The plan sought to consolidate many programs while eliminating ones that were underperforming.
The graduating seniors at the University of Tulsa and some students from the following classes will remember the bold restructuring plan that the university first proposed in 2019 known as True Commitment. Many look back on this proposal with anger, but amongst many of the student body, they have only heard about it in retrospect, not really knowing what their upper classmates were talking about.
True Commitment was a plan originally announced by former TU President Gerard Clancy on April 11, 2019 sometimes referred to as “The TU Reorganization.” The plan was created in response to recommendations by a university committee known as the PPRC, Provost’s Program Review Committee. In the most basic sense, True Commitment planned to restructure all departments of the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences into four divisions; require the A&S faculty to teach a new general education curriculum known as “University Studies”; consolidate the Business, Law and Health Sciences schools into one “professional super college”; and eliminate 40% of the academic programs of the university. These eliminations would span all levels of college education up to a Ph.D.
The PPRC itself was a committee consisting of representatives from the faculty of all colleges within TU. Dean Robin Ploeger from the Oxley College of Health Sciences, the president of the TU Faculty Senate Stephen Galoob, Faculty Senate Vice President Dan Crunkleton (ex officio), Provost Janet Levitt (ex officio), the Executive Vice President Kevan Buck (ex officio) and Treasurer Tracy Suter (ex officio) also had placements in the committee. Other faculty could also be invited ex officio according to the guidelines outlined in the True Commitment Plan. These committee members were chosen by the provost and other administrators, with no general vote from the faculty as to who would represent their views.
According to the Academic strategy document with the proposed changes, the PPRC’s first priorities were in the elimination of low enrollment programs and restructuring of others. For Arts and Sciences, 31 programs were planned to be cut across the college and three others restructured. For the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, 15 cuts were planned and 12 restructures. For the College of Business, 10 cuts were planned. No cuts or restructuring was planned for the Oxley College of Health Sciences. Finally, for the College of Law all programs were planned to be cut except Juris Doctor, J.D. and the Law, Policy, & Social Justice, Minor as well as the Sustainable Energy & Resources (SERL) Certificate, which would be restructured as a concentration of the J.D. program.
The PPRC had several of what they referred to as “Starting Assumptions” that comprised the foundation of their True Commitment Plan:
1) All students that were currently in an eliminated or restructured degree program would be able to finish their degree and that these programs would be open still to students who were enrolling in the fall of 2019.
2) The suggestions of True Commitment would align with the Greater Commitment Strategic Plan: 2017-2022 by creating a common entry path for undergrads that supports a variety of academic pursuits.
3) The PPRC was formed in response to the Higher Learning Commission’s assessment of TU as being stretched too thin and not being driven by strategic decision-making. The HLC assessment has not been made accessible to the public. What has been stated is that the document addressed a “build it and they will come” operating mentality at TU, and an unsustainable academic cost structure. TU was spending on average $25,000 per student with only $15,000 in tuition revenue per student, and thus hard choices and trade-offs needed to be made and were being addressed by the PPRC.
4) All decisions of the PPRC were informed by both qualitative and quantitative data from several sources, although mostly sourced from deans, department chairs and program leads. Although public documents mention these statistics, none of the actual data is publicly available outside the PPRC.
5) This data was revealing of a real identity of TU as “predominantly an undergraduate institution, focused on STEM and professional education (business, health and law).”
6) Well-informed shared governance was key moving forward. According to the Academic Strategy document, “The PPRC [was] a model of well-informed shared governance,” because of its access to the relevant data which has not been made public knowledge.
7) All programs outside of academics were also reviewed, leading to a vote for a cap on the subsidy from the university towards the athletics program as well as stopping “… the periodic practice of using TU’s budget as a financial backstop for Gilcrease’s budget.”
8) The PPRC would be an ongoing committee to meet and reassess the state of TU from year to year. This of course did not become the case as the committee was disbanded and a new committee has been implemented for such reviews.
One of the biggest opposition to the proposal was concern for a lack of faculty input outside of those who were on the committee. The rollout of the plan became very controversial as the majority of the faculty was invited to the general faculty and staff meeting but not told which programs would be cut until 8 am the day of the meeting, who in turn informed their students of the decisions.
While some changes have been implemented at the University of Tulsa, True Commitment in its final form was not. All of the colleges still exist in some capacity as separate entities within the university, though many of the programs are indeed no longer offered at TU as of writing.