University mulls merging colleges to reduce costs, boost efficiency


Kayla Vasilko

Westville demonstrates why PNW has been designated a Tree Campus as the university grounds there are ablaze with fall color. The ideal combination of rain and temperature has created a striking display.

If approved by the Faculty Senate, PNW will combine the College of Technology and the College of Engineering and Science into a new College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The merger effort is being spearheaded by Niaz Latif, dean of the College of Technology, Dietmar Rempfer, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Sciences, and Kenneth Holford, provost and vice chancellor of Academic Affairs. They have been working on the proposed combination for almost two years. 

“Back when the provost was dean of Engineering and Sciences, he thought [the merger] would be advantageous because they already share some labs and could probably share more,” said Chancellor Thomas Keon. “He felt like you could gain efficiency with sharing labs.”

The Faculty Senate’s Educational Policy Committee has advised against the merger. Now the full Faculty Senate will review the proposal, which includes two options for restructuring the merged college’s administrative roles and departments. Both options offer some financial savings and efficiency improvements, resulting from more sharing of resources.

A cost savings of at least $440,000 results from the elimination of at least one dean’s position.

“The dean who would lose his position can no longer serve as dean anyways because of the laws that guide how long someone can serve in certain roles,” said Keon. “He was naturally going out of that position anyways.”

A survey found that some faculty and staff in the colleges are concerned about the elimination of additional positions and layoffs. The chancellor said they shouldn’t worry. 

“I don’t see any people being eliminated,” said Keon. “Some associate deans’ [titles] might be eliminated, but they’re not going to lose their jobs. They would just not be associate deans. For instance, [in one of the models] the associate dean of Technology would become the director of Technology.”

Other concerns include outdated data and enrollment numbers, administrative responsibilities and whether the merger would be in the best interest of students. 

The survey found 58% of staff members from both colleges approve of the merger, and 39% of faculty oppose it. 

Keon said he believes the merger would benefit PNW. 

“I think it would be more efficient,” he said. “Especially from the financial perspective. It doesn’t take long to save a million dollars.”