Concordia University Chicago is a private religious institution. The River Forest school has every right to make changes to its programs, its staff, its compensation structure. And apparently in the weeks leading up to Christmas, it is about to make plenty of changes. The school calls the effort that began in the fall a “prioritization process.”
Our reporting this week is that the new administration, led by Russell Dawn, will go to its Board of Regents this week with a plan to cut $5 million in costs by, among other things, changes to tenure and severance, the potential elimination of some academic departments (and maybe additions, too). Following action by its board, the changes are expected to be announced on Dec. 16.
There are many smaller liberal arts colleges doing major rethinking. Higher education is becoming a disrupted industry with online learning, more career focus and less humanities. We get that.
However, the River Forest campus is aquiver from the Faculty Senate to the heads of some departments who feel they might be on the bubble. The many Oak Park-area nonprofits and government bodies focused on supporting seniors has been buzzing all weekend about the potential loss of Concordia’s esteemed Center for Gerontology.
From our outside view and with the perspective of many years, we’d simply note that Concordia University is really bad at engagement related to change, awful at responding to inevitable controversies.
We don’t think the Lutheran school’s faculty believes nothing should change at the school. We don’t think anyone involved believes Concordia is immune to challenges roiling higher ed. But they’d like less top-down management and more input into the future of an institution that they are also dedicated to serving.
Assuming the school reports in some public fashion on the changes it is undertaking, we will report the results to our readers. We’d just like to see this critical institution get better at being open about change.