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Discontinuance of an Academic Program

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, may find it necessary to reduce faculty, support staff, and administrative positions due to enrollment declines or financial support reductions. The discontinuance of programs or departments sometimes emerges as the alternative that does the least harm to the quality of remaining programs. Program and department discontinuance are valid ways of responding to reductions in resources; however, program discontinuance can and must be accomplished with minimal impact. Program discontinuance decisions must be made in a reasoned way that will minimize damage to the university and to the majority of its programs. The process should be based on the fact that the university is a community with a responsibility for the well being and interest of students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

The following procedures have been developed in response to EP&R 79-10, January 26, 1979, Chancellor Dumke to Presidents, “Interim Policy for the Discontinuance of Academic Programs” and EP&R 80-45, June 12, 1980, Vice Chancellor Sheriffs to Presidents, “Clarification of Interim Policy for Discontinuance of Academic Programs.” These documents outline general procedures for program discontinuance and request that campuses submit local discontinuance procedures.

I. Procedures

Initiation of a Discontinuance Proposal

A proposal to discontinue an academic program will ordinarily be the result of regular program review, but a request for discontinuance may be initiated at any time by any of the following:

  • A majority of the tenured and tenure-track faculty of the affected department(s)
  • The dean of any of the colleges involved in the program
  • The Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs of the university
  • The President of the university

The proposal shall be submitted to the Provost for review.

Review of a Discontinuance Proposal

The Provost shall review the proposal for discontinuance and either reject the proposal or begin the discontinuance process within three calendar weeks. If the discontinuance procedure is to begin, a discontinuance review committee will be appointed within the next three calendar weeks after approval to conduct a review in accordance with the procedures outlined in this document and make recommendations to the Provost as required by the CSU Chancellor’s Office.

Appointment of a Discontinuance Review Committee

The discontinuance review committee will consist of two groups appointed by the Provost in agreement with the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate.

The first group will include:

  1. A nonvoting representative from the Academic Programs office, nominated by the Provost;
  2. Two deans representing colleges not involved in the program, nominated by the Chair of the Academic Senate;
  3. One student not involved in the program, nominated by the ASI President;
  4. Two faculty representatives from colleges not involved in the program, nominated by the Chair of the Academic Senate; and
  5. A staff representative not involved in the program, nominated by the Provost.

The second group will include:

  1. The dean(s) of the college(s) involved in the program or a representative nominated by the dean(s);
  2. The chairs/heads of departments or the coordinators of areas involved in the program;
  3. One student involved in the program, nominated by the ASI President;
  4. Faculty representatives involved in the program nominated by the tenured and tenure-track faculty involved in the program;
  5. A staff representative involved in the program, nominated by the chairs/heads of departments or the coordinators of areas involved in the program; and
  6. At least one graduate of the program nominated by the faculty involved in the program.

Recommendations from the Discontinuance Review Committee

The ultimate decision to discontinue a program rests with the Chancellor’s Office. The purpose of the discontinuance review committee is to create a report for the President and Provost on the strengths and weaknesses of the program under review. If there is no opposition to the proposed discontinuance within the committee, the proposal will be forwarded to the Provost with a report indicating that there is no opposition. If any of the committee members oppose the discontinuance, the discontinuance review committee will generate a report using the following two step process:

In the first step, each group will elect its own chair and create a document describing the strengths and weaknesses of the program under review and a justification of why the program should or should not be discontinued. The documents must be generated within sixteen weeks after the committee has been appointed. The merits of the program shall be assessed using the elements described in Sections II and III below and in the Academic Program Review and Improvement Guidelines. If appropriate, the documents shall include what remedies could be taken to address weaknesses including a precise statement of goals and a time table to reach those goals.

The chair of each group shall make its document available to faculty for comments for four weeks. A written request for comments must be sent to all faculty and staff directly affected by the potential discontinuance at the start of the period for comments. The two groups will review the comments and revise their documents as appropriate.

In the second step, immediately following the four weeks of comments, the two groups will exchange documents and provide a written critique of the arguments presented in the document from the other group within six weeks.

The two groups will then each select five voting representatives who will then merge into a single group, with the nonvoting representative from the Academic Programs office as chair. Within four weeks, the groups will discuss and amend the documents produced. The final version of the two analyses, with the critiques of the arguments presented, and with all the information deemed relevant, shall be bound in a single document (which at this point should have a format similar to what is produced by the state analyst’s office to assist voters). A tally of how many voting representatives are in favor or against discontinuance shall be part of the final document sent to the Provost, the Academic Deans' Council, and the Academic Senate for their review and recommendation.

Final decision on discontinuance of the program

The Provost, the Academic Deans' Council, and the Academic Senate will forward their recommendations to the President within six weeks after receiving the final document, and the President will make the final recommendation to the Chancellor’s Office.

II. Considerations in Program Discontinuance Review

Consideration for program discontinuance will be similar to those for initiation of new programs. In addition to the program review criteria, the elements that will be considered in a final recommendation must also include but will not be limited to:

  1. The university Strategic Plan and Mission Statement;
  2. The effectiveness of the program in meeting its goals and objectives;
  3. A three year history of student enrollment, a projection of future student enrollment, and the existence of similar programs within the CSU;
  4. A three year history of the student-faculty ratio, and the total cost per FTEF and per FTES for the program at Cal Poly and at other institutions offering similar programs;
  5. The effects of enrollment changes on other instructional areas at Cal Poly;
  6. The current or expected statewide or regional demand for graduates of the program;
  7. The contributions of the program to the general education of students;
  8. The effects of discontinuance on facilities;
  9. The financial effects of discontinuance, including an estimate of the yearly costs or savings for the three years following discontinuance;
  10. The effects on faculty and staff, including a description of what career opportunities within the CSU may be available; i.e., opportunities for temporary or permanent appointments at Cal Poly or visiting appointments in other branches of the CSU, retraining, etc.;
  11. The impact of discontinuance on student demand.
  12. Note that, in all cases, the proposal shall specify mechanisms to permit enrolled students to earn their degrees. 

III. Information for Program Discontinuance Review

The information considered during the evaluation of an academic program for discontinuance will contain all the information that is needed for the creation of a new program. In addition, the information will include but will not be limited to:

  1. The most recently completed Review of Existing Degree Programs with current statistical update.
  2. The most recent accreditation report if a program is accredited or approved. If the accreditation is over six years old, or if there is no accrediting body for the program; a review of the program by a panel of professionals with no contractual association with Cal Poly can be substituted for the accreditation report provided the review has been completed within the last six years.
  3. If not contained in 1 or 2:
    1. FTEF allocated and used each quarter for the past three years;
    2. Special resources and facilities required;
    3. Number of students expected to graduate in each of the next three years.
  4. Conclusions and recommendations of the project team on academic programs contained in the most recent edition of Academic Program and Resource Planning in The California State University.

Time Table for Program Discontinuance

  1. Initial step
    Proposal to discontinue an academic program received by the Provost.
  2. Three calendar weeks after receipt of the proposal (Weeks 1-3)
    Provost accepts or rejects the proposal.
  3. Three calendar weeks after acceptance of the proposal (Weeks 4-6)
    Discontinuance review committee appointed.
  4. Within sixteen weeks after appointment of the discontinuance review committee (Weeks 7-22)
    Initial report: Each of the two groups from the discontinuance review committee produces their report and exchanges it for the report from the other group.
  5. Within four weeks after the initial reports have been exchanged (Weeks 23-26)
    Period of comments: Each of the two groups from the discontinuance review committee solicits comments on the reports from the university at large.
  6. Within six weeks after the end of the period of comments (Weeks 27-32)
    Critique of the initial reports: Each of the two groups from the discontinuance review committee produces a critique of the findings produced by the other group.
  7. Within four weeks after the critique of reports have been produced (Weeks 33-36)
    Final report: The two groups from the discontinuance review committee jointly discuss and amend, if necessary, the final document and send it to the Provost, the Academic Deans' Council, and the Academic Senate.
  8. Within four weeks after the critiques of reports have been sent (Weeks 37-42)
    Recommendations: The Provost, the Academic Deans' Council, and the Academic Senate make recommendations to the President.

NOTE:  A calendar week is five working days. Calendar weeks exclude summer quarter and the breaks between quarters.

Academic Senate AS-482-97/LRPC (PDF)

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