Discontinuation Policy for Departments and Programs, and Consequent Faculty Terminations

The discontinuation of a department or program with significant consequences for faculty members, as well as present and prospective students, may be required by budgetary factors, changing student interests and needs, or other causes. In order to assure, as fully as possible, a fair accommodation of institutional and individual interests, the following policies, guidelines, and procedures have been adopted by Boston University.

A.  Application of Policy

This Policy applies to proposed department or academic program discontinuation that would result in termination of employment for full-time faculty members who hold primary appointments in the department or program proposed for discontinuation (the Affected Unit) and who are tenured or have contracts that extend beyond the effective date of the discontinuation (collectively, the Affected Faculty).

This procedure does not apply when such discontinuation is timed to occur at the expiration of the current Affected Faculty members’ contracts, or when all Affected Faculty retain primary appointments within continuing departments or academic programs.

B.  Types of Program Discontinuations

Discontinuation of a department or program may occur for one of two reasons:

1. Academic, strategic, and/or financial factors necessary for optimizing the quality of programs or operational efficiency of a particular School or College. (The process for Discontinuation for this reason is described in Section C of this Policy.)

2. A University-wide financial exigency in which the discontinuation is part of a comprehensive plan for dealing with the situation. (The process for Discontinuation for this reason is described in Section D of this Policy.)

C.  Discontinuation in Order to Optimize Quality of Programs or Operational Efficiency of School or College

1. The Process Year:

This Policy is designed to allow adequate consultation and a decision by the President, normally within one academic year (the “Process Year”). Although all of the steps in this Policy are required in the specified order, the scheduling of the steps may be altered with permission of the appropriate Provost, i.e., the Medical Campus Provost for the Schools on the Medical Campus and the University Provost for all other Schools and Colleges. In addition, the Dean may withdraw the proposal from consideration at any time.

2. Before the Process Year Begins on September 1 (Charles River Campus) or July 1 (Medical Campus):

Ordinarily, program discontinuations will be discussed by the Dean and the Faculty in the Affected Unit prior to the beginning of the Process Year.

To initiate the formal discontinuation process, the Dean shall present a case for proceeding with discontinuation discussions to the Provost. If the Provost authorizes the Dean to proceed with the discontinuation proposal process, the Dean shall (a) inform and invite comment from faculty in the Affected Unit regarding the proposed discontinuation and (b) invite faculty in the Affected Unit to an open forum to discuss the program discontinuation, both of which shall occur prior to or on September 10.

The Dean shall then draft a Discontinuation Proposal (Proposal) and circulate it among all faculty in the Affected Unit for further discussion and feedback.

The Discontinuation Proposal shall be delivered to the Provost and all faculty in the Affected Unit before September 16 and shall include:

a. a rationale for the proposed discontinuation, including a discussion of the academic and financial impact of the proposed closure on the School or College, on units of the University outside the School or College, and on the University as a whole;

b. a record of consultation with faculty in the Affected Unit; and

c. a Management Plan as detailed below covering current faculty in the Affected Unit, students, and staff as well as prospective students.

3. September 30 of Process Year:

Faculty in the Affected Unit may prepare written feedback on the Discontinuation Proposal that the Dean shall append to the Discontinuation Proposal. These materials shall be delivered to the Dean by September 30 of the Process Year.

The Discontinuation Proposal is a living document, and the Dean may revise it from time to time as a result of feedback. These revisions should be tracked, and the items required by this Policy to be appended to the Discontinuation Proposal must remain attached throughout the process.

4. October of Process Year:

Full-time faculty members of the School or College shall receive the Discontinuation Proposal, including faculty feedback, by October 10. The Dean shall invite all full-time faculty of the School or College to meet at least once in October to discuss the Proposal. This meeting should provide the opportunity for faculty of the Affected Unit to present their input regarding the Discontinuation Proposal.

Following the meeting, the Proposal should be reviewed and an advisory vote should be taken by the School or College entity(ies) that have responsibility for approving curricular changes. The Dean may continue to pursue the discontinuation even in the event of a vote(s) against it. The vote(s) of the appropriate entity(ies) shall be appended to the Discontinuation Proposal along with any notes that the voting entity(ies) deem appropriate.

The School or College faculty members may also provide anonymous written feedback to the Dean or to the Chair of the University Council Committee on Undergraduate Academic Polices and Programs (UAPP) and/or to the Chair of the University Council Committee on Graduate Academic Policies and Programs (GAPP), depending on the scope of the Program or Department under consideration for discontinuation. The UAPP and GAPP chairs will provide feedback to the Dean after redacting a faculty member’s identifying information. The Dean shall record faculty comments and append these to the Discontinuation Proposal.

5. November and December of Process Year:

a. the Dean presents the Proposal and any written comments to the UAPP or GAPP committees for discussion and comment; Affected Faculty may also select a representative from among the School or College faculty to present their input to the UAPP or GAPP committees; these committees will meet in joint session if both undergraduate and graduate programs would be affected by the program or department discontinuation;

b. the Dean and, if the Affected Faculty so choose, a selected representative of the Affected Faculty, present the Proposal to the Council of Deans for discussion and comment;

c. the Dean, UAPP and/or GAPP Chair present the Proposal to the Faculty Council for discussion and comment, and a representative of the Affected Faculty, if so chosen, have the opportunity to address the Faculty Council or a subset of the Council.

6. Spring Term of Process Year:

The Dean and, if the Affected Faculty so choose, a selected representative of the Affected Faculty, present the proposal at the first regularly scheduled University Council meeting of the Spring term. Before the end of the Spring term, the University Council will vote on whether to recommend approval of the Proposal to the President. This vote is advisory to the President who will then decide whether to approve the Proposal and discontinue the academic program or department.

7. Post Continuation Employment:

If, after the above process is completed, the President decides to discontinue a department or academic program, employment for the Affected Faculty will be continued for at least one academic year following the President’s decision. Per the definition of Affected Faculty, this does not apply to faculty whose contracts do not extend beyond the effective date of the discontinuation.

8. Management Plan:

A discontinuation proposal must include a management plan that addresses the following:

a. Faculty: Although success cannot be guaranteed, early in the process, the Dean, in consultation with each Affected Faculty member, must develop a plan that includes assistance with finding another academic position within Boston University or at another institution, or a transition to retirement.

b. Current Students: The accommodation of current students must be part of the Management Plan. The plan must provide appropriate time constraints for completion of the program of study, or for assisting students to transfer to another appropriate department or program within the University or, in the event that is not feasible, elsewhere.

c. Staff: Plans for treatment of current staff must be coordinated with Human Resources in accordance with University policies governing termination of staff employment in connection with position elimination.

d. Prospective Students: Once the Discontinuation Proposal has been sent to the faculty of the School or College in accordance with this Policy, a good faith effort must be made to notify potential applicants and applicants to the department or program of the Proposal by a notice on the program’s admissions web site and individually as appropriate, e.g., “The [Name of Program] is under review for possible discontinuation, and decisions on admission will not occur until the outcome of the process, anticipated to conclude around [Month, Year].” Other notices may be required under particular circumstances, such as, for example, when external vendors perform recruiting services. The process of student recruitment including accepting and reviewing applications should continue until the President’s decision.

D. Discontinuation Due to University-Wide Financial Exigency

If the program discontinuation is part of a University-wide financial exigency in which the discontinuation is part of a comprehensive plan for dealing with the situation, the President, Provost, and/or Dean shall notify the interested parties, including faculty members in the Affected Unit, the UAPP and/or GAPP as applicable, and the Faculty Council, as soon as possible. In addition, to the extent possible, the decision shall address the considerations relating to current faculty, students, and staff, in the Affected Unit, as well as prospective students as described in the Management Plan.

Last revised on May 17, 2022 by the University Council.