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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Kevin Decker, Jane Ellsworth and Judy Rohrer: EWU “right-sized” out of existence

Kevin Decker, Jane Ellsworth and Judy Rohrer

By Kevin Decker, Jane Ellsworth and Judy Rohrer

We are faculty of Eastern Washington University who fear for the future of our institution. Recent top-down initiatives are compromising EWU’s mission, narrowing our scope, potentially “right-sizing” us out of existence.

Many universities are facing precipitous drops in enrollment, retention, and graduation of students. At EWU, this has set administration and the board of trustees into a panic, desperately hiring consultants to tell us what to do and who to be.

This is part of a larger erosion of shared governance – the joint responsibility of faculty, administration and trustees to “effect the educational work of the university.” Shared governance is a necessity at public universities because it engages stakeholders in the transparent, respectful, collaborative work of maintaining and expanding academic excellence.

EWU leadership has abrogated its responsibilities in two ways: It has relegated its authority to for-profit consulting firms with generic knowledge of our institution and one-size-fits-all solutions. Leadership has also evaded its contractual responsibility to shared governance, so faculty, whose interests are more aligned with the long-term health and mission of the institution, become alienated.

Women, BIPOC, and other faculty and staff from marginalized communities, especially those who are younger, innovative, and who connect best with students, are leaving – some voluntarily, others have been fired or pushed. While our potential students are less white, less male, and less cisgendered, our faculty and staff are increasingly so.

Students are frustrated with many cuts to student services (counseling, advising, financial aid) and academic affairs (departments and programs, especially in the humanities and social sciences). They are also voting with their feet.

Rather than respecting faculty expertise and engaging us in authentic problem-solving, faculty have been dismissed, set against each other, gaslighted or simply ignored by leadership. We offer three examples.

For years, EWU has insisted on maintaining a football program at a deficit. One-fifth of student tuition and fees are mandated to athletics (as compared to 4-5% at the other regional Washington universities). In January 2024, EWU’s Academic Senate passed a resolution that “urges the university to limit the portion of athletic funding that comes from tuition and fees to no more than 5% of that revenue.” Administration responded with deafening silence, following their trend of intransigence on this issue. This is not shared governance.

Last year the administration and board of trustees engaged in a yearlong “strategic resource allocation” process to “right-size” the university. Every unit had to justify itself based on poor quality data supplied by the institution. Faculty and staff were compelled onto task forces to read their peers’ justifications and write up recommendations.

At the end of the process, action to cut academic units was taken with miraculous speed. The provost boasted he accepted 60% of the faculty task force recommendations, but most of these were for programs already scheduled to be discontinued. Significantly, the provost chose not to follow the task force’s recommendation for investment in 34 academic programs (including all of EWU’s autonomous diversity programs). This is not shared governance.

On the university services side of the strategic resource allocation process (which includes athletics), administration has still not issued its report, even though the entire process was fast-tracked because of a supposedly urgent financial crisis. This is not shared governance.

This year, the administration initiated an “identity and marketing” process, led by a PR firm. We are told Eastern cannot “be everything to everyone” and we need to “claim a unique identity.” Fortunately, local reporting has already begun to call out the flaws of this approach. Yet the administrative and consultant-determined outcome seems pre-decided as we find ourselves railroaded into rebranding the university as a polytechnic. In thinly veiled racist and classist arguments, we’re told that Eastern students need to be trained as workers, while local private college students can blossom as thinkers, innovators, global citizens.

This new right-sizing-by-rebranding move would level a killing blow against our robust liberal arts programs. It would also curtail our efforts to recruit and retain students and faculty from marginalized communities, which has always been a crucial part of our mission. This is not shared governance.

We write because EWU serves you. You can share your concerns about Eastern’s future direction with its president ( and board of trustees ( You can demand that Eastern carry out its mission as a regional comprehensive university by “enhancing access to higher education in the Inland Northwest and beyond by recruiting and supporting traditional college-bound students, non-traditional students, and those from underserved populations.”

Kevin Decker is a professor of philosophy. Jane Ellsworth is a professor of music. Judy Rohrer is an associate professor and director of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies. Kelly Evans, associate professor in the library, and Majid Sharifi, professor of political science and public policy, contributed to this column. At time of submission this statement ( had more than 40 faculty endorsers.