Allegations that SOU Officials Overstepped Authority

, Posted: Wed, November 20 2013 at 6:02 PM, Updated: Wed, November 20 2013 at 6:59 PM

Some Southern Oregon University professors are unhappy with school administrators over allegations that the provost and chair of the SOU Faculty Senate may have overstepped their authority.

Two brand new programs at Southern Oregon University are at the center of a dispute involving some professors and the provost.

"It's clear that the administration is trying to force our hand," said Dr. John Richards, a Professor of Geography at SOU and Coordinator of International Studies.

He said administrators gave the green light to programs without having them properly approved by the school's governing body.

"The provost promised a four year curriculum to students but that curriculum has not gone through the established processes," said Richards.

The issue is around two so-called "House" programs, a new and unique model for student learning that just started up Fall term of this year.

"The house experience is really an opportunity for students to get outside the classroom," began Dr. Vincent Smith, a House program professor.

"Students are in the field doing things with potential employers," he said.

The program is intended to increase student enrollment but what's at issue isn't the quality of the program rather, the process in which it was approved.

"The way this program has been rolled out has taken some of that decision making process or decision making authority from the academic faculty and in my view, put it in the hands of the administration," said Richards.

"I think the administration has made a lot of decisions without adequate input from the [SOU] senate [the school's governing body]," he continued.

According to Richards, a lot of programs are being considered for elimination at the same time that the House program is being considered for expansion.

Initially, the SOU faculty Senate members approved a one year pilot of the program, not four years. However, Professor Smith said one year wouldn't have been enough time to adequately test the program.

"I don't think you could test anything for a one year period, it's going to take time to build it. It's going to take a four year experience to demonstrate for us whether these are really effective experiences. We are assessing the program as we go," said Smith.

Meantime the SOU provost, Dr. James Klein released a statement: "The House programs are part of a strategic initiative change at SOU. The timing and details of those changes are currently the subject of frank, open and healthy discussion on campus. When all is said and done, these changes will help us achieve our goal of a more distinctive campus, and make SOU more successful for our students and the community."

Professor John Richards says he understands the dilemma. SOU officials have said enrollment is down, meaning fewer dollars coming in. Richards said 9/10ths of the school's budget based off tuition. However, Richards says when it comes to curriculum, faculty knows best and should be consulted on new programs.

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