Age of Change

During McRobbie's presidency, seven IU schools have been created, closed or consolidated to adapt to 21st century demands. But are these changes working? 

Video: Teaser: The Age of Change

McRobbie's IU

President McRobbie and the New IU

The University is in the midst of one of the most transformative eras in its history. Behind it all is a controversial agenda that’s been called innovative by some and left others wondering — what’s the point?

IU President Michael McRobbie is aware of the shoes he has to fill. He’s surrounded by reminders — the bust of Herman B Wells in his conference room and the library that bears the legendary president’s name. But some say McRobbie has already filled them. 

“We are very blessed to have Dr. McRobbie,” Trustee Philip Eskew said during a Board of Trustees meeting in July 2011. “And I hail him as IU’s modern-day Herman Wells.”

It’s difficult to compare anyone to Wells, who during his 30 years as president tripled student enrollment, expanded the University internationally, increased campus acreage from 137 to 1,700 and advocated for equal treatment of people of all races at IU. But arguably as prolific is the age of change McRobbie has implemented since he was hired in 2007.

In just seven years, McRobbie has overseen the transformation of seven schools within the University, led an acceleration in information technology and cyberinfrastructure and increased funding from big name donors to help pull IU from economic turmoil.

McRobbie takes full ownership for these changes.

“I think it all started with me,” he said, chuckling, during a recent, rare interview with the Indiana Daily Student.

It’s been an age of digitization, professionalization and consolidation brought on by two leading factors — state funding cuts and advancing technology. 

But like all change, it could come at a price. 

With the creation of new schools, the merging of existing ones and the elimination of others, some students, faculty and staff are fearful that the traditions and community long associated with these units are being sacrificed in the name of efficiency.

“If you keep cutting, cutting and cutting,” said Associate Professor and Herman B Wells Historian James Capshew, “you’re going to cut the heart of campus.”


Before the whirlwind of structural changes at IU, the University’s academic units hadn’t seen change this drastic since the early 20th century. 

Adam Herbert, the president before McRobbie, only served three years before stepping down from the position, following a period of disgruntlement from IU faculty. 

His lack of visibility on campus and failure to collaborate with faculty, according to news reports at the time, gave them little confidence in his ability to lead IU. At the end of 2005, the faculty called upon the Board of Trustees to review Herbert’s job performance. 

In January 2006, Herbert wrote a letter to the board expressing his wish to leave the University when his contract was set to expire in July 2008. 

That meant IU had more than two years to find a new president, but many institutional leaders, including some trustees, felt they couldn’t wait that long. 

“What was happening in the world was that the good universities were getting better,” current Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Reilly said, reflecting on the tensions back then. “We came to several conclusions, and one was that Bloomington needed leadership.” 

Before they formed a presidential search committee, though, an administrative reorganization took place at the recommendation of Herbert. Just days after Herbert penned his letter to the trustees, McRobbie, then vice president for research and vice president for information technology, was named IU’s first interim provost.

The new position replaced IU-Bloomington’s chancellor position. Before that, IU-Bloomington had a chancellor who answered directly to the Bloomington-located president, just like all IU regional campuses across the state. But it seemed unnecessary to have both the president of the University and a chancellor in Bloomington, Reilly said, so they cut the position at IU-Bloomington. 

The provost’s job would be to oversee all academic entities at IU-Bloomington but allow the University president to have a stronger role in the flagship campus. 

Once they filled the new provost position, a presidential search committee formed in June 2006.   

Reilly and Lauren Robel, then dean of the Maurer School of Law, both served on the search committee and now hold prominent, powerful positions within IU. Reilly is chair of the Board of Trustees and Robel is provost and executive vice president. 

In a recent interview, Reilly said the committee was looking for someone who was enthusiastic about collaborating with faculty, knowledgeable of the way technology was shaping education and prepared to take on the challenge of leading a 21st century public university.

“We were looking for somebody who had a demonstrated ability to conceptualize a major change effort and take it to completion,” Robel said.

They were looking for someone who would make change happen. 

“Out of it came a general consensus that Michael would be the candidate,” Reilly said.

On March 1, 2007, the board unanimously appointed McRobbie as president, and on October 18, 2007, he offered his inaugural address. He referenced the legendary changes Wells implemented as a precursor to his own vision for IU. 

“Indiana University’s history is a story of change in response to the demands of the time,” McRobbie said in his address. “Never was this more true than during the days of Herman Wells.”

McRobbie continued, saying Wells’ tenure at IU embodied a “golden age for American universities as a whole and for IU in particular,” but that Wells didn’t treat the University as a relic. Instead, he brought great energy and vigor to improving IU.   

“IU, then, is not an institution that is a stranger to change,” McRobbie said. “Its history is one of endurance, adaptation and renewal.”

His vision was forward-thinking and clear — change was coming. 

Then, just six months later, the recession hit. 


Despite nearly $100 million in state funding cuts and a 5-percent drop in philanthropic giving, McRobbie said his administration was able to pull IU from the economic turmoil without furloughing any employees or halting any important projects. 

But, he said, that involved consolidation and reorganization across campus.

In his 2009-10 State of the University speech, McRobbie announced that then-Provost Karen Hanson would lead the formation of the New Academic Directions Committee charged with evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of IU’s academic structure. 

The report was completed in 2011. In 2012, when current Provost Lauren Robel was appointed, the recommendations in the New Academic Directions report got fully underway. Today, those changes define IU’s current structure:

• The creation of the Media School through merging the School of Journalism and the Departments of Telecommunications and Communication and Culture

• Elimination of the School of Continuing Studies

• Changing the School of Library and Information Sciences into a department in the School of Informatics and Computing

• Creation of the School of Global and International Studies

• Creation of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI 

• Creation of the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI 

A self-proclaimed “huge fan of aggregation,” McRobbie said he recognized the benefits of consolidating certain departments and eliminating others in the hopes of saving money. 

At the same time, he wanted to be sure the academic institutions within IU reflected the technological developments and 21st century demands of the job market. 

In his opinion, it would be “immoral” to allow IU students to graduate without the real-world skills necessary to perform professionally. McRobbie himself is a supporter of the arts and passionate about film, but said it’s a University’s job to produce both academics and professionals and do it in a cost-sensitive manner. 

It’s why the board hired him in the first place — to identify inefficient spending within the University and adjust it.  

But Capshew said there’s a fine line many public universities walk between being a business and being a place that supports creativity and the humanities. 

“I do think there is a danger in trying to professionalize the humanities unduly,” he said.

For McRobbie, it’s a balancing act. 

“Fiscal pressures aren’t going to go away,” he said, acknowledging that sometimes difficult decisions must be made in the short term to benefit the University in the long run. 

He has his staff keep track of the promises he makes in speeches, to hold him accountable to his own agenda. Less than five years after the New Academic Directions report was released, nearly all of the recommendations have come to fruition. 

But Capshew says it’s still too early to tell whether McRobbie’s tenure as president will have as lasting an impact as Wells’. 

“There will never be another Herman B Wells,” McRobbie says of his own legacy. 

He just wants to leave IU 30 percent better off than when he took over. For now, the trustees have made it clear they are pleased with McRobbie’s performance, increasing his salary and extending his contract to 2020. 

“You will never make an alum mad by not changing something. You will never upset a donor by leaving things exactly the way they are or a faculty member or a student, for that matter,” Robel said of McRobbie’s readiness to act. “It’s only change that will cause people to get upset.”

Those same student groups, faculty bodies and alumni boards are still waiting for answers — Are the changes working? How do we know? 

Good question, Reilly said. 

“The future will be the test,” Robel said.  

It’s too early to tell, McRobbie said.

Video: Building New Schools

A New Era

Implementing a new era

How New Academic Directions is quickly reshaping academic structures of campus

A month into his doctoral studies, Martin Law learned his department would be merged. 

Law was initially drawn to IU for his master’s degree because of its Department of Communication and Culture. Its reputation for collaborative research made it a perfect fit. He even decided to stay to earn his Ph.D. But soon after, he found out his program would change.

The reason was the creation of a new school, recommended by Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel in February 2013. The Media School merger is one of several primary academic restructurings at IU in recent years, a time marked by immense change in the University.

The Media School will include the School of Journalism and the Department of Telecommunications, both of which will maintain most of their faculty and staff. The CMCL department will also be merged, but some parts will be left out.   

One of the department’s three areas, Film and Media Studies, will be incorporated into the Media School. Only some faculty members of the other two areas of study — Performance and Ethnography and Rhetoric and Public Culture — will be joining the school. The rest will be dispersed.

For Law, it feels more like the program is being dissolved than merged, he says.

He came to IU expecting to collaborate with the three areas of the department to advance his research. Law will likely be able to take similar classes with the same faculty. But the classes won’t be held within a single department.

He sees opportunity in the Media School, but wonders what the merger might sacrifice for current students and faculty.

“What are you losing by melting these three departments down and turning them into something else?” Law said. “Do we just cut off the stuff that hangs out?”

Seeking efficiency

Within the last three years, IU has closed, created, renamed or merged seven schools.

The School of Continuing Studies shut its doors. The School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation adjusted its mission to become the School of Public Health. The School of Library and Information Science folded into the School of Informatics and Computing.

Two new hybrid schools formed — the School of Global and International Studies, which brought together parts of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Media School, which combined the School of Journalism and the departments of communication and culture and telecommunications.

At IUPUI, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Fairbanks School of Public Health were created.

Students on campus now will have seen more changes in IU-Bloomington’s academic structure than any previous generation.

These changes stem from the New Academic Directions report, commissioned by IU President Michael McRobbie in 2010. Its goal was to re-examine the academic structures on campus to make sure they were efficiently living up to IU’s core missions.

The report is riddled with references to the dire economic conditions the University faced since the recession hit. But Robel said the driving force behind the report was academic restructuring, not cost-cutting.

“None of these mergers were made with fiscal goals, they were more fiscal opportunities,” Robel said.

She said there was a disconnect between what McRobbie commissioned and what the committee presented. McRobbie wanted a focus on academic and programmatic restructuring, but the committee returned its report with a greater focus on economic concerns.

The University, at least at this point, doesn’t know if its gamble on restructuring will save money in the long run.

As many of the structural and programmatic changes are new or still in development, exact savings — or even costs — are nearly impossible to tell, said Munirpallam Venkataramanan, vice provost for strategic initiatives. And as budgets mesh and move across campus, comparing old budgets to new budgets is seldom apples to apples, he said.

There is a new need to increase efficiency, meaning using time, money and personnel more effectively, Venkataramanan said. It’s about doing more with the resources the University already has.

“The days when we don’t highly question education spending are behind us,” he said.

The mergers and new structures across campus illustrate the “efficiencies” New Academic Directions aimed to achieve. The report suggested new strategic structural innovations and the consolidation of administration in small academic units.

“When you have a small school you have the potential of diverting a great deal of resources away from the academic mission,” Robel said.

Robel further noted she does not expect a decrease in personnel who interact with students face to face. Rather, efficiencies are coming in the form of “back office savings,” or reduction in personnel who don’t directly interact with students. Attrition, or the practice of reducing personnel through retirements and resignations that are not replaced, will also help shrink schools as necessary.  

While the overarching goals of the changes may be similar, each movement differs.

For the Media School, the merger is uprooting three well-established units. For the School of Continuing Studies, redundancies and outdated services were in need of restructuring. SGIS and the School of Public Health represented a shifting into 21st century needs and a desire to raise the profiles of each of those disciplines on campus. For the informatics merger, a struggling school was taken in by a stronger, larger unit.

These structural changes represent the opportunity for innovative change and the elimination of outdated or redundant services. At the same time, the changes have meant the redistribution of jobs and workloads, the separation from familiar colleagues and mentors or even the loss of an academic home.

School of Continuing Studies

Only a few months after the presentation of the New Academics Directions report, the University began taking action. One of the first moves was the closure of the School of Continuing Studies, which enrolled 4,000 undergraduate students across the state. The school was IU’s resource for adult or distance learners hoping to earn a bachelor’s degree by mail or, in more recent years, online.

Of all the changes resulting from the New Academic Directions report, only this closure noticeably saved IU money.

When the closure was announced, University officials said they estimated saving as much as $4 million. After making final totals, the University ended up saving about $3.96 million, Executive Vice President for University Academic Affairs John Applegate said.

The School of Continuing Studies was rarely visible on IU’s campus. The school did not have its own faculty — its courses were usually taught online by part-time graduate students.  

Jim Johnson, currently the director for operations and student support at IU High School, was a former associate director within the School of Continuing Studies.

“People at IU didn’t understand how SCS worked,” Johnson said. “It didn’t fit in on campus.”

It became common for IU departments across campus to offer online classes. The School of Continuing Studies was no longer a central place for online education, Applegate said, and administrators didn’t see a need for it.

Human resources took the year that followed to help relocate jobs elsewhere on campus. Some of these employees moved to new positions in IU Online and other areas — positions the University would have needed to staff anyway, Applegate said.

But out of the 208 full- and part-time staff employed by the School of Continuing Studies before it merged, 56 employees no longer worked at IU the following year. Some took advantage of early retirement. Others could not find different jobs.

“The trick there is not to redistribute people for the sake of redistributing,” Applegate said.

University officials still hoped to shrink the total number of people employed. The closure eliminated the dean position for Dan Callison, who retired soon after, resulting in savings.

Students in the program were forced to either speed up their studies or transfer to other campuses. While most of the school’s degrees were moved into other schools, the online degree in Independent Studies was eliminated from IU-Bloomington.  

A small niche of students took these self-paced online courses on a yearlong basis. For some students, Johnson said, a semester-paced course is just too much to handle. The closure eliminated this option.

Applegate said these students are welcome to seek accommodations through other channels at IU.

“They make compelling cases,” Applegate said, “but they aren’t compelling reasons to keep a school.”

School of Public Health

Though not explicitly mentioned in the New Academic Directions report, the segueing of HPER into the School of Public Health was motivated by modern health education needs.

Bloomington Faculty Council President Herb Terry said there was a desperate need for a public health institution in the state, and IU-Bloomington was the most appropriate university in the state to host such an institution.

The changes were largely internal and programmatic and placed an increased emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention.

Terry said he believes there was “substantial support” from the faculty in the move from HPER to the School of Public Health, which was finalized in late 2012.

Its restructuring also provided the University with the opportunity to access more federal research funding that is specifically earmarked for the study and education of public health issues.

The informatics merger

IU’s Graduate Library School was established in 1966 and later renamed the School of Library and Information Science. It has often ranked nationally as a top-10 school in its field in recent years.

The school had the smallest budget on campus. Within the last few years, library science enrollment declined nationally and at IU. Coupled with the competition for students from the former School of Informatics, the School of Library and Information Science was struggling.

New Academic Directions directed the small school to fold into the School of Informatics by 2013. It became the Department of Information and Library Sciences within the renamed School of Informatics and Computing.

The two schools were like “siblings who grew up in different environments,” said Debora Shaw, dean of the former School of Library and Information Science and now the department chair. The former school had about 12 faculty members, Robel said, many of which collaborated more closely with the School of Informatics than with library sciences.

It was clear the merger wouldn’t bring drastic savings like the closure of the School of Continuing Studies. The Department of Information and Library Science isn’t bringing in any profit for the new school — if anything, it’s costing the school money, informatics Dean Robert Schnabel said.

Student tuition fees brought in about $1 million less than budgeted for the department for the 2013-14 academic year. This put the department in the hole financially and caused it to use up some if its financial reserves, the school’s Senior Director for Finance and Administration John Tweedie said.

But the overall school is still financially healthy, thanks to steady enrollment in informatics programs and funds allocated by Robel. The merger has also helped the school avoid future costs.

Library and information science students who never had a career development department can now use these resources from the merged school. The merger also helped create a new graduate certificate in data science. The informatics school was able to avoid paying more to hire a Windows software professional it needed because the former School of Library and Information Sciences already had someone working in that position.

The merger may also lead to future savings. Shaw was demoted to chair of the Department of Information and Library Sciences within the informatics school. Though her salary actually increased, it is likely her successor, after Shaw’s retirement this month, will be paid less, Vice Provost of Faculty and Academic Affairs Thomas Gieryn said.

In short, mergers may not be cutting salaries right away. But years from now, schools could end up saving money with lower administrative salaries.

Research also brings in money. With more collaboration and a larger faculty, the school sees the potential for increased research grant funding, Tweedie said.

Eliminating the word “library” in an IU school title was painful for some nostalgic current and former students. Alumni will no longer receive School of Library and Information Science newsletters. Many students are still attached to the culture of the former school. In December, the school’s first graduating class decided to wear traditional lemon-yellow hoods, a symbol for the School of Library and Information Science. 

School of Global and International Studies

The $53 million building under construction near the Herman B Wells Library is the physical embodiment of SGIS, though most of the academic programs and faculty resources it draws on already existed at IU. 

The New Academic Directions report called for the creation of an international school that would better connect the resources that existed at IU.

Such a school, SGIS Associate Dean Maria Bucur-Deckard said, would raise the University’s international relations and foreign policy profile.

“It seemed like we had a lot of dots that we needed to connect,” Bucur said.

SGIS, approved by the trustees in August 2012, will incorporate teaching from more than 50 College units — including languages and cultural studies — and about eight other schools, including the Kelley School of Business and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. 

A new bachelor’s and master’s of science degree in Global Studies will be offered, and the combination of new and existing resources will create new academic pathways for students.

Bucur added that while many departments will be housed within SGIS, they won’t structurally change that much. But she does

foresee changes to academic and career advising, both areas in which the new hybrid school will employ its own personnel.

A desire to professionalize and collaborate will create the biggest changes for SGIS students. School requirements will mandate a minor in a professional school at IU, such as SPEA or the business school, bridging the liberal arts with practical experiences focused on specific careers.

“That’s a culture change for the entire campus,” Robel said of this combined focus. The hybrid structure of SGIS and the Media School will ideally help soften the sharp tension that has existed traditionally between professionalization and the liberal arts.

Bucur said the hybrid structure of SGIS will help achieve efficiencies mentioned throughout the New Academic Directions report. The hybrid within the College allows existing infrastructure, such as the budgetary office, undergraduate and graduate advisers and staff to avoid redundancies.

“It’s a new life form,” Robel said. “Can we take a set of astonishingly rich resources and make them visible to our students and accessible to our outside world?”

Media School

Discussion about restructuring the media and communication units on campus — the School of Journalism and the departments of communication and culture and telecommunications — stretches back more than a decade.

The plan to house the Media School in the College, Robel said, would save the school from employing the staff necessary to run a free-standing school, such as fiscal officers, tech staff and career services. By housing the Media School — and SGIS — in the College, the two hybrid structures can draw on existing College resources to reduce duplication of services.

Robel often models the Media School after SGIS, but the hybrids are in different in many ways.

But the Media School, with the challenge of changing the legacy of the School of Journalism and its independence from the College, posed a “high level of difficulty,” Robel said. 

The merger, with its goal of combining three units, sparked months of active town hall meetings and impassioned responses from alumni, students and faculty.

By fall 2013, when various faculty committees began to outline new curriculum, programming and physical-space needs, it became clear that parts of CMCL would need a new home.

“The College has an obligation to find these people homes, but the devil is in the details,” Gieryn said. “I suspect we’ll lose some people through that.”

The Media School, the last of the seven primary New Academic Directions changes to take effect, will begin July 1.

A time of transition

When units merge, faculty, students and administrators are thrown into roles they never expected to serve. They’re forced to take time out of their teaching and research in order to plan curriculum, staff, names and buildings.

Many of these faculty members, like Communication and Culture Department Chair Jane Goodman, are planning a future school they will not be housed in. Goodman will most likely step down from the Faculty Advisory Board next year, she said.

When faculty advise mergers, they sacrifice time and teaching, but there is no alternative, BFC President Herb Terry said. These are the people who know the curriculum and purposes of schools best — who else would be qualified to define the future of a school?

Bonnie Brownlee, associate dean of the School of Journalism, serves on a number of committees that are helping shape the Media School’s future. It has been a slow process to understand the other merging units, she said. It’s not just a merger of classes and administrators — it’s a merger of theory, histories and cultures.

Despite optimism and a desire to create a new innovative school, students and faculty say it’s impossible to tell whether these academic mergers will be worth the time and effort.

But Martin Law thinks students should be willing to be a part of the process. He has been working an additional 10 hours every week on a graduate student advisory board.

Student concerns are crucial, Law said, and administrators need to be held accountable for putting student recommendations into action.

“If you’re going to ask for input, you should take that input,” Law said. It’s inevitable that these types of mergers will keep happening, he said, and for current students, they are often difficult to face.

Students like Law came to IU envisioning a certain type of education, and now, that image is changing.

“We didn’t sign up to be a part of a transition team when we enrolled,” he said. “It turns out it’s what we have to do.” 

Follow reporter Matthew Glowicki on Twitter @MattGlo and follow reporter Samantha Schmidt on Twitter @schmidtsam7.


Deserving students receive their awards at the Communication and Culture Awards Ceremony Thursday afternoon at the Indiana Memorial Union.

Rachel Meert Buy Photos
Video: New Academic Directions: What's changed?

Budget Model

Budget model pressures schools to compete

A white piece of paper boasting bold, black numbers rests on professor Peter Guardino’s desk.

The numbers are not entirely relevant to his everyday work as chair of the Department of History. Yet, each time he sits at his desk, they are a daily reminder that things need to change.

The data Guardino and his colleagues have been tracking is staggering.

During the 2007-08 fall semester, 510 students enrolled in H105 and 499 students enrolled in H106, the department’s intro-level American history courses. In fall 2012, enrollments dropped to 214 students enrolled in H105 and 146 students in H106. The reason: more and more students are entering IU with their general education history requirements already completed.

Under the current budgetary model, individual schools compete for University resources based on their financial activity. This model is called Responsibility Centered Management and each IU-Bloomington school is its own “Responsibility Center,” or RC, led entrepreneurially by deans.

“In a situation where, under RCM, a large chunk of the budget is determined by how many tuition dollars you bring in, the College is losing significant enrollments to this,” Guardino said, explaining how declining general education enrollments shape departmental budgets.

RCM was implemented in 1990 for a University that gave individual schools autonomy. This is how campus looked three years ago. Since then, campus has changed.

In the past three years, unprecedented structural and administrative changes have shifted the nature of RCM from a competitive to centralized model.

“Money” in a university is more than a dollar sign. Money pays for faculty, academic programs, student resources and, because of RCM, control of money means autonomy.

“We’ve lost about half of the enrollment of two of our most popular classes over a period of just a few years,” Guardino said. “We need students.”

Successful in theory

When IU-Bloomington adopted RCM, it was the first public institution to do so, said Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel. Under this budget model, schools keep the money from student tuition and pay a small tax to the campus fund for shared resources, such as the libraries.

RCM gives deans of schools autonomy and forces them to be innovative when revenues go down.

College of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean Larry Singell said he likes RCM.

“As a dean, I have no problem with it,” Singell said. “In places that don’t have RCM, there is more authority of the provost to allocate resources and cost-subsidies across schools. Our system does not permit that as easily.”  

The autonomy provided by being its own RC is essential for the Jacobs School of Music, whose fiscal planning includes concert funding and small master classes, said Director of Finance and Fiscal Planning Jill Piedmont.

“Any school under RCM chooses how to structure classes and set their budget,” Piedmont said. “One of the benefits of RCM is that we have that control.”   

RCM pits schools against each other in competition for students and credit hours. In doing so, RCM establishes individual incentive and hinders the ability for IUB to move strategically as a whole.

Robel’s recently released Campus Strategic Plan emphasizes this kind of collaboration. It strives to bring schools together for campus-wide initiatives, crossing the existing RCM boundaries.

Singell noted it could shift autonomy toward the Provost’s office and away from the schools. But Robel said she has no intention of increasing central power through a higher tax on the schools.

“Power and authority of an office are related to financial wealth,” Singell said. “You have to trust the provost. I don’t have a concern about it.”

Robel said this year’s University tax rate is actually lower than it has been in past years.

“The Provost fund was put together to support and incentivize common good activity for the campus,” Robel said. “I don’t think that the Strategic Plan will cause RCM to become more centralized.”

Responding to pressure

Administrators have grappled with how to alleviate budgetary concerns for years.

Their solution was change.

“I don’t like small schools,” Robel said.

The resources required to staff these units with an administrative fleet of deans, financial planners, career advisors and other positions can divert resources away from core pieces of the academic mission, Robel said.  

“I would rather put money into academic programs and people who deliver them rather than administrative officers,” she said.

This idea has motivated many of the changes to “small schools” in recent years: the closure of the School of Continuing Studies, the School Library and Information Science merger into the School of Informatics and Computing, the merger and creation of the Media School.

These changes mean budget models within the schools have to change, too.

Beginning in July, the College will technically include three deans of different academic programs — College Executive Dean Singell, School of Global and International Studies Dean Lee Feinstein and the future dean of the Media School. Three different “schools” still means three different sets of fiscal offices, even though they will all be under the College.

Because these mergers did not originate from, nor were they caused by, monetary concerns, the budgets of the Media School and SGIS are undetermined, Robel said.

It’s a work in progress to put a big school under the college, she added.

“SGIS has only been a school for a year and it is only now getting its curriculum and dean,” Robel said. “We have to be nimble, but we have to be nimble within the context of a 60,000-person institution.”   

RCM needed these changes to support the College.

Until clear College budgets are devised for what used to be an RC and what is an entirely new program, the sub-deans’ autonomy relative to the authority of Singell is unclear.

Robel said she would like the University to oversee fiscal activity of SGIS and the Media School for the first few years.

RCM will respond to the structural changes in the same way it responded to the informatics merger: academics first, money second, said professor emeritus of mathematics Maynard Thompson. He was involved in the 1990 adoption of the RCM model.

“We’re in unknown domain here,” Thompson said. “Let’s get it going first, then figure out with the deans of both schools exactly what fiscal structure makes sense.”  

Is RCM outdated?

Each school allocates its budget to its own departments. The school can then support departments that don’t attract student tuition dollars with the surpluses that popular programs generate, Guardino said.

“There are fads in education,” Singell said. “Economics is becoming more popular so we’re seeing that department beginning to grow.”  

Most of the sciences need expensive labs and equipment, and although they have good enrollments, they probably cannot pay for themselves, Guardino said.

“To be a top-notch university we have to have excellent departments in disciplines that could never pay for themselves that way,”Guardino said.

The College has not cut the history department’s budget because of decreased enrollments, Guardino said. But if he and his staff cannot figure out a way to fix the problem, they could have fewer resources in the future.

“We know that over the long term they won’t be able to keep giving us what we need if we are unable to reverse, halt or at least slow down the decline in enrollments,” he said.

The music school is not having these problems, since music general education is popular right now. The music school will offer seven new general education courses this fall, Piedmont said.

This is an example of how RCM pushes schools to compete for students, who, in the financial sense, mean money.

The theory behind “general education” is losing steam. Across campus, decreased general education enrollments due to Advanced Placement, Advanced College Project, community college and online education are just as much an educational concern as a financial one, Robel said.

Across campus, different people have tried to combat this trend in different ways.

Robel wants to attract the 18 to 20 percent of students who came in with 24 credit hours.    

“We ought to be developing pathways that allow them to take advantage of the fact that, in theory, they could finish in three years,” Robel said.

The history department staff is attempting to alter existing classes so that are more attractive to students.

They launched a survey asking students what they are looking for in history classes, said history’s Director of Undergraduate Studies Deborah Deliyannis.

The department will attempt to increase professionalized course offerings, such as the existing “History of Medicine” course, in an effort to attract non-majors, who Deliyannis said will benefit from liberal arts enrollments as much as the budget will.

“By studying humanism and history, you will become a better citizen,” she said.

Those majoring in history, however, should be concerned about losing their core major-only 300-level classes to the 100 or 200-general education levels, Deliyannis said.

“It’s a paradox that we’ll be wrestling with all of next year,” she said.

“They told us that Gen Eds would be a good thing and that our enrollments would go up. Apparently they forgot about the part where AP, ACP and Ivy Tech transfers would come in.”

At the end of the day, it’s liberal arts versus professionalization. It’s a discussion on the nature of higher education. It’s the sweat of fixing financial planning and tax rates.

At the end of the day, the numbers lay on Guardino’s desk and on his shoulders.

“The College’s numbers affect RCM, so we’re very concerned,” Guardino said. “We’re having to find ways to attract students, which is something we’ve never had to do before.”

Guardino hopes the administration’s consolidation efforts and increased AP, ACP and Ivy Tech general education enrollments will encourage RCM to evolve to a slightly centralized “hybrid” system, with less focus on enrollments.

“You’re putting your budget making in the hands (of) people between the ages of 18 to 22,” Guardino said. 

Follow reporter Hannah Alani on Twitter @hannahalani.

left arrow right arrow



Teaser: The Age of Change

IDS investigates the University's strategic plan to change the structure of the school. Story to ...


Building New Schools

Learn what the Media School and the School of Global and International Studies mean to students ...


New Academic Directions: What's changed?

Take a look at how the structure of schools and departments are changing in accordance with the New ...