The University Record, March 1, 1993

Follow unit closure procedures, say faculty

Editor’s Note: See related article on page 6.

By Mary Jo Frank

The initial steps to close the Department of Population Planning and International Health (PPIH) were mishandled, violate University rules and prejudice future decisions about the department’s fate, PPIH Chair Yuzuru J. Takeshita told colleagues at the Feb. 15 Senate Assembly meeting.

Takeshita said Dean June E. Osborn and the School of Public Health Executive Committee didn’t consult with him prior to the December announcement that there would be a moratorium on student admissions and faculty recruiting for the department.

They also failed to follow procedures for discontinuing University departments, as outlined in the Standard Practice Guide (SPG) Section 601.2, which call for an independent assessment of the quality and viability of programs by a peer review.

Osborn announced in a Jan. 21 memo to School of Public Health faculty that the moratorium was being put in place so the school could follow the SPG procedures.

Provost Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr. agreed that the decision to proceed with plans to dismantle the department without an independent assessment of its quality and viability was wrong, but said the process is now on track. He also noted that the Executive Committee is made up of faculty elected by their colleagues to make tough decisions.

Charging that it is impossible for the department to get a fair review given the prejudicial decision made by the Executive Committee and Osborn, Takeshita has asked for a one-year cooling off period before any review process begins.

Senate Assembly members narrowly defeated a motion urging the administration to enforce a one-year moratorium on the departmental review, but approved a resolution reaffirming its support for the strict adherence to Standard Practice Guide procedures, including an independent assessment of the quality and viability of programs by a peer review.

The Assembly also urged the provost to consult with the dean and Executive Committee and the PPIH faculty and students about the composition of any peer review group to ensure fairness and absence of prejudice in the conduct of any review.

John H. Romani, professor of public health administration who is on retirement furlough, has been asked by Osborn and the Executive Committee, in consultation with Whitaker, to lead the peer review process, which is expected to start early this month and conclude by the end of April. Faculty have been asked to suggest names of persons to serve on the review committee.

Prospective students who have applied to the department have received letters or telephone calls informing them that no one will be admitted next year, effectively destroying the program, noted Roy Penchansky, professor of health services management and policy.

Among the reasons cited by Osborn and the Executive Committee for dismantling the department is the impending retirement of a substantial majority of the department’s faculty as of June 1995.

Whitaker said that even if the process to discontinue the department had started correctly, the University had an obligation to let students know that senior faculty would be retiring and that the department is being reviewed with an eye to closing it.