UA Little Rock chancellor sends letter of intent to trustees to begin retrenchment process

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,686 views 

The chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is asking the UA Board of Trustees to allow the school to begin the process of “formal academic planning,” a move expected to reposition the university amid financial hardship.

Newly-appointed UA Little Rock Chancellor Christina Drale presented a letter of intent Thursday (Jan. 30) to trustees asking to begin a process of “retrenchment,” which could lead to the elimination of programs, services or personnel.

“Many colleges and universities are facing unprecedented challenges. A combination of flat state funding and declining enrollment has led many in the higher education community to make tough decisions about how to remain sustainable for the future,” Drale said in a statement.

Since last year, UA Little Rock has been examining ways to reduce administrative costs and low enrollment programs in an effort to make up an estimated $11 million budget deficit. An Institutional Effectiveness Committee, consisting of 24 faculty and staff members, has been studying ways to cut costs in the wake of the financial crisis.

Despite a much stronger freshmen class this fall, UA Little Rock has been falling in enrollment in recent years. It was once the state’s second largest public university, but has fallen to fifth based on student population.

“UA Little Rock has always been an integral part of the educational fabric of central Arkansas – filling a unique role by serving a diverse range of undergraduate and graduate students and addressing the needs of business, government, and cultural interests in our capital city. That mission will not change, but the way we achieve it must change,” Drale said in her statement.

“The leaders of our institution, in collaboration with community and business leaders, agree it is time to take a fresh look at our portfolio to ensure its relevance and effectiveness in producing a vibrant workforce and better lives for those we serve. This review will also allow us to focus on our strengths and prioritize our investments in the future,” she said.

“The changes ahead will require difficult choices. Today, the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas received my letter of intent to begin the process of formal academic planning, one of the two categories of retrenchment available to UA institutions. This review will also allow us to focus on our strengths and prioritize our investments in the future. This process will allow UA Little Rock to safeguard its sustainability and emerge as a stronger, more focused university,” Drale added.

While “formal academic planning” is one route of retrenchment for an institution of higher education take, the other category of retrenchment is known as “financial exigency,” which can be used when an “imminent monetary crisis” has occurred.

“Formal academic planning” retrenchment occurs when faculty, tenured or untenured, are to be terminated as a result of established planning activities, according to University of Arkansas board policy.

The board’s policy also states:

“In the implementation of retrenchment, fair and humane treatment of faculty, staff, and students is of great concern. Serious efforts shall be made to relocate affected faculty and staff in other parts of the program area or in a different program area of the same campus or division. Similarly, currently
enrolled students will be permitted, through special arrangements, to complete a program of studies begun before retrenchment was implemented.”