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Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Leaked budget advisory group document shocks campus

    A dramatic plan outlining $5.5 million in budget cuts at Sonoma State University (SSU) created by an appointed campus committee was leaked on March 30, 2022 to the STAR and other groups, setting off a cascade of fearful reactions in the campus community last week. 

    Campus faculty and students have alleged that the leaked confidential report contained factual inaccuracies, dramatic changes to SSU programs, was made without adequate representation for the programs that may be affected and was conducted without the knowledge of many high-ranking Deans, Chairs and professors. The committee also lacked a student representative.  

    The confidential draft of the Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Group (AABAWG) was leaked to the STAR via an anonymous source. The document titled “Final Report” proposes multiple long and short-term strategies for budget reduction.

    The recommendations inside the confidential report include combining the School of Arts and Humanities with the School of Social Sciences as well as the discontinuation of multiple programs including German cultural studies, French, History MA, Nursing BS, Nursing FNP, Applied Statistics BS, Art Studio BFA, Music BA, Dance BA and the Hutchins Program. 

    The recommendations also suggest moving the Advising Center to Academic Programs, reimagining the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, moving IT to Administrative and Finance and creating a permanent budget advisory group for Academic Affairs. 

    On page 12, the document outlines the suggestion to discontinue the Hutchins Program, followed by the suggestion to create an Honors College/Program within Hutchins. 

    In a well-attended Academic Senate meeting Thursday, April 14, Provost Karen Moranski described the 29-page document titled ‘Final Report’ as “working notes.” 

    “At the onset, the Working Group created a ‘Draft – Confidential Final Report’ with the intention of shaping it throughout the budgetary process. The Working Group’s meeting notes and discussions were translated into the body of this draft document,” Moranski said in an Academic Senate Zoom meeting. “There were many ideas in this draft document that were to be removed or further analyzed before the report was to be publicly shared. This review process was still taking place when a copy of the draft report was shared with people outside of the Working Group.”

    The AABAWG committee was created in December of 2021 by Moranski with consultation from the Chair of the academic Senate, Lauren Morimoto, according to the document, to ensure that the University achieves a $5.5 million budget reduction by July 2022. Moranski said, with the exception of lecturers, the budget reductions were hoped to be done without laying off staff. 

    While the AABAWG’s goal was to not lay off any current faculty and staff, the provost admitted that fewer lecturers will receive work.

    Jo-ann Dapiran, Senior Budget Analyst, was tasked to staff the group. Emily Acosta Lewis, Chair of Academic Planning and Resource Committee (APARC) and School of Arts and Humanities Representative and Mike Ogg, Senior Director of Budget and Planning for Academic Affairs were asked to co-chair this committee. Lauren Morimoto was asked to represent the Academic Senate and to be a faculty representative for the School of Social Science and Technology. Nominations went out to the Structure and Functions Committee of the Academic Senate which chose the remaining representatives from each school: Kaitlyn Springmier (Library), Fawn Canady (Education), Karen Thompson (Business and Economics), David McCuan (Social Sciences), Troi Carleton (PBAC representative and Social Sciences), Mike Visser (Business and Economics),Tai Russotti (Administrative Manager for the School of Arts and Humanities). The staff position, Loriann Negri, Director of the Writing Center, was elected by the Staff Council. 

    None of the individuals on the committee have degrees in Organizational Leadership. 

    In the Academic Senate meeting, questions surrounding the  “Draft – Confidential Final Report” were addressed. 

    Moranski said the committee was not hand-picked. “There was a Structure and Functions process, so I do want to make sure that people know that the governance process was followed for the faculty on that working group,” Moranski said.

    The SSU website provided insight into the typical structure and function process for committees with faculty representation. “Some opportunities are announced and candidates are selected by Structure and Functions for approval by the Executive Committee or Senate. Others are appointed by the administrator of the committee,” the website states. 

    In the Academic Senate meeting, Moranski said, “The budget advisory working group has made no, and I want to be very clear about this actually because there are rumors going around, has made no recommendations for program discontinuance.” She continued, “They have not made recommendations about cutting programs, they have suggested that as a campus we find ways to add alternative funding for programs where we can.”

    By combining the School of Arts and Humanities with the School of Social Sciences, Sonoma State would become a college of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science. The Working Group document states, “By creating Colleges, it would allow SSU to move to a more traditional model of the university organization wherein there are Colleges (large academic units) and Schools (small to mid-sized academic units).

    Further adding to speculation and concerns, committee co-chair Emily Acosta Lewis sent an email to Arts and Humanities faculty on the morning of Thursday, April 14, prior to the Academic Senate Meeting. The email read, “If you saw the budget email, you’ll see that we’re combining the school of social sciences and arts and humanities. It will happen soon. Troi [Carleton] will be our new Dean. She’s wonderful and cares. She has messed up with some things, but she is a fair, honest, and kind person. I hope you all give her a chance.” 

    It is unclear what Troi has ‘messed up.’ 

    In response to this email, Arts and Humanities Chair, Ed Beebout, formulated a response signed off on by all of the department chairs. “The Council of Chairs and the Curriculum Committee of the School of Arts and Humanities unanimously reject the process that has led to the decision to merge the School of Arts and Humanities with the School of Social Sciences, and condemns its lack of transparency,” the email stated.

    The email also brought up concerns over conflict of interest. At the time of the working group formation in late November, the fact that the current Dean of Arts and Humanities, Hollis Robbins, would be leaving the university was not yet known, and yet Troi Carleton, Dean of the School of Social Sciences, was on the committee. “Only one faculty each from the School of Arts and Humanities and the School of Social Sciences were on the committee. And the dean who has now been slated to head up both schools was also on the committee, which we view as a serious conflict of interest,” Beebout wrote. 

    The email ended with a punch. “In addition, we believe trying to move this kind of structural change forward at the same time the current administration finds itself embroiled in a public scandal is ill-advised. We therefore ask that no final decision be made on merging The School of Arts and Humanities and the School of Social Sciences until the implications of such a move have been fully and publicly examined, and ample time has been given for faculty input and debate.”

    Despite Acosta Lewis’ email memo, Moranski said in the Academic Senate meeting that no decisions have been made when A&H Professor, Dr. Elizabeth Burch asked whether Troi Carelton, the current Dean of Social Sciences, would be taking over as Dean of both the School of Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities when Dean Hollis Robbins parts ways with SSU at the end of this semester. 

    “We’re just going to have to stop, take a deep breath, and go back several steps to have the conversations that need to be had. It’s really unfortunate that anytime severe, extreme budget cuts have to happen, the fear, anxiety and even the impulses to protect our own turfs make it hard to have conversations,” Moranski said. 

    Stephanie Dyer, Chair and Professor of American History and Political Economy wrote in the Zoom chat, “There was no consultation by Arts and Humanities representatives on the working group with anyone in Arts Humanities.”

    Another faculty Chair, Stefan Kiesbye said, “For me, the A and H Representative was in fact handpicked. There was no selection process that started out, and it’s not to throw shade at her [Emily Acosta Lewis] at all. It’s just that there was no election process. My trust in the process is pretty shot after what happened last year in the area of the repopulation of the campus where I was being lied to in meetings, where things were being hidden. The decisions were made and these open forums were only held basically to save face.” 

    Five of the seven committee members were handpicked, including the A&H faculty representative and Dean Carleton: Emily Acosta Lewis (Co-Chair and A&H Representative), Mike Ogg (Co-Chair and Provost’s Office Representative), Lauren Morimoto(Chair of Academic Senate and SST Representative), Tai Russotti (Administrative Manager, A&H) and Troi Carleton (Dean and PBAC Representative). 

    No one from Arts & Humanities was allowed to apply for the committee.

    Letha Ch’ien, from the Arts History department, said, “If we have fewer Arts and Humanities seats, we have less of a voice on committees. We can’t advocate for our students the same way, we need a Dean who understands our unique concerns and as you said, we have unique needs and unique voices. This is a COPLAC. (Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges) We are the only public university that has a coplac and I think it would be a good idea to lean into what makes us unique, what makes Sonoma state special instead fighting to become another generic university that offers a little bit of everything kind of mediocrily.” 

    No students were on the committee. Moranski said that a student representative from Associated Students was requested, however, no responses to the request were received. 

    “The form to request a student representative to serve on the AABAWG was submitted in December 2021 via the AS website. No response was received to the student representative request,” Moranski wrote in an emailed statement. “(The) co-chair of the AABAWG contacted Noelia Brambelia at the President’s Budget Advisory Committee (PBAC) meeting, on February 24, 2022 about sending a student representative to the group, and she acknowledged receipt of the original request form.” 

    Had more than one student from associated students been interested in participating in the Working Group, Moranski says they would have been welcomed. 

    It should be noted that a student representative was requested on February 24th, meanwhile, the AABAWG group deadline for formulation was December 6, 2021. This suggests there weren’t intentions to have a student on the committee from the start. 

    During the Academic Senate meeting, Christina Gomez, a member of the Associated Students, spoke up.” She said, “We were asked to join later after everyone was already assigned and after the group had already started.” 

    An important detail about the Working Group document surrounds the data used throughout it. For one, there are no provided dates or information pointing to where the data used in the document was referenced from, with the exception of one table that referenced data from 2020 and another referencing data from 2021, and some of the information in the document has been revealed to be inaccurate. 

    Anna Valdez, Chair of the Nursing Department said, “There is a lot of inaccurate information in the preliminary recommendations that were leaked. Over 10% of Fall 2022 applications for enrollment at SSU were prenursing applications. Many of the students who do not get into prenursing or prelicensure nursing enroll in other majors including Kinesiology, Biology, and Communications. Discontinuing nursing programs would have a significant impact on University enrollment.” 

    Valdez expressed her disappointment that the Department of Nursing was not consulted as a part of due diligence while information was being gathered for these recommendations.

    Moranski stated in an email the data included in the draft report came from reports generated by Academic Affairs. “Prior to publishing a final report, the data will go through a secondary review by Financial Services and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness,” Moranski said. “The report is still in draft form and the secondary review has not yet occurred.”

    The Working Group document stated, “The nursing program needs to be seriously evaluated for discontinuance. The cost of the program compared to students served, inability to hire tenure-track faculty, and the cost of equipment, programs, and facilities are the major reasons for evaluating this program’s discontinuance.”  

    The document goes on to recommend the program move to Santa Rosa Junior College where students would be able to complete a Bachelor’s degree program. Under current California regulations, this cannot be done. A 2020 article by EdSource explains the results from California Community College Bachelor Degree programs four years later. “Nursing was excluded from the list of approved degree programs in the pilot despite an industry-wide goal to increase the number of registered nurses in the field with a bachelor’s degree,” EdSource

    The other suggestions include creating a differential fee structure so students can pay additional fees to offset the program clause or finding an alternative funding source for the program. If none of this can be done, the program needs to be discontinued, according to the confidential report. 

    The Working Group based their recommendation on the discontinuance of the nursing program stating that the Nursing BS program only has 48 majors, the Nursing FNP program only has 93 majors, and the Nursing program only sees 33 graduates per year. Valdez corrected the data in the Working Group document. “We graduate about 100 students per year (60-64 BSN and 40 FNP). We had 63 BSN students and 32 MSN/FNP students graduate in 2021,” Valdez said. Nearly 400 students are currently enrolled in Nursing programs. 

    Discontinuing these programs would end SSU’s Accreditation with Commissions on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and our approval from the Board of Registered Nurses (BRN). It would not affect anyone who graduated while the University was still accredited. Reinstating the Nursing programs in the future, if they were discontinued, would require a new approval and accreditation process before the programs could recommence. 

    Earlier in the week, tenure and tenure track faculty in the Department of Nursing were asked to meet with Dr. Elisabeth Wade, Dean of the School of Science and Technology and Dr. Moranski to discuss the leaked recommendations. “We were assured we will be consulted about any changes that are being recommended for our programs prior to decisions being made. We were told this information was released prematurely and recommendations are still being made,” Valdez said. 

    Pertaining to the incorrect information within the document Moranski said, “There is no false data in the report. The data were acquired through the PeopleSoft system and through the Tableau system so it’s data that is accurate for the institution but we have different ways of calculating data and so there often are debates about data.” 

    In the Senate Meeting, concerns were raised by associated student member Gomez about whether a single dean would be able to sustain the workload created by merging the School of Arts and Humanities with the School of Social Sciences. “I know it didn’t seem like a big deal but they already say that the deans are stretched really thin with the work that they’re doing now,” Gomez said. “I don’t want to call anybody out but they already said in one of the schools that they’re struggling with everything that’s going on and then now to put them together, I don’t understand how one dean will be able to handle it when one Dean can’t handle one school right now.” 

    The STAR reached out to Ed Beebout for comment as to whether or not he believes one Dean could manage both the School of Arts and Humanities and the School of Social Sciences. “I do have concerns about dean workload, among other issues. I know our current dean puts in a tremendous amount of hours, including the weekend, and that’s with an excellent support staff in her office. Doubling a dean’s area of responsibility doesn’t seem wise or sustainable without spending money on more support, which is the opposite of what’s being proposed here,” Beebout stated. 

    Several SSU academic budgets are significantly inflated in comparison to other academic budgets.  Most academic budgets are anywhere from $250,000-$4 million. The budget for the Department of Business is nearly $8 million. None of the Working Group recommendations for budget adjustment pertained to the Department of Business. 

    President Sakaki’s salary was $300,600.23 in 2017. In 2020, California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom’s salary was $209,747. 


    The Academic Senate is the official faculty body to “provide opinions on matters affecting the University”.

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