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The Westfield Voice

UEAAC & SCORE – Campus Stakeholders Plot Next Steps for Westfield State University

The entrance to Westfield State with Parenzo Hall peeking out in the foreground. Image credit- Westfield State University.

As part of the typical study routine, students are often encouraged to develop acronyms for both rudimentary and complex concepts, such as PEMDAS for algebraic equations or LEAF for the typical paragraph. You can now add two more acronyms to your depository: UEACC (University Efficiency Analysis Advisory Committee) and SCORE (Special Committee on Reforming General Education). Both committees are charged with bringing recommendations for altering or abolishing some of the vastest structures and programs this institution has to offer, potentially impacting the academic experience. 

Convened on August 31, 2020, under the leadership of Interim President Roy Saigo, UEACC was charged with “assessing the financial challenges” that the university is facing in the midst of both the COVID-19 pandemic and a continued decline in enrollment, and “suggesting both short-term and long-term pathways [in] support[ing] … the student experience.” Composed of members of the administration, behind-the-scenes personnel, faculty, staff, and student representatives, UEACC would publish a final report in January 2021, laying the foundations for fundamental changes in how the university functions, with some of those recommendations, now put into effect with the green light of the Board of Trustees. recommendations that the committee believed, if implemented, could turn Westfield State around with regards to its finances, school culture, and academic structure. 

IMAGE: Former Interim President Roy Saigo

Two of the recommendations have been fully or partially approved by the Board of Trustees: 

Recommendation #1 – Reimagining Institutional Academic Affairs and the College Structure 

A proposal steeped in the time-honored tradition of shifting bureaucratic responsibilities, UEACC’s Recommendation #1 was developed in response to the financial challenges posed by the present college structure, in which some department coffers were copiously filled while others were scorched dry due to the formula by which funding was allocated. The proposal made by UEAAC would ditch much of the bureaucratic red tape, remove the positions of college deans, and tweak the college structure to be more flexible based on enrollment and funding sources. According to UEAAC, the proposal would save the institution approximately $760,445

Given the financial savings to Westfield State University and the potential auxiliary benefits of realigning the college structure, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to implement UEACC Recommendation #1 at their meeting on Wednesday, September 15, 2021, with the work of implementing this extensive proposal beginning immediately. Prior to the vote, Student Trustee Chloe Sanfacon sought input from the Student Government Association. The overall view of the proposal laid before the Board of Trustees was positive, but many had concerns that the vast majority of students had no idea this proposal existed and that the substance of the proposal to be voted on could change at any moment.

Recommendation #3 – Reimagining Institutional Delivery and Support of Our Students: Curriculum Innovation 

The proposal laid out by UEACC attempts to ensure “responsible financial management of academic resources” through two lenses: The first (not seen as easily by students) is the “reduction of the adjunct budget,” or freezing the hire of additional entry-level instructors that can strain the faculty budget. The second has been more widely recognized by the student body: the implementation of a temporary set of Common Core requirements. In a message sent on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, by Interim President Roy Saigo, it was announced that the temporary set of Common Core requirements proposed by UEAAC had been implemented for the 2021-2022 school year in consultation with other governance committees and then-Interim Provost Robert Kersting. The temporary set of Common Core requirements would see a reduction of credits in several core areas in line with recommendations from the New England Council of Higher Education (NECHE) and in response to reductions/reforms seen at partner institutions. 

IMAGE: Former Interim Provost Robert Kersting

But where does the Common Core go from here? Given that the changes announced by Interim President Saigo were branded as temporary, an additional committee beyond UEACC (which took a critical look at the institution and considered broader solutions) was needed to gather further information and debate on the next steps. The Special Committee on Reforming General Education (SCORE) has been convened to determine a feasible alternative that is within the parameters set forth by the institution, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, and the New England Council of Higher Education, alongside our own financial, personnel, and facilities needs. 

But SCORE is not the first group to consider the prospect of overhauling the Common Core structure. A report dated April 2018 from the Advisory Committee on Academic Planning contended that the university needed to make changes, with possible reforms including the introduction of first-year seminars and ensuring that all general education courses develop students in a broad lens (i.e. historical knowledge, writing and oral proficiency, cultural understanding, etc.). An email from the SCORE Chair on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 to The Westfield Voice indicated that the committee will be conducting research and gathering the opinions of the student body, faculty, staff, and administrators, which may have changed over the past three-and-a-half years. 

SCORE will be announcing listening sessions, seminars, questions and answer sessions, and other community input opportunities in the near future. Stay tuned to your Westfield State University email for more information pertaining to the adoption of a new set of Common Core requirements. 

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