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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Women’s, ethnicity and intersectional studies recommended for merger with another program, four other programs put on action plans

Mia Hennen
Ashlie Jack, associate vice president for institutional effectiveness at Wichita State, talks to the Faculty Senate on Aug. 28, 2023. Jack told senators about the much talked about program review process and framework.

The women’s, ethnicity and intersectional studies department will no longer stand on its own within the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences if its merge plan is accepted by the Kansas Board of Regents.

Geology, physics, philosophy and forensic sciences were all recommended for action plans, which were crafted by the provost’s office, the dean’s office in the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) and the members of each department.

If women’s, ethnicity and intersectional studies (WEIS) is able to merge with another department, it cannot be triggered under program review, safeguarding it from elimination.

LAS faculty members were told about the recommendations via an email from Andrew Hippisley, LAS dean, on Monday morning. Ashlie Jack, associate vice president for institutional effectiveness, presented this progress to the Faculty Senate that afternoon.

In an email to The Sunflower, Jack said conversations with each department were “very productive and focused on telling (their) story beyond the data.”

The provost’s office and the dean’s office in LAS met with each program and planned a way forward and submitted those preliminary plans to the university program review committee.

Jack is the chair of this committee that is designed to assess academic programs and provide “faculty leadership” during annual reviews.

Provost Shirley Lefever will have 45 minutes at the academic affairs committee meeting on May 15 to present the plans to KBOR and answer questions before the board makes final decisions, which will come out in “late spring 2024,” according to Jack’s presentation.

In the fall, the previously named five academic programs were flagged for review based on four criteria: 

  • Over a four-year period, programs need to average 25 or more junior and senior majors 
  • Over a four-year period, programs need to average 10 or more graduates 
  • Over a four-year period, programs need to average 51% or more of their graduates working in Kansas or Missouri 
  • Their five-year post-graduate median salary needs to be $38,050 or higher

In order to pass this review, programs needed to fulfill three or more of those requirements.

The future of WEIS

The current plan is to list WEIS as a field major within another department. Multiple sources compared it to international studies, which is housed in the political science department.

In a traditional major, a majority of the student’s major-specific classes would be listed under a single department that houses their major. A field major allows a student to take classes across multiple departments to count toward a single degree.

Wichita State’s women’s studies program was the first program of its kind in Kansas and is the second oldest in the country. The program was established in 1971 and the degree was first offered for the 1974-75 school year, according to an article from the June 20, 1974 edition of The Sunflower.

Robin Henry, WEIS department chair and associate professor of history, said any kind of women’s studies program is “essential” to the university.

“I think it’s something that speaks to the basic core element of interdisciplinary studies, a recognition of the intersectionality that we all live with, and it allows people, both within marginalized groups and within the majorities, to think about people other than themselves,” Henry said.

During the Faculty Senate meeting, Jodie Hertzog, associate professor of sociology and WEIS affiliate, said the department attempted to create an action plan, but the provost’s office said that the department would face elimination.

Hippisley clarified that the provost’s office and dean’s office felt like KBOR would eliminate the program if they came to them with an action plan rather than a merge plan.

Chase Billingham, at-large senator from sociology, questioned why WEIS was part of the program review in the first place. Only programs five years or older were eligible for this review.

“It is not true that it is the same program,” Billingham said. “The program underwent a several-year reformulation on which several faculty members set to reenvision the program. It is effectively an entirely new vision of that program.” 

WEIS underwent its name change in fall 2023, but according to Jack, it is still under the same Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code, a system used across the United States to organize academic programs.

Because of this, WEIS inherited the age of the original women’s studies program.

Henry said she would have liked “a few years” to see where the “new reformulation” of the program could have gone but that sentiment didn’t “have a lot of traction” in conversations after the program review results.

Should women’s ethnicity and intersectional studies merge with another department within LAS, Henry would still oversee the program as director.

Because a final decision from the Kansas Board of Regents has not been made, WEIS’ new home has yet to be determined.

Due to the nature of this academic review process, there is still the possibility that KBOR could decide to eliminate the program. Henry said the provost’s office and dean’s office is confident that the merge plan is “viable.”

“It looks (to KBOR) as if, first of all, Wichita State is doing something, that we are all, as a university community, taking enrollment and efficiency numbers seriously and considering what we offer to students and the ways in which we offer it to students,” Henry said.

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About the Contributors
Trinity Ramm
Trinity Ramm, Managing Editor
Trinity Ramm is the managing editor and former sports editor for The Sunflower. This is her second year on staff. Ramm is a senior English Lit major and a sociology minor with a certificate in film studies. In her limited spare time, she can be found at the movie theater, browsing some obscure film database or crocheting. Ramm uses she/her pronouns.
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing.

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