Thursday, December 17, 2009
A&S Round Table Update
The Roundtable Implementation Committee (RIC) met on December 16 in the A&S College conference room to discuss a “RIC Progress Report Circulation Draft” (hereafter “Report”) dated December 14th. The authors of the Report are Lawrence Anderson-Huang, James Benjamin, Charlene Gilbert, Renee Heberle and Ben Pryor. Other participants at this meeting were Provost R. Haggett, Dean N. McClelland, P. Poplin Gosetti, M. Denham, J. Barlowe, R. Heberle, P. Lindquist, C. Habrecht, R. Chandar, L. Rouillard, D. Nemeth, and D. Tucker.
This was the final scheduled meeting of the RIC. We met to jointly to “fine tune” the Report based on concerns raised and suggestions presented by committee members during previous meetings, and by interested outsiders. As I read over and contemplated on this latest incarnation of the Report in preparation for this meeting I kept in mind that the RIC was originally tasked to articulate clearly and credibly 1) a core identity, 2) a collective vision, and 3) a coherent strategy for our Arts & Sciences College. I also kept in mind how Dean McClelland emphatically and repeatedly directed the RIC to deliver a final Report that will establish our Arts and Sciences College as an “integrative hub” within UT capable of achieving “top-tier ranking” for its academic excellence. The Dean began the meeting by expressing her delight with the Report. She then turned the meeting over to J. Benjamin.
During previous RIC meetings I have voiced my concerns, and sometimes emphatically. I have offered many suggestions hoping to correct what I perceived meeting after meeting as persisting content problems in the developing draft Report documents. I have taken issue repeatedly with their false assumptions, internal contradictions, omissions, and mistakes. I share with you now my disappointment to discover that many of these same problems have persisted into this final draft Report. I think these content problems, unless corrected, will undermine the credibility of the final Implementation Report when widely circulated.
To illustrate and emphasize content problems persisting in this Report I created a “word cloud” (see image above) of the entire December 14 Report document (including its appendices). In this word cloud the top fifty terms used more than three times in the Report are displayed in alphabetical order. Contrasts in word font sizes reveal a measure of “relative importance for key terms used” based on the number of times they appear in the document.
I distributed this word cloud to the RIC at the December 16 meeting and offered up a few interpretive comments and examples. For instance, the term “excellence” does not appear in the word cloud. A subsequent word search of the document reveals that "excellence" does not occur as much as three times within the entire document. Further investigation reveals that “excellence” appears twice in the Report, both times in reference to improving Graduate Studies in the A&S College. The Report completely ignores the Dean's directive to systematically infuse academic excellence into the A&S College undergraduate experience. How can A&S College achieve “top-tier academic ranking” in the future without an aggressive commitment to the pursuit of undergraduate academic excellence in the present? Note that “top-tier” is another term that does not appear in this Report’s word cloud because it appears but once in the entire Report.
Also, search the current Report's word cloud in vain to find the term "lecturers". What sort of credible A&S College strategic planning can these days ignore their existence?
Note how the term “integrative” looms fairly large in the word cloud. The Report asserts that “integrative hub” is the RIC-designated Identity for the A&S College. Fine. Yet nowhere in the report is the term “integrative” defined! Around the meeting table I heard many times that “integrative does NOT mean interdisciplinary!” Yet no one on the RIC ever defined "integrative" though the question was raised many times. I suggested the dire need for a glossary in this Report because it can never fly while burdened with such vague terminology.
I invite you to study, analyze and interpret the image of the RIC Implementation Report content and what (and who) it represents, infers, implies and empowers. Do your own content analysis. Reach your own conclusions.