Letter to the editor: UMD professor addresses Chancellor Black on Program Prioritization

The Program Prioritization process that is taking place at UMD is important, but I am confused over its purpose. Is the purpose to determine which programs to cut to make up a $10-12 million shortfall; is it to provide a way for programs to show that they need more money; or is it to increase the proportion of the budget that is recurring money? While the purpose of prioritization is not clear, the process is quite clear. Programs are rated quantitatively, generally against each other, suggesting that the purpose is to justify cutting certain programs. Program heads will be permitted to add bits of text explaining why the quantitative ratings do not perfectly reflect the performance of their programs.

In last week’s Statesman, the Chancellor added to the confusion by claiming that the prioritization exercise is not a top-down process but rather a grassroots problem-solving process. I don’t believe this. Administrators chose a group of faculty and then told them what to do, how to do it and when.

To solve a problem, one should have a clear idea of the problem and a clear idea of what kind of solutions are possible. A number of methods might be used to find the solution. In this Program Prioritization process, neither the problem nor the set of possible solutions has been articulated clearly. Instead, the administration chose a fixed, rigid procedure, a procedure that sows division among programs and demoralizes members of the UMD community. I think that the Program Prioritization process is a bad one. It is embarrassing to suggest that Program Prioritization is a grassroots process.

Richard Green rgreen@d.umn.edu *Richard Green is a UMD professor of mathematics and statistics.

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