Aviation’s fate may be decided soon

A proposal to close the Institute of Aviation and eliminate the bachelor of science in aviation human factors will be considered at Thursday’s University Board of Trustees meeting in Chicago.

The late addition came Friday afternoon after the original agenda had already been posted. As per the recommendation of Interim Vice President and Chancellor Robert Easter, and as a result of a report that originated out of the campus’s Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois program, the proposal would end the program after “current students have had adequate time to complete their studies,” which the campus anticipates as the end of the 2013-14 academic school year.

The proposal outlines the reasoning for the closure as a result of the program’s “high cost, declining enrollments, adverse impact on the campus academic profile and the relative weakness of the Institute’s connection to the central missions of the campus.”

As outlined in the proposal, the advice of the Urbana-Champaign academic senate was sought in regards to the decision. One faculty vote yielded two votes in favor of closing the Institute, four against closure, and three abstentions. Those voters consisted of former faculty transferred to new tenure homes in August 2010, the president, vice president/chancellor, provost, and the director of the Institute.

The University’s Educational Policy Committee, which took into account public comment and other feedback and met five times during the spring 2011 semester, voted to close the unit.

However, the academic senate, which received the Educational Policy Committee’s recommendation, voted against closing the institute 57 to 54.

The Institute of Aviation is the smallest unit on campus while also bearing the highest cost-to-educate per undergraduate instructional unit on campus. Between 2002-10, the school saw a decrease in 63 percent in applications and 52 percent in enrollment. Last fall, 34 freshmen enrolled in the program.