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Monday, November 2, 2009

Truer words...

Dear A&S blog person: I’m not a blogger, and before this have never posted anything to the A&S Blog, so I’m not QUITE sure how this will work.  I originally sent a version of this to Jim Nemeth, in response to his request for feedback.  He suggested that this might be posted to the blog, and I’m very comfortable with this.  I do not wish to be anonymous.



In a recent A&S blog posting, Jim Nemeth asked for input regarding the actions of the “Arts and Sciences Roundtable Initiative” implementation committee.  Like Jim, I have deep concerns regarding the Roundtable Initiative itself and how the College responds to it.  I was a member of the original A&S Roundtable that met a year ago.  It had many good and sincere faculty members, and a few people like Tom Brady who knew nothing of undergraduate education and had no business being there.  There ARE some good things in the Zemsky Report, but it was HIS report, not OUR report, and I fear that the implementation of any portion of the report is being driven by a VERY small group of people, most of them administrators or faculty members with administrative ambitions.


From what I have heard, the Extended Roundtable Retreat in early May (in the middle of final-exam week!) was a joke.  A close friend and colleague attended the “Teaching Modalities” session.  There was only ONE session, attended by only 6-8 people, and lasting for a couple of hours, tops.  My colleague described the session as a somewhat interesting and wide-ranging discussion, but not one that really reached any definite conclusions.


Here’s my basic question: how can any group of roughly half a dozen people, meeting for only a couple of hours, come up with a plan to address teaching needs in the College??  (Side question: why isn’t the discussion about LEARNING needs, which is really what everything we do is supposed to be about?).


Our teaching efforts, most especially at the 1000/2000 level, are failing our students.  UT’s year 1 à year 2 retention rate is now at 68%, a five-year low, meaning that a third of our first-year students do not return for a second year.  (VP Kaye Patten-Wallace quoted a 70% retention rate at Senate a couple of weeks ago.  Apparently she was rounding up – or massaging – her figures…).  Eight years ago our retention number was 75%, third-best for public universities in the state of Ohio.  UT’s advertising proudly trumpets big gains in freshman enrollment, but our support for first-year instruction has been cut back like everything else (except administrative salaries and alternative energy research).  We should be ashamed.  Instead, we’re not even talking about this.


I realize that I speak with some bitterness here.  Since resigning from the directorship of the CTL I have become an unperson in the eyes of the administration.  It’s certainly clear that the era of faculty-driven faculty development, which I always espoused during the years of the CTE/CTL, are over.  The new vice-provost position that will replace the CTL clearly has its primary responsibility as a technology shop, aiming to increase the use of DL courses and save some money for the University.  Perhaps that is even the administrative vision for the future of first-year instruction: don’t worry about learning, just make it all an on-line experience. 


I want no part of this.


Bernard W. Bopp

Professor of Astronomy

Dept. of Physics and Astronomy

McMaster Hall 4002

University of Toledo, MS 111

Toledo, OH 43606

(419) 530-5335 (ofc.)

(419) 530-2723 (fax)

Thank you, Dr. Bopp

1 comment:

Grundoon said...

An excellent post! As a student I must say I agree, having spent most of my first two years in another college at UT I did not feel any real connection from faculty or even an attempt to recognize the students, the way the classes were held it seemed as though the professors could have an empty room in front of them and still spout the same speeches. (Note that since entering the A&S college I have been very happy with the efforts of the A&S staff to reach students.) I had originally came to UT with two of my best friends from my home town, and now I am the only one left here, the other two now attend Cleveland State University as they had lost the interest to learn at UT. The novelty of online classes has worn off and now I try to avoid them at all costs, I believe there is something to be gained, a level of learning that can only be had from actual personal interactions. I chose to come to a University that had a campus and had real classes of students and teachers in the same room, if I wanted to attend an online university I would have stayed at home and not be taking out loans. Online classes may let the student get the grade but what are they actually learning?