Please take a couple minutes to read the appeal below and consider signing a petition to oppose the troubling attempt to eliminate the political science program at Marian University.
On November 19, the Marian University faculty voted overwhelmingly against the proposal to eliminate political science, 104 to 26. (Note that 20 full-time administrators, deans, and provosts with faculty status were also eligible to vote.) The faculty vote, however, is not binding. The proposal now goes to the Board of Trustees, which has the final decision-making authority. The Board will likely vote on the proposal on December 10.
The president of Marian, Dan Elsener, is clear about his position. On November 19, after a ten-minute speech before the Faculty Assembly followed by a refusal to clarify misleading data about the program, President Elsener declared that the decision had been “made.” Tellingly, his decision has been made without the administration ever discussing the matter with affected faculty or students and without waiting to see how the faculty voted on the proposal.
It is also worth noting that all the letters and messages sent to the president, provost, and Board are not going unnoticed. The president spent part of his speech expressing his annoyance at the correspondence he has been receiving.
The next step is to educate the Board of Trustees and have the Board appreciate that the political science program is not only successful and viable, but essential for a university dedicated to a liberal arts education and the Franciscan values of dignity of the individual, peace and justice, responsible stewardship, and reconciliation.
Why does Marian University want to eliminate its political science program? Political science has 31 majors (which is more majors than almost two-thirds of the programs in the College of Arts and Sciences). Click here for the number of majors in each program. It typically graduates around one-quarter of its majors each year (which is the expected number). Political science classes routinely enroll 20 to 30 students. By any reasonable measure, political science at Marian is a successful program. Moreover, the president, provost, and administration has failed to provide compelling evidence or arguments to convince the faculty that the elimination of political science is necessary.
In July 2021, the political science faculty members were informed by the provost that the political science program was being eliminated. Prior to this decision, the administration did not discuss the issue with the faculty or even let them know it was being considered. It was a unilateral decision with no input whatsoever from the political scientists.
The proposal to eliminate political science was submitted to the Academic Policies Committee (APC) in September. The rationale for eliminating political science was just two sentences long. Click here to see political science’s response to this proposal. The APC sent the proposal back asking for more information. The administration submitted an addendum with just eight single sentence bullet points trying to justify the elimination and a two sentence explanation. Furthermore, this addendum was full of distortions and misinformation. Each point was refuted in a written response to the addendum. Click here to see political science’s response to the addendum. The APC voted to reject the proposal and it was sent to the Faculty Assembly for discussion and vote in October.
The political science program asked the APC to delay sending the proposal to the faculty assembly because of due process violations by the administration, issues of fairness, and concerns about fully informed decisions. Click here to see the request to delay the proposal. The APC rejected this request.
At the October Faculty Assembly, faculty members immediately challenged the procedural legitimacy of the proposal citing several due process failures and omissions. The faculty voted to ask the Personnel Policies Committee (PPC) to review the proposal for violations of the Faculty Handbook. The PPC reviewed the proposal and returned it along with an advisory statement to the Faculty Assembly for the November 19 meeting. Click here to read the PPC advisory statement.
In the advisory, the Personnel Policies Committee, affirms the primary role that should be played by the faculty in program closure, Although the advisory does not directly address the elimination of the political science program, it does point out share governance and Faculty Handbook principles violated by the administration. The advisory, for example, states that “under normal circumstances [a program closure] is initiated by, and occurs with the full participation of, the faculty of the relevant academic unit. Unilateral initiation of the process by the administration is envisaged as limited to extraordinary cases, in particular financial exigency or enrollment emergency.”
At the November 19 Faculty Assembly, President Elsener gave his customary invited presentation, which focused primarily on the elimination of political science. Please click here for an important response to President Elsener’s presentation. The Personnel Policies Committee submitted its advisory to the Faculty Assembly. Click here to read the advisory. A representative of the students silently protesting outside the meeting read a statement in support of the political science program. Click here to read the student’s statement. Johnny Goldfinger spoke on how the vote was not just about the political science program, but also about the respect for due process, common courtesy, and honesty. The faculty then voted 104-26 against the proposal.
The faculty’s vote is not binding. The proposal now goes to the Board of Trustees for a final decision, most likely on December 10.
At the request of the president of the Marian Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the national office of the AAUP wrote an advisory letter about the proposal. The advisory outlined AAUP principles about decisions to close programs and is worth reading. It seems obvious that the administration has violated not only the spirit but also the letter of the AAUP principles. Click here to read the AAUP advisory letter. The Governance Committee of the Indiana Conference of the AAUP has opened an investigation.
The American Political Science Association has written a letter supporting the political science program and sent it to key decision-makers at Marian. Click here to read the APSA letter. The Midwest Political Science Association has sent a letter supporting political science as well. Click here to read the MPSA letter or view it on the MPSA website.
It is important to appreciate that the undergraduate students are upset and have independently organized to oppose the closure of the political science program. They held a silent protest outside the October and November Faculty Assembly meetings, carrying signs and handing out pamphlets. They also created a petition on change.org (“Save Marian University’s Political Science Program”) with almost 500 signatures plus another 250 signatures on paper petitions. The students are frustrated and bewildered about why the closure is being proposed.
So why does Marian want to eliminate its political science program? If you look at the proposal and addendum, the administration offers no compelling reasons for eliminating political science (and certainly no reasons that meet AAUP standards). There was no mention of financial concerns. There was no mention of how the elimination of a successful core liberal arts program, like political science, benefits the students and the education mission of the university. Moreover, the curt nature of the proposal and addendum might even suggest that the administration feels no need to work with the faculty in good faith. This would be consistent with the concerns faculty have raised in recent years about the lack of respect for shared governance and academic freedom at Marian.
So once again, why does Marian really want to eliminate its political science program? Given that no reasonable explanation has been given, we can only speculate at this point. Either there is no good reason or, perhaps, the real reason is being hidden. We will continually update this website with the latest information. Any media inquiries should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unfortunately, program eliminations, particularly in the liberal arts, are happening all across the country. In this case, it is happening at Marian University, an institution that claims to be founded on the liberal arts tradition. If you find this seemingly bizarre proposal to eliminate political science unjustified, concerning, or even disturbing, please consider taking a minute to sign the petition to save the political science program at Marian University. It will literally take less than a minute.
If you think undergraduates should have the opportunity to study political science, particularly in this day and age, please sign the petition.
If you think shared governance is an important concept for the integrity and well being of colleges and universities, please sign the petition,
If you are worried by administrations making unilateral curricular decisions, please sign the petition.
After signing the petition, please forward this webpage to your colleagues and friends who might also be interested in signing the petition to support the political science program at Marian.
We hope the president of Marian and the Board of Trustees will do the right thing and allow the political science program to continue educating students and preparing them to be active citizens. It would be greatly appreciated if you took a couple minutes to write key decision makers directly to politely express your concerns about the attempt to eliminate political science at Marian. Here are some names and email addresses of people who need to hear from you.
Daniel Elsener (president of Marian University): email@example.com
Denise Feser (Chair of the Board of Trustees): firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Alan Silva (provost): email@example.com
You can find the contact information for all the members of the Board of Trustees and other key administrators by clicking here.