The UPR evokes a whirlwind of responses from the Taylor community
The wind that rips through campus is a pervasive reality at Taylor University, knocking students off sidewalks and leaving everyone’s hair tousled. But the wind has its upside too: students can windsurf on longboards and the turbines create renewable energy.
The University Program Review is like that forceful wind.
Tuesday, Feb. 23, Taylor administration announced sweeping changes that impacted almost every program in the University. Some people were hurt, while others were given resources to thrive. But almost everyone was impacted.
Two business days before the campus-wide University Program Review (UPR) announcement, Mary Rayburn’s supervisors told her that her job was being eliminated. Rayburn, the director of student ministries, said her reaction was shock and extreme sadness. According to Rayburn, her supervisors didn’t prepare her to receive the news and she was unaware that her position, in particular, was being considered for elimination.
“This choice to remove my position directly affects community-Taylor relations and the hundreds of students who minister in our community and beyond our community through these ministries,” Rayburn said.
Rayburn currently supervises two graduate assistants, one part-time Youth Conference coordinator, six student co-directors, a full-time administrative assistant, 16 spring break missions team leaders and hundreds of student volunteers.
Rayburn was offered a yearlong terminal contract, meaning she can continue her current role until May 2017. She said it has not yet been determined which of the programs she supervises will be retained, eliminated, redesigned or moved to other areas of Student Development or of the University.
Political Science professor Stephen King has known for almost a year that his job and department were going to be eliminated. King said his supervisors told him that three of his upper division courses consistently had low enrollment numbers.
“(They) felt that I was not a good fit for a Taylor faculty,” King said.
King said he was disappointed. He felt he had recently improved his classes by creating more applied projects and building relationships with students.
The nine political science majors will graduate on time with their major, promised Tom Jones, chair of the history, international studies & social studies department. He says the same goes for the three economics students, a major that is also being cut.
Jones’s department is now currently working with Taylor alumni who work in law to form a new advisory council for students studying legal studies.
Two Spanish professor positions will also be cut. Spanish major Samantha Peterson said she is glad Taylor administration is planning ahead, even though that means making hard decisions.
“I’m thankful our administration had the foresight to begin to implement these changes before our school was in deep financial peril,” she said. “As hard as so many of them will be, I prefer it (to be) done now with a careful eye to detail than later in a flurry of painful decisions.”
Though she has now completed her Spanish classes, Peterson still has some concerns about the shift in the program. She said that Spanish classes are already hard enough to enroll in, and with two fewer professors, enrolling in the required Spanish class for general education might be even more difficult.
The administration suggested Spanish students take advantage of more study abroad programs where they can be immersed in the language. While that immersion is good, Peterson argues, it still comes at a cost.
“I missed out on some things,” Peterson said. “(Studying abroad) is fine for a season, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any more.”
The UPR caused another major change: the theatre and music departments will merge into a new department. Sophomore theatre arts major Jenna Van Weelden is optimistic. She said the two departments already work closely together to put on productions, but housing them under one department will make collaboration even easier. Van Weelden hopes that the merge will allow her to maintain relationships with several of the music professors and will make music classes more accessible to theatre students.
Down the hall from the theatre department, media communication classes may welcome more professional writing majors. The current communication, media communication and professional writing departments will all combine to create an inclusive department. Ryan O’Malley, a senior professional writing major, said he foresees an adjustment period as the majors integrate and is concerned that journalism and professional writing might morph together.
“Pro-writing is really geared toward the broader spectrum of what it means to be a writer; journalism is very focused on one specific type of writing,” O’Malley said.
Changes are also taking place in art and film. Freshman film major Cat Allocco was upset when she first heard the film majors will join the art department.
“I was mad because I had no idea what was going on and I assumed that it was a negative change,” she said. “My opinion has changed since I first heard about it. I trust that Taylor is making the right decisions for the program.”
To cut costs, Skip Trudeau, vice president of student development, and Jeff Moshier, provost, announced at the UPR meeting that PAs will now be required to work the front desks of their residence halls. Trudeau later clarified that they will only work for two hours on the days they are on-duty. PAs won’t be paid extra for this task, because it falls within their existing responsibilities to be visible and available to students.
“I understand why PAs have been asked to fill this role,” Sammy PA Matt Schiller said. “They are capable of filling this position; it will simply be another responsibility for the PAs. This will not affect the PAs’ capacity to foster community and develop relationships.”
It is unclear now if any front desk student jobs will be eliminated. Trudeau said one option is to limit the amount of hours each front desk worker is able to log.
Additionally, the Gerig and Breuninger front desk operations will be consolidated. This does not necessarily mean one or the other will close for good. They may rotate on a nightly or weekly basis.
After the UPR announcement last Tuesday, senior Christian Education major Justus Wagner said he appreciated the administration’s honesty and openness to share even the negative news.
Senior Paula Weinman agreed. “I do feel much better about this whole process now that I know what it is,” she said. “I appreciated this presentation because I felt that we were being given the opportunity to see what is going to be happening at Taylor in the future.”