Campus Update on Department and School Reorganization for Academic Affairs

Wednesday, May 17, 2023, 1:30pm

TO:  All Employees
FR:  Karen Moranski, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

The Academic Affairs Division has been in planning for a year to determine the best model of department and school reorganization. In August 2023, we will begin a detailed process of consultation that will lead to decision-making by the end of the Fall semester. Faculty, governance committees, staff, department chairs, deans, and the Provost’s Office will initiate a process of consultation, then work collaboratively to determine department and school reorganization. Implementation will proceed in Spring 2024.

People frequently ask how the Academic Master Planning (AMP) process is related to department and school reorganization. The AMP process is focused on programs, rather than on departments or schools, and will continue its work in Fall 2023. At this point, however, we need to begin division-wide conversations about reorganization. 

The rest of this memo explains the reasons for and potential benefits of reorganization, provides the parameters under which conversations will occur, and offers a timeline for the process. A one-page overview of the entire memo is available on the Academic Affairs website. There are several premises that govern this memo:

  • We do not have a choice in making change. We are engaged in an extraordinary effort to help Sonoma State regain its enrollment and financial health while continuing to support the academic mission. 
  • We owe it to the institution and our students to do more than just make budget cuts. We need to build and create to make our academic core better. This is our chance to do so.
  • We must do this work in the spirit of shared governance, which recognizes that better decisions will be made when we work together in defiance of traditional divisions and distrust, while also recognizing the distinct roles and responsibilities of our employees–faculty, staff, and administration.
Rationale for Reorganization

SSU will initiate conversations about strategic reorganizations at the departments and school levels to better align our resources to support the mission of the university. Reorganization is driven by two objectives:


  • Budget reduction
  • Increased collaboration, integration, and innovation to serve a smaller student body, build enrollment, and support our campus identity

Budget reduction

  • 2023-24: Sonoma State is addressing a projected $17M deficit for the next fiscal year with a mixture of base and one-time funding. Base budget reduction strategies campus-wide have included faculty and staff VSIP, reorganizations that include MPP attrition and reduction, and reduced instructional costs (due to lower enrollment). One-time reductions to temporarily balance this year’s budget are still being finalized. We are anticipating a remaining base budget deficit of at least $8 million, but that deficit may increase depending on the outcome of collective bargaining negotiations. 
    • Our agreement with the Chancellor’s Office is that our base budget deficit must be eliminated by June 2024. June 2024 is a “hard stop” on the budget deficit. We cannot postpone cuts beyond that date.
    • President Lee and I remain committed to avoiding involuntary staff and tenure-track faculty reductions, but unfortunately, lecturers will experience further notification of lack of work. We hope that as enrollment turns a corner over the next year, we will be able to provide more work for our lecturers.
  • 2024-25: In Summer 2024, we are scheduled to take an additional $3.5 million in cuts as part of the Chancellor’s Office Budget Reallocation for campuses, as SSU is in Group X, meaning that we are significantly below the CSU-assigned target.
  • Goal for school and departmental reorganization: Academic Affairs must cut at least $1 million from the base budget through school and departmental reorganization by July 2024. Savings can come in the form of salary (attrition of permanent staff or faculty or MPP reductions), reductions to assigned time, offsetting of stateside budget by SEIE, etc. Consultation is not about the monetary amounts of the cuts or any individual’s salary, but about how to organize and how to ensure that student success and educational outcomes can be met despite the cuts. There will be other reorganizations and budget reductions in the Division of Academic Affairs, specifically in administrative units, but this memo deals only with department and school reorganization.

Increased collaboration, integration, and innovation to serve a smaller student body, build enrollment, and support our campus identity

  • We project that Sonoma State will not move swiftly back to its CSU-assigned target of 8,534 FTES. We will be a smaller campus for the foreseeable future, and we must continue to align our structures with that smaller student body. 
  • The budget model for the CSU, with allocations based on FTES, causes a silo effect in Academic Affairs. Departments and programs compete for student enrollment to meet their targets, which creates barriers to flexibility, collaboration, and innovation. It has prevented us from being creative in resolving workload imbalances and sharing instruction by tenure-track faculty across disciplines. It is time to overcome these barriers and move forward together to make our programs even stronger.
  • There are opportunities we have not realized for cross listing courses, listing courses as meeting requirements in multiple disciplines, team teaching, interdisciplinary curricula, and other innovative high-impact practices.
  • Administrators will collaborate with bargaining units, Human Resources, Faculty Affairs, etc. to address contractual issues, workload, and other matters associated with department and school reorganization, including RTP concerns and lecturer entitlements.
Model for School and Department Reorganization

Faculty, staff, department chairs, deans, and the Provost’s Office will work collaboratively to build a set of recommendations for department and school reorganization that will be finalized by me in December 2023. My aim is to empower faculty to think about new organizational structures that suit their disciplines, their curricula, and their impact on student success. I need to provide some parameters within which those conversations will occur. These parameters are designed to reduce the budget, reduce assigned time for administrative assignments, and to increase the percentage of lower- and upper-division courses taught by tenure-track faculty. They are also designed to help faculty develop and maintain and build the disciplinary and interdisciplinary identities that will make it possible to market our programs to prospective students.

Reorganization of Schools into Colleges
We are going to aim for a three-part academic structure that consists of colleges, schools, and departments. Colleges are broader in scope and can consist of multiple disciplines, departments, fields, and interdisciplinary curricula. Our current schools will be transformed into colleges, so that newly-defined schools can have a narrower disciplinary or field-based focus (physical sciences, behavioral sciences, fine arts are some examples of possible schools but are not meant to be definitive). Organizationally, schools can be nested within colleges, which provides some opportunities for thinking about innovative structures to support our academic programs. Here are the parameters for this shift:

  • We will reduce from our current seven schools (including the Library and SEIE) to four colleges and the Library. Our current five academic schools must fit under four colleges, but I am deliberately choosing not to identify what those colleges will be to encourage exploration that includes considerable faculty, staff, and administrator collaboration. We will continue to fund four college Dean positions and the Library Dean (5 instead of 7). Staff and AMs in some units may be reassigned to other areas to support new configurations and will have the opportunity to play a role in reimagining their positions.
  • The School of Extended and International Education will be converted to an Office of Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) and will no longer have a dean because revenue generation has dropped severely over the last several years and the unit can no longer afford to operate as it has in the past. PACE will be administered temporarily by an Interim Executive Director, Dr. Karen Schneider, for the 2023-24 academic year. In summer 2024, the unit will fall under the leadership of the school or college where Business Administration resides, where academically focused entrepreneurial activities can be shepherded for the whole campus. International recruitment activities will be housed in Strategic Enrollment starting in Fall 2023 and international student services, including study abroad/study away, will be housed in Academic Affairs. 
Creation of Departmental Groups (Schools)

Our current departments also need to be reorganized and here are the parameters:

  • Departmental reorganization involves multiple departments integrating into groups under a single chair. Those integrated groups of departments can form a school within a college. One goal of that reorganization is to reduce the number of chairs with assigned time, not because it will create significant cost savings from assigned time, but because it puts tenure-track faculty back into the classroom on load, thus reducing instructional costs. A second goal is to encourage the sharing of resources, including faculty, and to consider reimagining curricula and programs to be more interdisciplinary and innovative. 
  • Each college will integrate current departments into 3-5 groups or schools. That means that each integrated group or school would contain 2-4 current departments. There will be one chair per group or school. The chairs of these groups or schools would be entitled to release time that would relate to the number of students and faculty in the newly formed areas or departments. One example of a group could be a School or Center of Fine or Performing Arts that would contain several current departments and could maximize visibility for all of the programs involved.
  • Departments and programs can continue to market themselves separately, while integrating with other departments to share faculty, courses, curricula, and administrative responsibilities. Faculty will need to consider this sharing of resources as they think about how to form groups or schools.
Timeline for School and Departmental Reorganization
May 17, 2023  Memo on School and Department Reorganization released by Provost.
Summer 2023 Development of process documents, FAQs, and guiding questions for conversation by the Provost Office in consultation with faculty governance.

Aug. 22 -          Nov. 15, 2023

Division of Academic Affairs conversations about models for reorganization, including department chair meetings.
Dec. 15, 2023 - Feb. 1, 2024  Provost approval of model and development of implementation plan with Senate, Staff Council, Deans, AMs, and other stakeholders. Conversations between bargaining units, HR, Faculty Affairs, and Provost regarding contractual issues. Planning for the new structure as it impacts Fall 2024 scheduling.