1992. A Program Evaluation Subcommittee was also formed to assemble data and recommendations for programmatic changes.
President Carothers identified several assumptions from which strategic planning would proceed. The Joint Academic Steering Committee (JASC) conducted a survey to estimate the degree of campus concurrence with these assumptions. The assumptions and survey results are as follows:
JASC's report reflected all these inputs. A key recommendation from the report was to focus our academic enterprises on the areas of Globalization; Marine and Environmental Sciences; Biological Sciences; Economic Development; Health Sciences; Public Policy; and Liberal Studies. Undergraduate students, representing approximately 85% of total student enrollment, were identified as "the University's most important clientele," while graduate students were also recognized as "an important factor in the University's educational and research mission." "However, realizing that such programs are expensive, graduate programs will be limited to those closely aligned with the University Mission..." In the areas of research and service, the report concluded that:
...the primary clientele for funded research will remain the federal government. As federally sponsored research supporting defense declines, the University should shift its attention to the health, environmental and biological sciences in which appropriations are expected to increase....The first priority in service will be maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of the citizens of Rhode Island.
Programmatic recommendations were based on an evaluation of both centrality to mission and cost effectiveness. These recommendations were developed by the Program Evaluation Subcommittee and finalized by the full Joint Academic Steering Committee. One or more recommendations were made for each graduate and each undergraduate program in the University from the following list of possibilities: maintain, reduce,enhance, eliminate, refocus, merge, reduce cost and/or enhance revenue, and increase student/FTE ratio. Additional administrative action items in Academic Affairs were delineated, with a suggested deadline and responsible person/group identified in each case.
Staff Steering Committee. The Staff Steering Committee was convened by the Provost and the vice presidents in February 1992 and consisted of 19 members from the University staff, student body, and alumni. Its basic charge was summarized in the question, "How can we improve service to the academic and student-service mission of the University?" Data gathering efforts by the committee included a University-wide survey distributed with paychecks, a public solicitation for input, four public forums, and 38 focus groups facilitated by members of the committee. Based upon this input, the following challenges were identified and addressed in the committee's report: treatment of staff personnel, the prevalent "class system" perception, communication, leadership, change (the shifting paradigm), staff development, interdepartmental cooperation, customer orientation, workload increases with restrained resources, policies and procedures, incentives for improvement, technological advancement, work environment, and long-range planning.
Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee. In contrast with JASC, the Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee was appointed exclusively by the President. Although lacking a specific charge initially, the President made clear to the committee in the early stages of its deliberations that he was seeking advice for dealing with the potential of increasing deficits that had been projected by the Vice President for Business and Finance. Early in the process, the committee recognized that with the revenues projected from tuition and state appropriation in the years ahead, URI would not be able to continue to fund all of its current activities at an adequate level. The committee consensus was that it would be necessary to reduce the number of programs offered at the University but that the selection of programs to be curtailed needed to be carefully considered and in line with the recommendations for focusing that had come out of JASC.
The committee further concluded that the usual mechanism for eliminating programs (a recommendation to the Faculty Senate for each program and a full review by the Faculty Senate, typically taking in excess of a year), together with the lag that is inherent in seeing current freshmen through to graduation before a program is finally eliminated, would not be rapid enough to enable the administration to forestall the deficits that were projected. The committee therefore recommended that the President proceed through his budgetary authority to close off admissions to whatever programs were to be targeted while the formal process of program elimination was undertaken.
The Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee reviewed the previous planning efforts from the last few years as described above and concluded that its effort should build on these preceding efforts. The committee recognized the veracity of an observation that had been made in the last accreditation review of the University -- that the University of Rhode Island is good at talking about plans but poor at implementation of such plans. The committee defined their role as promoting the implementation of planning efforts that had preceded the work of the committee rather than constructing wholly new plans.
Although the Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee had great respect for the work of JASC, a sentiment existed that one reason that the planning effort of JASC had not reaped significant results was that the data which had been produced were not adequate to the task of supporting or justifying the recommendations made by JASC. The Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee believed strongly that a better quality of data concerning programs was requisite to success of the effort. The advisory committee noted, for example, that focusing programmatic efforts per se does not guarantee an improvement in financial projections if what the institution plans to focus on is all of the most expensive andleast cost-effective programs. It noted that the programs for which the University is generally best known and which would logically form the nuclei for the focus areas recommended by JASC tended to be the most expensive programs and often the least cost effective. Eliminating a program of low centrality or regional significance but one associated with significantly higher revenue than cost would only serve to deepen the financial problems of the institution. The advisory committee concluded that it needed to look for two things: (1) programs that could be suspended because they have low centrality and regional significance, poor cost effectiveness, low demand, and resources that can be redirected; and (2) programs that could be flagged for management initiatives because their resources were being underutilized, even though the program was otherwise valuable to the University.
To provide a better quality of programmatic data, the Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee assigned a subgroup the task of undertaking a Program Contribution Analysis. Although contribution analysis at the level of colleges or departments was a well- established methodology in the management of business and institutions of higher education, the application of this methodology at the program level of organization had not previously been attempted. This posed a significant challenge in that budgeting is traditionally organized by colleges and departments, not by programs. The most obvious immediate difficulty in attempting such an analysis was that the largest single expense at a university is faculty time, and the utilization of faculty time among the various activities of a department, including the delivery of programs, is not typically accounted in an accurate manner. Unless the distribution of faculty time among the various activities of a department could be quantified with sufficient accuracy, any attempt to ascertain the cost of individual programs, research or service/outreach efforts could not be accomplished. It was, therefore, concluded that program-level contribution analysis would have to be built on the base of a comprehensive workload analysis.
The workload data already submitted as part of the annual accountability of departments were reviewed and analyzed according to a workload model developed for the exercise. The data organized for each department were returned to department chairs for review and adjustments. The data returned by the chairs was then compiled to determine what fraction of collective faculty time in each department was devoted to undergraduate teaching, graduate teaching, released-time research, and released-time service/outreach. The two teaching components were then further divided, based on analysis of the program codes of students in course code records, into credits delivered in support of the department's own baccalaureate and graduate program(s) and its service-credit contribution (elective, general education, or prerequisite credits for students in majors outside the department). For each of these departmental activities, a value called the Faculty Service Contribution (FSC) was calculated -- basically the decimal fraction of the collective departmental faculty time devoted to that departmental activity. The FSCs were then used as the main basis for distributing the departmental expenses among the component activities. Formulas were developed for distribution of each direct and indirect expense and each direct and indirect revenue of the University to one or another departmental activity -- either an academic program, released-time research, or released-time service/outreach. This methodology enabled the committee to derive for each program such variables as direct revenue less direct expense, net contribution margin, cost per credit hour, research funding received, grants and gifts received, and overhead generated.
While the financial study was underway, the committee also gathered qualitative information about programs using a template that included a centrality to mission rating, a rating of the significance to the region and state, demand parameters, relationship to the proposed focus areas, and many other factors. Templates for eachprogram were filled out by the respective deans as well as by subcommittees of the committee for each focus area. Data were also gathered from the Vice President for Research regarding funded grants for each department and overhead generated.
Finally, both quantitative and qualitative data were compiled by department and program on a summary table and reviewed by the committee. Based on this review, recommendations were made for program suspensions and flags and forwarded to the Provost. The Provost and the President then met with the deans and with the chairs of departments that had been flagged or that had programs recommended for suspension. Departments were allowed a period to respond to the recommendations. The Provost received responses from the departments and adjusted the recommendations in some cases. The final decisions of the President and Provost were then disseminated to the campus community in the fall of 1995.
During the 1995-1996 academic year, the Program Contribution Analysis system was reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (ACRA), which is jointly appointed by the Faculty Senate and the administration. The committee concluded that program-level contribution analysis should become a permanent part of institutional analysis, on an annual basis, as support for the planning process. Some minor modifications were recommended to improve the validity of the model. In May 1996, the President announced a time table for the second application of the analysis system, and the analysis was completed by late summer and released to the deans in September. The President and Provost then met with each dean to review the data and the progress made in the previous year and to identify management issues for the following year. , the Provost sent letters to each department chair summarizing the results of the analysis and outlining her conclusions, recommendations, intended actions and expectations. In accordance with ACRA's recommendation, the process is now institutionalized and is in progress again for 1997.
Attention to institutional transformation has been of intensive concern in the past two years. Enhancing the activities and physical space of URI has been the focus, through the process of large events like the Common Agenda I and II and University-wide reviews and studies. These include a major review of the Affirmative Action process (report available in the work room), feasibility studies of facilities and land use. For example, a "Charrette" was held last year, which was a walking tour of the upper campus with the intent to redesign that physical space to reflect the University more positively and attractively. Furthermore, the newly formed Professional Development, Leadership, and Organizational Training (PDLOT) Office has focused on staff training and development, including leadership and implementing cultural change.
Substantial progress has been made as a result of these evaluation and planning efforts. While JASC and the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee were temporary, their efforts laid the groundwork for important processes and procedures that continue, such as the Program Contribution Analysis. Specific changes include the designation of four focus areas for applied research and service as follows: Marine and Environment; Health; Enterprise and Advanced Technology; and Children, Families and Communities. In addition, four interdisciplinary research Partnerships have been selected and funded with substantial three-year grants. The Liberal Arts Core has also been emphasized. A new introductory course, URI 101, has been instituted for all incoming freshman, and major changes in the general education program are under active consideration.
The libraries, academic and administrative computing, telecommunications, and instructional technology have been brought into closer coordination under the new position of Vice Provost for Information Services and Dean of University Libraries. Abond issue was passed in November 1996 for $40.6M for networking infrastructure in higher education in Rhode Island, of which URI's share is $29M. The special emphasis on computer networking has been further recognized by the establishment of a Director of Networking and Telecommunications, reporting to the Vice Provost for Information Services. Planning for the allocation and installation of these new resources over a five- year period are well underway.
The positions of Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School have been combined into a single post, the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Research and Outreach, to bring these areas into closer collaboration. As a result of the focus on marine and environment sciences, the Graduate School of Oceanography and the College of Resource Development are also growing much closer together. This is due in part to their sharing a dean and in part to her leadership and initiatives. While not yet a completed process, there are proposals to formalize this growing closeness in new structures.
As a result of the Program Contribution Analysis, admissions to a number of under-enrolled programs have been suspended while they are considered for merger or elimination, and other programs have been "flagged" for improvements in organization and/or management. Finally, the Common Agenda meetings established several areas for special emphasis.
Generally, there is heightened awareness of the importance of evaluation and planning, techniques for doing it, and some potential pitfalls. In particular, while the JASC report clearly set the direction and tone for much subsequent planning and actions at URI, this process has taken longer to implement than many participants might have imagined. Perhaps this lag should have been anticipated for such major changes. The delay was due, in part, to the strongly negative reaction on the part of several departments with programs that were slated for elimination, and in hindsight, several of the recommendations were probably ill-conceived. This problem, in turn, exposed one of the weaknesses of the process that we have attempted to correct in subsequent planning efforts. Namely, the colleges and departments involved should be consulted not only in the initial data-gathering phase, but also as the final recommendations are prepared in order to get their reactions and rebuttal data.
Individual colleges, divisions and departments that have conducted major planning efforts in recent years include the following:
College of Engineering
College of Human Science and Services
College of Pharmacy
Division of Student Affairs
Division of University Advancement
Graduate School of Library and Information Studies
Department of Food Science and Nutrition
Department of Music
Systematic, ongoing evaluation and planning processes at URI include the data gathering activities of the Office of Institutional Research, annual Program Contribution Analysis by the administration with input from the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation, and the Common Agenda process each summer involving all segments of the University community. Specific evaluation and planning efforts will, of course, be initiated as needed in areas such as research, graduate education, undergraduate education, infrastructure, land use, libraries, athletics and recreation, and student life, as well as individual colleges and programs. For example, the general education and AffirmativeAction programs currently are undergoing major review and possible revision, and the closer coordination of the Graduate School of Oceanography and the College of Resource Development continues. The positive response from staff to PDLOT is helping to transform the climate at the University. PDLOT will continue to offer training and development workshops and seminars.
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