UM University of Montana campus

Enrollment at the University of Montana has been a priority for at least the last couple of years, but a task force charged with ranking UM units doesn't consider a couple of major sectors linked to enrollment as top priorities for growth.

"This office hasn't done well in my opinion with funds," said Andrew Ware, a faculty representative on the task force.

Tuesday, the task force ranking some 400 academic and administrative units continued its evaluation, voting to place them in one of the following categories: priority for development and growth; consideration for development and/or modification; priority for substantial modification; or insufficient evidence.

The task force placed two enrollment units — the Admissions Office and Enrollment Services, and the Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs — in the second category.

Ware said he believes other offices on campus have had a greater impact on increasing enrollment, such as the Broader Impacts Group under the Office of Research and Creative Scholarship. He said he hopes more data will be available in the future to show where UM is getting the best bang for its recruitment buck.

"While I think we need to invest in this area, if we just put more funds into this office, I'm not sure that's where it will have the most impact," Ware said.

Associate Provost Nathan Lindsay declined to share the vote splits for the outcome on enrollment, but he said the preference for placing those units in category No. 2 received a "strong majority." Lindsay, who ran the meeting, said the task force would make unit categories public, but he did not know if the provost wanted to provide votes.

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Tuesday, the units listed as priorities for "substantial modification" were the procurement office in Administration and Finance and the Dennison Theatre. The units listed as priorities for "growth and development" were IT Network Services; analysis, assessment and data integrity in Administration and Finance; campus police; enrollment for disability services; and information and research services.

Two programs tied for two categories and will be up for discussion again. The math learning center tied for categories No. 1 and 2, and GrizTech tied for No. 2 and 3.

Wednesday, the task force will take up the remaining items, and it will possibly discuss recommendations to President Sheila Stearns, Lindsay said. The Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and Associated Students of the University of Montana will weigh in on recommendations at public meetings as well.

At the meeting Tuesday, task force members made up of faculty, staff, students and others also dealt with apparent glitches in the process.

One day earlier, athletics units had come under fire for turning in similar reports for different programs, but Athletic Director Kent Haslam rebutted the idea the reports' authors were trying to take shortcuts or game the system.

"I think any implication that a unit skirted or purposefully didn't follow the process is just not right," Haslam said.

In fact, he said many units do share the same services, such as academic services, event management, marketing, and compliance. And he also said athletics must offer some programs, such as women's softball, to be in compliance with federal regulations.

Megan Stark, at the Mansfield Library, offered similar criticism. She said the library's units were divided into small parts, but without rationale, and the division did not reflect the functions of the collection.

"The process seems to be too fast to allow for the careful course correction that might be needed," said Stark, noting she was grateful for the work of the task force.

Julie Wolter, chair of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, also said the consequences for hiccups in the rushed process are real. Because of illnesses and a problem with technology, Wolter said she did not turn in a report on time by a matter of minutes.

As a result, Wolter fears the task force will not consider information that reflects the need for a clinic tied to the Speech-Language Pathology Division, and the program will suffer despite being tapped for growth. She said speech-language pathology has received 259 applications for 32 graduate slots. 

"There are some outcomes to your decision to not review the report," Wolter said.

The task force meets 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, at Missoula College.

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Higher Education Reporter

Reporter for the Missoulian