Departmental and programmatic eliminations represent a new paradigm in the history of American higher education. Hastened by a national economic recession and competing state funding priorities, public postsecondary institutions have turned to academic attrition as a solution to continuous budgetary shortfalls. As a means of addressing the lived experience of faculty members and department chairs, the following qualitative case study explores perceptions of implementing departmental and/or programmatic eliminations. Utilizing uncertainty reduction theory as a conceptual framework, interviewed faculty in units that were initially selected for elimination, but eventually saved, experienced considerable strategic uncertainty, failing to understand why they had been included within a budget reduction proposal. Guided by a college-wide strategic planning process, faculty in eliminated units understood the rationale for abolishing departments, though they experienced considerable structural uncertainty in terms of adjusting to a new, nonacademic reporting structure. These findings indicate that a transparent strategic planning process diminishes strategic uncertainty, while the elimination of traditional departmental structures heightens structural uncertainty.


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pp. 272-299
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