New Horizons initiative to evaluate department and program funding
The program, called New Horizons, has been put in place by MNU administration to reevaluate the distribution of university resources. Leading faculty members of each department or program submitted a 30-70 page report to the board of trustees on November 7. University President Dr. David Spittal said that based on forms and recommendations from committees, the board will decide if each department or program will receive an increase, decrease or no change in funding.
Dr. Andrew Overholt, associate professor of physics, said these reports include a narrative about the department or program along with the department or program’s effect on the university, a detailed breakdown of its cost, the number of students involved and the amount of money it generates.
These reports will be reviewed by a committee called the New Horizons task force, led by Bruce Flanders, director of Mabee Learning Commons. Flanders said that each member of the 15-person committee will read up to 25 reports, with each report read by three or four different members. The committee will then make a statement as to what they believe is best for the program’s funding.
“Recommendation may even be too strong of a word,” Flanders said. “We’ll kind of be making observations in terms of what we’re seeing that may help the president’s cabinet develop some recommendations to the board.”
After the task force, the president’s cabinet will go over the committee’s findings and make recommendations to the board of trustees, which will make the final decision. Spittal said that the purpose of this program is to make the best decision for the greatest number of students and to keep moving forward.
“As thrilling as the first 50 years have been, we can’t go back and redo that,” Spittal said. “That’s history. And we can’t stand where we are, because [this] generation is telling us that there are things happening. We need to be rolling, we need to be on target. Even in areas like ministry, science or whatever area students have interest in, we can’t stand still, because it’s changing faster than we can accommodate it. So really, New Horizons is ‘What’s a hit, what’s next?’”
Dr. Donna Bohn, the chair of the department of fine and performing arts and associate professor of music, spoke of other universities that have had success with this process in the past, but mentioned a significant difference at MNU.
“[Other universities had] a longer process. Here they just shortened the process significantly,” Bohn said. “We started the process here this fall, and we need to finish it this fall… To get accurate information to the board, we have to have this quickly done, because they have to approve the budget for the next fiscal year, and in order to have accurate information, they want this information early enough to make good decisions for next fiscal year’s budget.”
Lon Dagley, computer services librarian, said that faculty at MNU had a two-month time frame to complete the reports on their departments and programs. Comparatively, he said, Northwest Nazarene University faculty were given from April to December 2016 to complete similar templates.
In addition to feeling pressed for time, Bohn said that the data needed for the reports was incomplete. This data was supplied by the administration, but she had to turn to other sources to complete her report.
“For music, we have to submit a data report for our accrediting body every year,” Bohn said. “I’m using that information instead of the information the university gave.”
Overholt said the information difficulties were primarily the result of miscommunications between the faculty and administration.
“I think [the people who received the templates] misunderstood what data was being reported,” Overholt said. “I thought it would be better if we looked at the revenue generated by the classes taught by the particular programs.”
With all forms submitted, students and faculty are now left waiting for the results of funding decisions. Spittal said the board hopes to have a general direction decided by January and a plan in place by spring.
Alex Schmitt- More by this author
Alex Schmitt is a student at MidAmerica Nazarene University and a reporter for The Trailblazer.