By Tim Leeds
A small amount of chaos erupted at the meeting of the Montana Board of Regents this morning when they announced they had approved the Montana State University system's recommendations for program review.
Cameron Worstell, of the Montana State Unversity-Northern Metals Technology Program asked for confirmation that the decision on program review would not occur until the May regents meeting.
The board informed him that acting under information from Dr. Joyce Scott, deputy commissioner for academic and student affairs, the program review had been moved to an action item for the full board and was approved during Thursday afternoon's meeting.
Trygve Magelssen, member of the ASNMC student senate, rose to a point of order. He said that while the item had been moved to the action agenda, he did not believe it had been voted on.
Regent Margie Thompson said the item had been moved to the action agenda of the full board by the academic and student affairs committee, and was later approved by the full board in its meeting. She said minutes were taken for the meeting and the action could be verified.
Magelssen said under Roberts Rules of Order, the board had not allowed required public comment with the change of order of the items.
Thompson said the board had acted in the same fashion their meetings were conducted in the past. Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Richard Crofts said the board formulates its own policies of procedure, and is not bound by the rules of any external source.
Worstell, who had risen to speak in support of the metals program recommended for elimination, asked if speaking on the issue was meaningless now that the decision was made. Regent Lynn Hamilton said it was not meaningless, input was always valuable.
Ed Jasmin, chair of the meeting, said nothing is set in concrete. He said the campuses can come back and revise their recommendations for the regents' consideration if they decide this is the best action after further review.
David Christianson, a sophomore in the biology department, rose to speak in support of the programs being cut. He said elimination reduces the current and future integrity of the programs and the school.
Christianson said the students are being cheated by elimination of programs that were in the university's catalog when they enrolled. He said under the recommendations, he has lost the opportunity to receive a minor in math or water quality, which was an option when he enrolled in the university.
He said the regents will hear from the students and community members. He said the regents will continue to hear from them until they feel the programs are safe.
Mike Rao, chancellor of the university, said campus and community did participate in the review process. He said some people wanted to speak to the board directly on the issue, and that it was unfortunate that the timing of the issue did not allow this.
Rao said he will come back to the regents with revisions. He said new programs to replace those recommended for elimination are already in the works.
Rao said he doesn't believe reversals can be made for all of the programs recommended for elimination. He said some changes in recommendation could occur.
Jasmin said the board will deliberate any changes in recommendation brought before them in the future.
The program review process is mandated by the board and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education. The process is intended to identify nonproductive programs to increase the efficiency and productivity of the university system to conserve limited funding.