Discusson Board; University of Missouri (A) – Structural Frame

Using the Structural Frame, choose a specific characteristic of the case – e.g., committees, budgets, strategy, etc., and explain in-depth how the Structural Frame informs the circumstances of the University of Missouri case. From a structural perspective, is there anything you would have done differently? Explain, incorporating at least 1 or 2 assumptions of the Structural Frame into your response. Remember to perform some outside research, to properly cite your sources, and to demonstrate evidence of critical thinking in your response.

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Institute for Educational Management
By Gene I. Maeroff
COLUMBIA, MO., May 28–Budget conscious administrators at the
University of Missouri’s main campus here have proposed dropping
some programs and sharply curtailing others. But the plan has
brought a flood of protest letters, emergency hearings in the State
Legislature and criticism from three of the University’s nine board
“More people have talked about the University of Missouri in the
last 30 days than in the last 30 years,” said Dr. Wilbur Miller,
Associate Dean of the College of Education, which would lose onethird of its $3.6 million budget under the proposal, jeopardizing many
of its undergraduate programs.
Provost Ron Bunn has proposed abolishing two of the
university’s 14 schools and colleges and sharply reducing the
operations of seven others over a period of three years. The money
freed by those actions could then be reallocated to the remaining
programs to improve faculty salaries and buy equipment for
–The New York Times, May 30, 1982
It was June 1, 1982 and Ron Bunn, the Provost at the University of Missouri’s Columbia
campus, faced several questions. He wondered how the administration’s effort to develop
a long-range response to financial pressures had led to such a political maelstrom. He
wondered whether there was anything the administration could have done to prevent events
from careening out of control. Most important, he wondered what, if anything, he could do
—————————————————————This case was written by Jacqueline Stefkovich, Chris Harris, and Lee Bolman, for the
Institute for Educational Management, Harvard University, and is based in part on the
research of Professor David Kuechle, Harvard Graduate School of Education. The case was
developed for class discussion, and is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective
handling of an administrative situation. © 1986, Institute for Educational Management
University of Missouri
Nineteen eighty-two marked Ron Bunn’s second year at the University of Missouri. He
was new to the state, but not to higher education. Before coming to Missouri, he had been
a full-time faculty member at the University of Texas and at Louisiana State University. He
was a graduate dean at the University of Houston for seven years and Vice-President for
Academic Affairs at the State University of New York in Buffalo from 1976 to 1980. He had
directed long-range planning efforts at the last two institutions, but neither involved program
reductions on the scale contemplated at Missouri.
From the beginning of his tenure, Bunn was aware of the university’s fiscal problems. He
knew from the outset that cuts in programs would be difficult, but he also wanted to help a
university that he believed “was beginning to enter a period of protracted financial stress”.
He had been optimistic about his reallocation proposals. He felt they had the potential to save
several million dollars and to strengthen the programs that were most central to the mission
of the university and most needed by the citizens of Missouri.
The University of Missouri
Founded in 1839 as the first state university west of the Mississippi and approved as a
land-grant institution in 1870, the University of Missouri at Columbia is part of a
four-campus system (the other sites are Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis). The University is
governed by a Board of Curators whose nine members are appointed by the governor to serve
six-year terms. State law requires that each curator come from a different Congressional
district and that no more than five be members of one political party. Most of the curators
were alumni who served on a part-time basis while maintaining full-time commitments in
law, business, agriculture or other professions. In 1982, the membership of the board
included eight men and one woman who was also the only Black member.
Reporting to the Curators was the President of the University and system-wide chief
executive, James Olson. Each of the four campuses was headed by a Chancellor. The
Chancellor at Columbia, Barbara Uehling, was regarded as a strong and vocal advocate of
higher education.
Columbia, Missouri is a classic college town. The 90,000 residents include 25,000
students at the Columbia campus. The streets carry names like College and University and
the 75,000- person football stadium dominates the southern edge of town. The university’s
teaching hospital is a major health facility for Columbia and central Missouri. The university
operates half a dozen museums and galleries, and fields surrounding the town are sites for
university-based agricultural experiments.
University of Missouri
The local visitor’s brochure proudly proclaims the institution as “one of the most
comprehensive universities in the world”, a university that “belongs to all Missourians”.
Beside the nation’s oldest School of Journalism, the campus includes Colleges of
Agriculture, Arts and Sciences, (with twenty-five departments), Business and Public
Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Home Economics, Public and
Community Services and Veterinary Medicine and professional schools of Law, Medicine
and Health Related Services, Nursing, and Library and Informational Science.
The University of Missouri system is the only public institution in the state to offer Ph.D.
and professional degrees, and the Columbia campus, with its 100+ Ph.D. programs, confers
most of these. Administrators at the Columbia campus emphasize the important research in
areas such as plant biochemistry and genetics, arthritic disease, hazardous waste management
and the effects of diet on cholesterol levels. Students and community emphasize the school’s
excellence in teaching.
The university distributes an information brochure, stylishly dressed in the school’s black
and gold colors, that sums up the institution’s philosophy with these lines:
There are few earthly things more splendid than a
university. In these days of broken frontiers and collapsing values ,
when the dams are down and the floods are making misery, when
every future looks somewhat grim and every ancient foothold has
become something of a quagmire, wherever a University stands, it
stands and shines; wherever it exists, the free minds of men, urged on
to full and fair inquiry, may still bring wisdom into human affairs.
–John Masefield
Administration, faculty and staff are proud of the University. As the Dean for Community
and Public Service, a former mayor of Columbia, said, “I came to this university as a sophomore in 1945 and have stayed ever since. I like it here.”
The Financial Context
Missouri was operating on a narrow tax base and ranked next- to-last among the states in
its per capita appropriations for higher education.
In 1980, droughts had hampered the state’s agricultural economy and national economic
trends were hurting other major Missouri industries. The governor had withheld three percent
University of Missouri
of the higher education appropriations and announced a ten percent reduction for the
following year. The Hancock Amendment, an anti- tax bill, had recently been enacted via the
initiative process. Bunn doubted that the governor or Missouri citizens would, or could,
support an increase in state taxes.
James Buchholz, the University’s Vice-President for Administrative Affairs, predicted that
reductions and inflation would cause the university to lose twenty percent of its operating
budget during the 1981-1982 school year. Although endowments and research support made
a significant contribution, they were designated for specific areas and contributed little to
the school’s operating budget.
Substantial increases in student tuition were planned, but these accounted for less than
thirty percent of the school’s total operating budget. (Over sixty percent came from state
subsidies and most of the remainder from federal land-grant monies.) Over ninety percent
of the students resided in state. (See Appendix A for budget information, and Appendix B
for enrollment figures.)
The university’s commitment as a land-grant institution obliged it to maintain reasonable
tuition rates for its residents. Administrators viewed massive tuition hikes as out of the
question. To further compound the problems, the state of Missouri was not legally
permitted to deficit-spend.
Bunn and Uehling both believed that the University of Missouri could maintain and
improve its status and capacities as a major university in the Midwest only if it could attract
and retain talented faculty. The institution was already several percentage points behind the
other Big Ten and Big Eight schools in its faculty salaries. (See Appendix C for these
comparisons.) Offering competitive salaries was crucial to this effort.
Bunn and Uehling saw a major dilemma. Either the university could spread broadly the
decline in resources throughout the campuses and hope for a better day, or it could take steps
to reduce its range of commitments so that existing strengths could be maintained and
remaining programs strengthened. Both Bunn and Barbara Uehling believed that it was
essential for the Columbia campus to concentrate its resources on its strongest and most
significant programs. Uehling had frequently and publicly expressed concern over the
University’s tendency to skim all programs across the board at the expense of those central
to the institution’s mission.
History of the Reallocation Process
On November 21, 1980, a few months after Bunn was hired, the University’s Board of
Curators adopted a revised academic plan for the 1975-1985 decade. It read:
University of Missouri
The University of Missouri cannot do everything. It is important to
remember that the University is only one of the segments of public
higher education in Missouri and should maintain its historic role of
strength in research, advanced graduate and professional programs
and extension. The University should do well whatever it does.
In August 1981, President Olson asked the chancellors to consider salary increments in
light of the state’s withholding of ten percent of the university’s funds. Uehling, described
by the press as a tough administrator, an iron fist in a velvet glove, assumed what she
considered to be a hard, but fair and reasonable stance. She responded to Olson’s request:
To plan for next year and beyond, we will be developing a process
to identify entire programs that may be substantially reduced or
eliminated, thereby supplanting our need to spread reductions
throughout the campus. The early planning that we have done, at your
suggestion, indicates a need to reduce our commitments by 10 to 20
percent in the next three years. After years of expansion, a reduction
of that magnitude will be very difficult to achieve. But we must do
it. . .
To paraphrase Philip Brooks who spoke of individuals: ‘Greatness
after all, in spite of its name, appears to be not so much a certain size
as a quality in human lives. It may be present in lives whose range is
very small.’ As this is true for human life, so is it true for education,
with programs depending on their inherent quality rather than size.
The success of this endeavor depends on the cooperation and good
judgment of all.
On the Columbia campus, some faculty feared Uehling’s hard line, while others
felt it was long overdue. A majority appeared to support her convictions, at least in principle.
On November 19, 1981, the Faculty Council reaffirmed its long-standing “opposition to
additional budget cuts applied uniformly to all academic units”. That same month, the
campus paper conducted a non-scientific opinion poll. It reported that eighty-seven percent
of the faculty who responded answered “yes” to the question, “Would you be in favor of
dropping entire programs on the Columbia campus to preserve and strengthen others?”
University of Missouri
Throughout 1981, President Olson had referred to the University’s financial difficulties in
a number of speeches and public announcements. It was not a surprise when he addressed
the Curators on the subject at their December 16, 1981, meeting.
As the planning processes in which we are now engaged move
forward, we will be bringing to you recommendations which emerge.
The decisions you will be asked to make will be difficult, painful and,
in some cases, controversial. We will need your help and support as
we move toward preparing the University to maintain program quality
and to address difficult decisions about the future. This is the
approach we are taking. If it does not meet with your general
approval, we should know it now.
Olson’s address reminded the Curators of the financial difficulties facing
the university, but he gave only a series of general illustrations of the painful
decisions they might be asked to make. The possibilities included: “limit
enrollment in specific programs”, “adjust admissions standards to better reflect the
unique role of the University of Missouri”, “combine programs within a campus or
even among campuses”, ” reduce the range of options for specialization in selected
degree programs”, and “discontinue entire degree programs and eliminate departments or even schools and colleges”.
The Board approved this measure with little discussion and no formal
action. Only one Board member questioned the process. Everyone heard the speech
and was given a copy. Whether all the Board Members understood the possible
ramifications of their action was less clear. (The text of Olson’s speech is in
Appendix D.)
The next week, the chancellors were asked to submit a list of
recommendations for determining reductions or eliminations. The President would
use the suggestions as a basis for establishing criteria for retrenchment. Because the
process would involve changes in programs and faculty, the Board had to vote on
the final proposals at their annual budget meeting in July, 1982. As a result of these
stringent timelines, chancellors had three weeks to suggest criteria and six months
to provide a plan for eliminations and reductions based on the criteria. The
countdown began. . . .
University of Missouri
At the Columbia campus, Barbara Uehling was ahead of the game. She
had spent the previous year encouraging President Olson to take action.
Anticipating that some action would be mandated, she had, in October, 1981,
appointed a sixteen-person committee to develop criteria to be used in the event that
cut- backs were needed.
Uehling later described her perceptions in the following terms:
The rationale and the data for the whole effort were supplied by the
campus Institutional Research and Planning Office, working with me.
The model for the need to take these steps was based on some very
basic assumptions regarding needed revenue to reach Big 8/Big 10
salaries and to meet inflation on the base budget in ensuing years.
Projected revenues from the state fell short.
The committee consisted of faculty, professional staff, two deans, and two students.
Uehling selected the faculty members and students from panels nominated through the
Faculty Council and Student Association, respectively. Each committee member was to
consult with the groups they represented.
After Olson’s December announcement, Bunn realized that programmatic decisions
would have to be made soon. Anticipating these moves, he discussed possible strategies at
two of his weekly meetings with Academic Deans. He also initiated a meeting with the
executive committee (officers) of the Faculty Council. He proposed three possible ways to
proceed. The first was to organize a committee, provide them with the criteria and necessary
information and let them make the decisions. The second was for an officer, possibly Bunn,
to gather all the data and make the decisions. Third, the deans could suggest programs for
elimination or reduction based on the criteria.
Both groups suggested that Bunn should make the decision. Twelve of the fourteen deans
favored the approach. There was some hesitation among members of the Faculty Council,
who felt that this should be a long, carefully planned process. But they concurred that the
second option was the most feasible in light of time constraints.
Bunn discussed his plan privately with several faculty members. These individuals were
not on the Faculty Council Executive Committee, but they were people whose opinion Bunn
respected. He felt “their achievements placed them in an especially good position to speak
with some authority about evaluating academic programs”. They agreed with the others.
University of Missouri
“Even though I had some concerns about any single officer taking the initiative to identify
the programs,” Bunn concluded, “in light of the time frame, and the willingness of the groups
consulted, I finally advised the chancellor that I was prepared to do it, if she judged that I
Chancellor Uehling approved this proposal, and asked each of her Vice-Chancellors
(including development, student services and administrative services as well as academic
affairs) to follow the same procedure in developing tentative conclusions. (See Appendix E
for the administrative chart.) Uehling stated clearly that all final decisions were contingent
upon her approval. Recommendations would be reviewed by an ad hoc committee appointed
by the chancellor in each of the divisions. The ad hoc committees included representation
from the faculty, staff, and students, although some faculty later criticized the committees
as unrepresentative of the diversity of the Columbia campus.
By January 1982, the list of criteria was approved. It consisted of four categories, each
including ten to twelve questions. They were: a.) quality of the programs; b.) centrality of
the programs to the mission of the campus; c.) cost-effectiveness and d.) demand and need
for the program. (The report of the criteria committee is in Appendix F.)
Uehling and the criteria committee set the target reductions for the Columbia campus at
$12 million or twelve percent of its state-provided budget. Savings would be redirected over
a three- year period in the form of salaries, wages and operating budgets. With about seventy
percent of the entire campus budget, Bunn was assigned reductions amounting to $7.5
million. This was the largest dollar amount of the planned reductions, but it represented a
smaller proportion of the total than the targets for the other divisions.
Bunn’s office had already compiled a substantial body of information. Because
cost-effectiveness reports were available, the quantitative evaluation seemed fairly
straight-forward. (Appendix G contains the data for each program, including teachingstudent ratio, program costs, availability of the program at the other University campuses and
at other institutions in the state.)
Sorting out programs to determine if one was “of greater distinction” than another proved
to be the more difficult task. As Bunn carefully considered each of the University’s thirteen
schools and colleges, he realized that all seemed to have legitimate arguments in their favor.
The College of Agriculture had been awarded several large research grants and it was
mandated as an integral part of the federal land-grant legislation, for which it received federal
University of Missouri
The College of Arts and Sciences was already under severe financial restraints; its survival
was crucial. It enjoyed the greatest student demand, and its offerings constituted fifty percent
of the required courses for the Colleges of Business, Home Economics, Agriculture, Engineering, Education, and Public and Community Services. It was Columbia’s most diverse
program. It had a strong history of research and graduated more Ph.D.s than any other college
on the campus or, for that matter, any public institution in Missouri.
The …
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