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What It Is

Prioritization of Academic Programs:
What It Is and What UFA-NIU Can Do About It

Prioritization is a process for strategic reallocation of resources (Dickeson, 2010).  A variety of outcomes could result from this process. Some units will receive fewer resources and some will receive more. Programs and units could be consolidated with others, while some programs could be phased out. The “Dickeson Model” is based on a process developed by Robert Dickeson when he was President of the University of Northern Colorado. As a result of that prioritization process, forty-seven faculty members were terminated in 1982 for “program exigency.” Thirty-nine of those faculty had continuous tenure (Elliott & Steuben, 1984). More recently, a prioritization process at National Louis University resulted in the discontinuance of nine degree programs, closure of four departments, and termination of at least sixty-three full-time faculty (AAUP, 2013). Although NLU leadership claimed financial concerns, they did not disclose evidence or declare financial exigency.

Dickeson’s Model has been criticized as being sloppy conceptually, an attack on tenure and academic freedom, and as being unduly focused on faculty lay-offs as a cost control measure. (Faculty salaries have increased below the inflation rate while other costs in higher education have swelled.) (See for example, Bhattacharyya, 2014).