University of Montana campus, Missoula

The University of Montana's Main Hall in Missoula is seen in this file photo.

After finishing its categorization Wednesday of all the academic programs and administrative services at the University of Montana, the prioritization task force chose not to publicly release any of the vote counts or the reports it used in making decisions.

Following significant discussion, task force members said they would only release the reports and the final votes to people on campus with a UM digital login, but wouldn’t post them for the public to see.

“It has no value for people outside of the university community,” said Scott Whittenburg, vice president for research and creative scholarship.

Professor Paul Haber, another task force member, had pushed for everything to be posted online for public review.

“It’s a public institution. I think it’s the law actually. That’s called transparency,” he said.

UM legal counsel Lucy France said members of the public could make individual public information requests if they wanted to see reports or votes, which would subject the reports that will be easily accessible to students and faculty to a lengthy review process.

“There’s no legal requirement that it has to be instantaneously available,” she said.

The task force categorized the final 17 administrative services Wednesday to wrap up this stage of the school’s process to bring its budget in line with falling enrollment.

The panel placed programs into four potential categories: priority for development and growth, consider for development and or modification, priority for substantial modification, or insufficient evidence.

None of the administration programs graded on Wednesday were put in the bottom category for potential cuts or elimination.

The heads of each of the academic or administration programs that were ranked will have the chance to formally respond to the category they were put in before the task force puts together final recommendations to send to President Sheila Stearns.

Haber also clashed with the panel after the categorization process ended about what form their recommendations to the school’s administration will take. He said in order to make recommendations that can withstand stakeholder scrutiny, the task force must acknowledge the limitations of its methodology and be transparent about its strengths and weaknesses.

“We’re launching into a recommendation phase thoughtlessly. And I’ll have no part of it,” he said.

Some members said they should provide specific recommendations of what should be done with programs, while others said just the categorizations alone were sufficient. No firm decision was reached.

***

The academic advising center at Missoula College was one of the administration services categorized for potential growth. The vote was initially tied, with some panelists saying that growing the advising center while Missoula College enrollment was trending down seemed out of order. But other panelists in favor of expansion argued that the service was already understaffed, and a subsequent vote pushed it into the category to be considered for more investment.

The Campus Writing Center also received universal praise from the task force members and was put into the growth category, as was the Math Learning Center.

“Success in math is one of the primary factors determining whether students keep going,” said task force member Elizabeth Putnam, chair of the department of biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences.

Staff professional development received enough votes to be put in the top category. Task force member Stephanie Domitrovich, academic adviser and adjunct in the department of health and human performance, said the service has slowly been drained to the point that this year, there was no funding.

“There’s no professional development for staff occurring on this campus currently,” she said.

This story has been corrected to properly characterize Haber's comments about the task force.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for The Missoulian.