Progress made on CAHSS reorganization plan


After receiving input from department chairs, Fort Hays State University Provost Jill Arensdorf presented a plan for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences reorganization at a special Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday.

The reorganization, which was introduced last semester and caused controversy across campus, is being done to avoid potential program cuts in the CAHSS brought on by evaluation from the Kansas Board of Regents. In an interview with Tiger Media Network in April, Arensdorf said the different metrics KBOR looks at include the number of students, faculty and graduates. Currently, some programs within the CAHSS do not meet benchmark requirements for the metrics.

In addition to Arensdorf’s presentation, President Tisa Mason spoke at the meeting on the advantage the university gets from starting the reorganization process now, rather than waiting for KBOR to issue it.

“When we were ahead of the curve on several student success initiatives, (KBOR) gave us the space to continue the work we were doing,” Mason said. “If we can prove once again that this is something we’ve been paying attention to and we’ve been proactive, sometimes we get more wiggle room and are able to stay close to our mission and do it our way. If we’re not doing anything at all, then it’s just done to us.”

Part of Arensdorf’s presentation was recapping the work she, interim CAHSS Dean Daniel Blankenship and the department chairs did during the summer. According to Arensdorf, the group met 21 times in some form and in different combinations, where they worked to come up with a different organizational structure, what the name of each unit would be and the leadership structure. A total of seven different plans were discussed. 

Arensdorf presented the following plan Tuesday, which consists of three departments and two schools. 

  • The Department of English and Modern Languages
    • Programs: English and Modern Languages
    • Leadership structure: Chair and program coordinator
  • The Department of History and Philosophy
    • Programs: History and Philosophy 
    • Leadership structure: Chair and program coordinator
  • The Department of Public Service and Applied Communication
    • Programs: Political Science and Communication Studies
    • Leadership structure: Chair and program coordinator
  • The School of Community Engagement and Social Behavior
    • Programs: Criminal Justice, Leadership Studies and Sociology
    • Leadership structure: Co-chaired
  • The School of Visual and Performing Arts
    • Programs: Art and Design and Music and Theatre
    • Leadership structure: Co-chaired

“I’m anticipating a question about why there are three departments and two schools,” Arensdorf said at the meeting. “Part of that is what was submitted by the department chairs. I also looked at the size of the unit: the number of faculty and the number of students enrolled in those programs.”

While questions were answered after the presentation, faculty will have another opportunity to provide further feedback. Arensdorf has 10 hours set aside during next week for individuals or groups to meet with her.

Now, Arensdorf plans to submit the plan to KBOR on Oct.10. After that, a number of approvals from different councils and boards within KBOR have to happen before the plan is presented to the full board in December. The rpk Group, a consultant group hired by KBOR to review academic programs systemwide across the state, is also presenting in December.

“It’s very relevant and the timing is really important for us, if we are to adhere to our goal to get in front of external threats,” Arensdorf said of the rpk presentation.

While Arensdorf claimed getting ahead of external threats was one goal of the reorganization, she also mentioned the other goals that guided the work done during the summer. Among them were enhancing interdisciplinary collaboration, responding to changing needs, developing a strategic vision for the college and revising marketing strategies.

Collaboration was one of the key points Arensdorf focused on.

“The guiding principle as we continue through this reorganization is we need to ensure that integration is real, that it is thorough, purposeful and respected,” she said. “Just combining units I know doesn’t necessarily make it more collaborative. We’re going to have to be very intentional, and I’m committed to that.”

If the plan is approved in December, Arensdorf said she believes staffing plans for leadership in each department and school will be finalized in June. 

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