Academic Planning Committee Proposal - November 2020 | St. Lawrence University Academic Affairs

Academic Planning Committee Proposal - November 2020

Proposed by the Experience St. Lawrence Task Force‘s Restructuring Working Group (Shinu Abraham, Matt Carotenuto, Adam Fox, David Henderson, Evelyn Jennings, Lorie MacKenzie, Judith Nagel-Myers, Allie Rowland, Karl Schonberg, Christine Zimmerman) 


Higher education is facing a set of challenges that will extend from now into at least the coming decade, including declining enrollments, structural budget deficits, and questions about the value of a liberal arts education. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these issues and made addressing them even more urgent. We are more likely to make decisions that reflect our values if we are strategic and transparent. The proposed committee is designed to give faculty a formal voice in how decisions about potential investments in and reductions to academic programs are made.

As the first, most pressing item in these conversations, this group will continue and build on the report of the Experience St. Lawrence Task Force and its Restructuring Working Group (RWP) on a vision of a new academic structure that enables greater interdisciplinarity, efficiency of administration, and longer-term strategic planning. Any academic restructuring proposed will be designed to support the current and future needs of students, while cultivating, supporting, and expanding the capacities and talents of faculty.

Circumstances Particular to SLU:

  1. At least six faculty retirements over the next two years.
  2. New interdisciplinary majors and programs proposed that will require some faculty hires to implement—Data Science, Public Health, Digital Media and Film Studies, Finance, Environmental Science.

Committee Description and Charge:

The Academic Planning Committee (APC) will chart the strategic direction of the University’s academic programs and staffing and maintain a University Academic Plan that will be updated annually.

In its work, the APC will be guided by the continuing need to maintain an outstanding and rigorous liberal arts academic program, built on the foundation of diverse intellectual traditions, while also exploring the frontiers of knowledge and inquiry, serving the interests and needs of current students and anticipating those of the future, and reflecting the University’s social values.  

The yearly University Academic Plan will include recommendations regarding the creation of new programs, additions, reductions, or changes to programs, and the allocation of new or replaced faculty lines over multiple years.

The Restructuring Working Group (RWG) proposes that Faculty Council create the APC in the 2020-2021 academic year. During its initial phase the APC can refine its charge and associated processes and will propose these modifications to Faculty Council for approval in May 2021. In summer 2021, Faculty Council will solicit feedback from the campus community, review the work of the APC over the past year, and inform them of modifications to the committees charge and membership.


  • Associate Dean for Faculty and one faculty member as co-chairs (elected from the faculty on the committee by a committee vote)
  • Dean of Academic Affairs
  • Associate VP for Planning and University Registrar
  • Faculty member from Faculty Council
  • Faculty member from the Academic Affairs Committee  
  • Faculty member from the Institutional Strategy and Assessment Committee 
  • Two to four at-large faculty members—chosen by Faculty Council to ensure breadth of divisional representation. For 2020-2021 only, Faculty Council will nominate at-large members. At the conclusion of this academic year a pool of potential candidates will be recruited through nominations, including self-nominations, from the campus community. Beginning in 2021-2022, at-large members will be expected to serve two-year terms.
  • Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion 
  • Associate Dean for the First Year 
  • Associate Dean for International and Intercultural Studies 
  • Director of Institutional Research, ex-officio, also co-chair of the Assessment Committee

We recommend that there be administrative resources dedicated to the work of the APC (at least in the beginning) to ensure that the individuals working on this will have the time and bandwidth to devote to this important process.

Detailed Description of Activities:

The APC will meet regularly throughout the year and establish regular processes for gathering input and providing information to the full faculty, sharing information and recommendations with other university governance committees and campus offices, administrators, staff, and students as appropriate. The APC will share its meeting schedule and agendas with the campus community and be in regular communication with senior staff.

The APC will serve as a coordinating body for the annual activities of the Assessment Committee, Institutional Strategy and Assessment Committee, and Academic Affairs Committee as these relate to strategic planning for academic programs. This coordination does not supersede each committee’s ability to set agendas; rather, the coordination will seek to avoid duplication of effort and promote efficiency.

In academic year 2020-2021, the APC will review the data, conclusions, and case models proposed by the Experience St. Lawrence Task Force to make recommendations about revisions and/or implementation as they relate to Academic Affairs. The APC will coordinate this review process with existing governance committees.

The APC will refer its annual updates to the University Academic Plan to Faculty Council in January of each year, so that any recommended changes to academic majors, minors, and programs may be considered by Faculty Council, the Academic Affairs Committee, and the full faculty through their established processes.

In coordination with the Assessment Committee, each June the APC will receive from each academic department or unit a three-year plan of learning assessment conducted in the prior year and planned for the future. Department or unit plans will include the courses anticipated to be taught, staffing needs, and plans for program review and development to ensure rigorous depth of knowledge in the field for majors and optimal course scheduling for majors and non-majors. These plans will inform the APC’s broader recommendations regarding University-wide academic planning. 

In addition to its other duties, the APC will convene in August of each year to make recommendations to the President regarding faculty hiring for the coming year. In this role, the APC will replace the current Staffing Committee.  

Phases and Timeline for Possible Restructuring:

This timeline represents the RWG’s conclusion that the optimal academic structure will be shaped by SLU faculty with the goals of realizing their aspirations for greater interdisciplinarity and innovation in teaching and research, greater flexibility in responding to student interests and needs, and greater budgetary and management efficiencies.

Fall 2020

Faculty Council creates the first iteration of the Academic Planning Committee with membership as outlined above. Charge: In Fall 2020, the committee will set its agenda and plan for spring 2021. By May 2021, the committee will have vetted more widely with faculty groups and committees various models for academic organization and/or more centralized strategic academic planning and decision-making. The APC’s work in AY 2020-21 will be based on the Restructuring Working Group’s proposals in light of recommendations from the ESL Task Force. The APC also reviews faculty retirements and openings anticipated over the next two to three years and makes recommendations to the Dean and the President, should the current hiring freeze be lifted.

January 2021

APC shares a preliminary report on its agenda and for spring 2021 with Faculty Council and with the campus community including discussion at a faculty meeting.

May 2021

APC shares follow-up report on viability and potential new groupings of academic communities and the structure of APC with the President, Board of Trustees, and the campus community including discussion at a faculty meeting.

Summer 2021

APC will report recommendations regarding restructuring and an implementation plan to the Board and the new president. This report will include Faculty Council’s review of the work of the APC over the past year.

Fall 2021

APC recommendations will be shared and discussed with the full faculty.