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Originally published: 2013-09-28 21:11:32
Last modified: 2013-09-28 21:13:18

University programs under scrutiny

by Anna Oakes

The deans of Appalachian State University's eight colleges have been asked to rank academic programs by Oct. 15 as part of an ongoing prioritization process, Provost Lori Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez provided an update on program prioritization to the ASU board of trustees academic affairs committee on Friday. The University of North Carolina system has directed campuses to prioritize their programs in ongoing efforts to operate more efficiently.

In June, UNC system President Tom Ross told ASU trustees that universities have been asked to focus on programs they do well and that are needed and to reduce redundancies across the system.

"We're at a point where we have to make some really hard decisions," Ross said at the time.

Gonzalez said ASU academic leaders have spent the past year evaluating programs based on both quantitative and qualitative metrics. Deans will now rank programs with three objectives in mind: which programs can be enhanced, which programs can be consolidated to achieve efficiencies and -- "the most difficult," Gonzalez said -- which programs can be eliminated.

After Oct. 15, ASU leaders will hold a retreat with deans before developing a final report to be presented to the chancellor for approval. Plans are to share the recommendations at the December board of trustees meeting, the provost said.

The process has caused some apprehension across campus.

"There's so much strife right now about program prioritization," Theatre and Dance Department professor Martha Marking said Friday, speaking at a forum on ASU's chancellor search. "There's a lot of anxiety."

East Carolina, UNC-Greensboro and N.C. State already have completed their prioritizations, Gonzalez noted. ASU began the process last year.


Solar Decathlon

ASU trustees also received an update from students and faculty about the Solar Decathlon Europe competition to be held in Versailles, Paris, in June 2014. ASU is among 20 international teams -- and only two from the U.S. -- competing in the competition to design and build the best solar-powered home.

Decathlon team members discussed design features of their entry and noted a critical need to secure funding and donations for the project. Of the estimated $1.2 million needed to plan and build the entry and travel for the competition, the team has received $69,345, while $566,540 is pledged or pending and $543,855 is still needed, team members said.

The team announced that it will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign to help raise money for the effort.


Winkler Hall demolition

The trustees approved the demolition of Winkler Residence Hall, a 10-story building built in 1974 and located on the west side of campus.

ASU initially planned to renovate the building, including the installation of fire sprinklers, but construction bids came in $5 million higher than the university's budget for the project, ASU Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Greg Lovins said.

The university explored alternative options, but those were also costly, he said.

"We even looked at trying to repurpose Winkler and using it for other space needs. That is also costly because the building code requires a lot of changes when you change the use of a building," he added.

Lovins said ASU currently has no plans for the site, but it could build a new residence hall there in the future.