Program Discontinuance: A Faculty Issue


At a recent meeting of representatives from college administration, trustees, and faculty, the issue of program discontinuance came up. One of the participants suggested that program discontinuance is not an academic or professional matter. My astonished response was, "Isn't program discontinuance a matter of student success? Aren't standards or policies regarding student preparation and success one of the eleven areas of responsibility for academic senates?" Some member's eyes glazed over and I thought I was heading for a spirited discussion. But the discussion didn't materialize. Why? I don't know, because this is one of the hottest issues facing local academic senates statewide.

The Educational Policies committee of the Academic Senate is presenting the first draft of a paper, entitled Program Discontinuance: A Faculty Perspective, at the Spring 1998 Plenary Session. This paper should be an important resource for local academic senates.
The paper cites statutes and regulations that address program discontinuance and lists the major issues faculty will face. The issues include: the role of the local Academic Senate in developing a program discontinuance process; the effects on students of program discontinuance; balancing the college curriculum when programs are discontinued; the educational and budget planning implications of program discontinuance; regional issues; collective bargaining issues; considerations when developing a local model; and recommendations to local academic senates. Proposed revisions of the education code will also be included.

Title 5, section 51022, Instructional Programs, requires local governing boards to submit policies for the establishment, modification or discontinuance of courses or Programs to the Chancellor's office no later than July 1, 1984. A quick phone call to the Chancellor's office indicated that no such policies are on record. Confusion will likely arise if districts discontinue programs in a "willy-nilly" way, without a written process agreed upon through consultation with faculty. That's why local senates have to be on top of this issue at their college.
Faculty should be concerned about program discontinuance for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they should be concerned because their students will be directly affected by potential changes to their educational direction and goals. Second, program discontinuance could strongly affect the surrounding community and industry. Third, the balance of college curricular offerings can be upset and articulation agreements for related disciplines can be jeopardized.

Finally, discontinuing a program can bring up numerous collective bargaining issues including the determination of faculty service areas and faculty retraining. Program discontinuance is seldom a simple matter and should not be taken lightly by local academic senates.