Frequently Asked Questions

New FAQs posted May 13, 2016

Can I get a copy of the task force reports if I don’t have a university log-in ID or password?

Please email and ask for the report or reports you’re interested in. 

I sent feedback through the website and am wondering when I’ll find out if my program’s category designation was changed?

The work of the Program Prioritization Task Forces is over, so there will not be any changes in the categories designated by those groups. All action related to the Task Forces’ recommendations must now be addressed by divisional action plans, so that is where you should direct your efforts. Action plans will make the case for varying levels of reaction to the Task Force recommendations, ranging from “no action” to “significant action.” If you believe you have information or perspective that might influence the action plan for your program, contact the program head and/or others involved in the writing and approval of action plans and state your case. You may also provide feedback through the Program Prioritization website. All feedback will ultimately be shared with the President and his senior cabinet.

Can you explain why the reports and narratives are password-protected?

Two main issues factored into decisions on access to task force reports and narratives. First, program authors were told at the outset that the narratives they wrote were for the use of task force members evaluating their programs. Although there was an expectation that they would be made available to the university community at a later date, it was not clear from the start that they would be made public. Second, the decision to password-protect the reports came after Faculty Senate members expressed concerns about a possible general public misunderstanding of the recommendations within the reports without sufficient context and explanation. 

Is there a maximum word length for the comments in the feedback form?

No, there is no word limit for feedback.

I think it would have been helpful to survey students about programs. Will you be doing that?

The three-week feedback period is the time for students to provide opinions on programs. We encourage students to take advantage of this opportunity, as additional information will be helpful for decision-makers evaluating program action plans. In addition, two student task forces (one academic and one administrative) are reviewing the Task Force reports and providing student perspective and feedback. 

Will scoring values and/or averages be made public for each program?

Task Force members took a variety of approaches to arrive at a consensus on rankings for each program. Each member brought his or her own knowledge of the university and trustee mentality to their judgments, and relied on numerical scoring only to bring initial focus to a discussion. The scoring was part of the deliberations of the Task Forces and was never intended to represent final decisions or to be made public.

What does it really mean to have your program assigned to a particular category?

Placement in a category means that, after careful and thorough consideration, the task force has recommended a particular investment strategy for that program. Program category placement is first and foremost a recommendation about the future investment of university resources.

If changes are recommended for my program, how soon will they be implemented?

That depends on the nature of the recommendation, whether the program is academic or administrative, feedback received from the campus community, and the content of action plans created by deans, vice presidents and program leaders. Some Program Prioritization-informed budget allocation decisions will be made for FY17, but the majority will be mapped to budgets in FY18 and beyond. In the case of academic programs, the university is committed to allowing students to finish their programs. Shared governance processes related to curricular revision will be followed.

What will be done with the feedback received from this website or in reports from various groups? 

Feedback will be solicited from a variety of sources, including formal reports from shared governance groups, website submissions, and discussions between and among various program leaders. In each case, feedback will be directed to the appropriate deans, vice presidents and program heads for consideration to inform their action plans. Shared governance groups, including the Student Association, may publish reports on their websites. In any case, President Baker and his Senior Cabinet will have access to all feedback.

Assuming that not every task force recommendation will be accepted, who are the decision-makers who choose which ideas to implement? 

Deans, vice presidents and other program leaders will have in-depth discussions about every task force recommendation that affects their respective areas. The action plans they submit to the Senior Cabinet will provide guidance for implementation actions, ranging from “no action” to “significant new action.” The President and his Senior Cabinet advisors will review those action plans, and the President will recommend a budget to the Board of Trustees that reflects accepted Task Force recommendations and action plans. In the late fall, President Baker will issue a Program Prioritization President’s Report.

We have some new deans coming on board this summer who will not have been part of this process – How will they participate in Program Prioritization?

The new deans have seen program narratives for their colleges. They, along with current academic leaders, will be meeting in a series of retreats in June to discuss the Program Prioritization process and recommendations made for their colleges, and will participate in the creation of action plans.

According to the website, the task force recommendations will be sent to deans, vice presidents and program leaders for the development of “action plans.” What will those plans look like, and how can people contribute to them? Also, how will they be shared, and with whom?

The action plans will consist of three main sections: First, the leaders will be asked whether they find individual recommendations to be reasonable (and if not, why not); second, what type of action they propose (from “no action” to “significant new action”); and third, if action is proposed, a list of steps and timelines, individuals impacted, resources required, and consequences. In addition, the action plans will provide an opportunity for programs to address specific gaps or omissions in the program narrative. Completed action plans will go to the President and his Senior Cabinet advisors for review.

What will be the role of the president’s cabinet?

The president’s cabinet is an advisory group. Members will provide counsel and suggestions to the president as the Program Prioritization process enters the implementation stage, as they do on other matters of importance to the university.

What is the EBC and who is in that group?

The Executive Budget Committee is a subgroup of the president’s cabinet. It will be co-chaired by Lisa Freeman, executive vice president and provost, and Al Phillips, vice president for administration and finance. Other EBC members include Jerry Blazey, interim vice president for research and innovation partnerships, Brett Coryell, vice president for information technology, and Mike Mann, associate vice president for state and government relations and Board liaison. Mark Falkoff, vice chair of the Academic Planning Council; and Mark Riley, chair of the Resource, Space and Budget Committee of the University Council will meet regularly with the EBC to provide feedback on the design of a multiyear budget process and implementation of program prioritization.

How will shared governance be involved in the implementation stage?

As mentioned in the previous Q&A, shared governance representatives from the Academic Planning Council (APC) and the Resource, Space, and Budget Committee (RSB) will work with the Executive Budget Committee to link resources with accepted Program Prioritization recommendations. In addition, shared governance groups are invited to provide formal feedback on behalf of their constituents (as the Student Association is doing). Finally, any recommended changes to academic programs will go through the curricular process as dictated by shared governance agreements. 

How will this process be evaluated?

The NIU Program Prioritization process has a strong evaluation component that began at the inception of the project and will be ongoing. For example, focus groups have been and are being held to evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts at each stage of the process. In time, we anticipate that the university community will be able to access a dashboard charting the progress of each accepted task force recommendation. An evaluation of the Program Prioritization process to date will be released in Fall 2016.

What if an incoming freshman/transfer student is planning on a major that is being recommended for elimination?

We add and delete programs with some regularity at NIU, and as an accredited university, we are required to follow accepted curricular processes. When an academic program is slated for closure, we stop accepting new students into the program while allowing current students to complete the program. Program heads, academic advisors, and admissions personnel are informed about changes in our academic portfolio as soon as those decisions are made, and they, in turn, inform students about available programs. 

What happens after July 15 when the action plans are submitted?

For the vast majority of programs, the action plans will initiate further discussions between and among academic and administrative leaders regarding possible mergers, program expansions or contractions, new potential audiences, and a host of other creative reactions to increased or reduced resources. We may be able to implement some plans fairly quickly. For example, ten academic programs were suggested for elimination before the task forces even began their work. 

Will there be a final report from the president? If so, when, and what will it include?

Yes. This fall, President Baker will issue a progress report to the university community on Program Prioritization (up to and including the task force recommendations and college/division action plans). At that time, he will also describe implementation timetables, mapping action plans to future budgets, and the creation of dashboards to track the outcomes of Program Prioritization.