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Friday, July 18, 2008

"Mass Customization, "X Student Centeredness" and "Directions"

The bulk of questions from the audience at yesterday's packed house President's Town Hall Meeting concerned the relationship between Dr. Jacob's "Directions" document and two driving restructuring concepts that Dr. Haggett has termed both "paradigmatic" and "visionary": 1) "mass customization" and 2) "extreme student centeredness." I put these in quotes because they remain rhetoric, not having been clearly defined or articulated by the Jacobs Administration. Yet they are the heavy equipment driving the present restructuring of the A&S College.

It became clear early on during yesterday's PTH meeting that the Jacobs team is 1) now interested in separating the "mass customization" rhetoric from the "extreme student centeredness" rhetoric, and 2) has no handle on the history, meaning and implications of "mass customization" as it applies to public higher education, to the University of Toledo, to the A&S College, and to the past, present and future value of a rich and diverse liberal arts curriculum within it.

A&Sforum blog readers can gain valuable insight into the meaning of "mass customization" in private and public higher education by viewing here:

In this document titled "Better-Than-Ivy Education: $7,376 a Year" Dr. Vance H. Fried, a "mass customization" in higher education guru, argues that "A well-designed curriculum is key to both improving student learning and lowering costs. Providing a personalized education through mass customization is possible if you build upon a well-designed platform of courses for both general education and the major. While done to insure quality of learning, significant cost savings also ensue because you are reducing the number of class sections you offer." Sound familiar?

I am willing to consider these arguments and discuss them further, as they are critical to the future "Directions" of UT under the present administration. President Jacobs and Provost Haggett have "bought into" Dr. Fried's arguments and proposals, and eager to implement educational policies here at UT based on these arguments. I think students and faculty should read Dr. Fried's article and prepare to discuss it broadly and informally across campus in preparation for release of the release of the UT WMW group's White Paper tentatively titled "Wrong Directions at the University of Toledo: The Social Pathology of “Mass-Customization” Rhetoric and Applications for Liberal Arts Education in Public Higher Education."

Related to this informal discussion, I would like to invite Dr. Fried to the University of Toledo to argue his proposals in a public forum, perhaps sponsored by the UT Student Body or the Alumni Association. At that time Dr. Fried can respond to concerned A&S students, faculty and alumni who object to his arguments and proposals which appear to be those so strongly supported by President Jacobs and Provost Haggett. I encourage everyone on campus and in the community to bone up on the "mass customization" concept and the implications of its applications at UT in anticipation of the important debate looming on the near horizon.

I want to thank our concerned A&S students who raised these significant questions at yesterday's PTH Meeting for taking the lead in guiding us to a productive debate on "mass customization" and for continuing to contribute their ideas, concerns and bibliographical items to WMW in advance of the release of the White Paper.


ASC Blog Facilitator said...


Not a comment, but questions seeing you seem to have been at the Townhall meeting.

Did the students reveal any of their fundings from their most recent Freedom of Information Act requests? And if so, is this now posted or available somewhere?

Thank you.

ASC Blog Facilitator said...

Correction--that was "findings" not "fundings," athough if they managed to get some of the latter I would like to know how so that my dept. might benefit.