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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Highly Relevant Review of "The Relevant University"

As a matter of highlighting and complimenting an incisive and well considered review of the slick, glossy book attributed to Lloyd Jacobs and consultant Eva Klein, the following post had been moved from the comments section to today's front page, where it belongs. Bloggie thanks and salutes this anonymous writer who contributed this review as serialized comments. Also included at the end are reader's comments to the review. Bloggie encourages further discussion--as this blog is the only place any of this important material has apparently, to date, received serious consideration:


Part 1:

I have read the complete book. It is a somewhat inconsistent composition of what apparently five people who would claim they are playing the same music have to say about the future of the university.

The first part is probably written by Eva Klein. In this part we learn that knowledge is something that should lead to human implementation. We also learn that manufacturing should be our future despite so many other countries much better at it than we are. We also learn that the future is about building things. The author of this section goes to great lengths to show that the university was found on concepts of a “place apart” separate from the common society and evolved into traditions that served the workplace. Now they must turn their efforts to community development. But then, unconvincingly after all these arguments, on page 13, the author states that the traditional model of the university is valid and must be preserved! And in the truest sense of “non sequitur” the author states that “the ivory tower is an idea our society no longer can afford.” On this same page, the author lays out a graphical model of taking the supposed “Ivory tower culture” of teaching, service and research and uses an arrow to connote transformation to the “Stewardship and Engagement Culture” of human capital, innovation system and knowledge community. Later, a second author will later transform this in a rectangular graphic where Health Care and Quality of Place replace the Knowledge Community bubble.

This then is followed by a description of the Strategic Plan for Higher Education and the 3rd Frontier for the State of Ohio. It is very interesting to note the following targets stated for this area on page 18 and to later compare these to the directions of the university:

Advanced and alternative energy
Multimodal transportation and logistics
Advanced manufacturing (automotive, energy, and other industries)
Architecture, engineering, and construction

April 23, 2010 6:45 AM

Anonymous said...
Part 2:

Chapter 4 begins to spread out the University Strategy. Most of Chapter 4 is about the “Directions 2007” document. On page 22, the focus is on Direction VI, Outreach and Engagement. Paragraph 10 lists the same industry cluster targets as UT “signature areas.” There does not appear to be much hope for the Education College or the Arts as being targets for UT signature areas. This Chapter is ended by focusing on the motto of the University. Most of the remaining work will be quoted in the terms of “Engaging the Present” and “Creating the Future”.

Chapter 5 is clearly written by another author with views that are not consistent with the first author. One might present that this author is President Jacobs. Here, the three bubble transformation introduced on page 13 is now converted to a rectangle that emphasizes Health Care. The author points out that the controlling themes of the university must be examined from the point of view of its constituencies and that the university needs to adopt an ethic of active responsibility for outcomes that others care about. That author goes on to sate that the over-arching purpose is to improve the human condition.

On page 30, the second author describes “human capital” elevating UT’s involvement of in education beyond post secondary levels to include K-12. The author then goes on to imply that the health care workforce properly belong to “Human Capital” but are “so specific that it is included in the topic of “HealthCare and Wellness.” Then in the description of the “Innovation System,” we learn that

“The resources of a regional innovation system should focus on interdisciplinary knowledge inquiry and investments in business/product responses to mega-trends and pragmatic needs of society, not purely in esoteric research.”

I translate this sentence as meaning, if your research is not useful by a business, a product or a practical need, then it is not worthy of research. The author certainly does not provide for beauty and probably would not endorse the following quote from William James, “The union of the mathematician with the poet, fervor with measure, passion with correctness, this surely is the ideal.” Nor would he endorse the great mathematician, G. H. Hardy, "I have never done anything 'useful'. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world."

Interestingly enough, the description of the HealthCare and Wellness is the shortest of all of the domains of the “box model.” And then the author goes on so say that it is also a major factor in “Quality of Place” which is then yet another very short description.

April 23, 2010 7:27 AM

Anonymous said...
Part 3:

In Chapter 5 (continuing from the commentary of Part 2 on Chapter 5) a chart is given associates the “Engagement Domains” (e.g., the four elements of the box model,) to Directions 2007. Whereas the first author concentrated efforts on activity VI of Directions 2007, this author is trying to find reasons why it is more expansive and applies to everything.

We also learn on page 33 that the location of the university is no longer relevant. I guess this is to be interpreted that it is irrelevant that the University of Toledo is located in Toledo and is a metropolitan university? There are so many logical inconsistencies of this type throughout the book that one can say at once, “everything is there and nothing is there.” These inconsistencies cloud understanding the document for later, a case will be made to build/call a region adjacent to UT the “University City.” If one expects the document to be internally consistent as a well written strategy should be, they will be disappointed for it is not.

Also on page 33, the author of this section lays out five hierarchical geographic divisions and attempts to explain UT’s service to each. I learned for the first time that our primary service area is the 12 counties of Northwest Ohio as indicated on a map. Then why are we offering scholarship services to all of the metropolitan areas of Ohio through the “Guarantee” and not focusing more on recruiting students from these 12 counties? Finally a short attribution is made towards diversity.

This concludes Part One of the book which is dedicated to establishing the Contexts of the University. Chapter 6 begins Part Two of the book which pertains to Visions and Strategies. These will be covered in continuing parts of this commentary.

April 23, 2010 7:44 AM

Anonymous said...
Part 4:

Chapter 6 is entitled “Human Capital.” The first statement made is “Human Capital is the new currency of the global economy.” The organization of the Chapter is Definition, Goals, Engaging the Present and Creating the Future.

If I look up in a dictionary the word “currency,” I find definitions such as

“1 a : circulation as a medium of exchange b : general use, acceptance, or prevalence "a story gaining currency" c : the quality or state of being current : CURRENTNESS
2 a : something (as coins, treasury notes, and banknotes) that is in circulation as a medium of exchange b : paper money in circulation c : a common article for bartering d : a medium of verbal or intellectual expression” (from the Merriam Webster online version)

Somehow, none of these definitions gives me a satisfying feeling about this topic. I don’t want to be traded as money, not do I want to be a medium of exchange; nor do I feel that other people wish to be a vehicle for barter. The author is very cavalier in how they refer to human beings. Later on page 36, the statement is made in reference to students “we must take responsibility for the whole “food chain.” I have heard administrators refer to students as customers but never before as elements of consumption!

The 6 Goals of Chapter 6 are expansive on the mission of the University by including elements of education that traditionally have been provided by the K-12 system, Community Colleges and Professional Organizations. The author makes a big push for the university getting involved in K-12 programs. Local School Districts might take exception to what is stated here as it flies in the face of their missions. And the last time we tried to compete with Qwens Community College, we failed miserably as they suck students for our technical programs. The expense of the university education was just to great.

In the remainder of the Chapter, sections of Engaging the Present and Creating the Future are interleaved. In the area of Undergraduate Education, emphasis is placed on “the Academic Journey,” “Experiential Learning,” Integrating STEM2 into the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and to give access to under-represented groups. In the area of Graduate and Professional Education, there clearly is a preference for Professional degrees. Emphasis is placed on Profession Science Master’s and Executive Education. It also appears that the authors intend to focus graduate programs so that they are thematic about health care, alternative and solar energy and industrial arts. The Academic Journey is again reinforced in the sections of Successful Lifelong Learners. There is an interesting strategy on page 43 “13. Transformation of Undergraduate Pedagogy, Technology, and Delivery for All Learners with Special Attention on Moving Adults to Degrees.” UT is to become a “Destination of Choice” for Continuing Professional Education.

April 23, 2010 8:39 AM

Anonymous said...
Part 5:

(Chapter 6 continued)

Folks, I apologize for being so wordy but I never before seen such an assault on scholarship and academic quality as I have from this volume. If this is to be the model of universities in the future, then scholarship is dead. Please let me continue:

On page 43 is a statement “Develop degree completion programs aimed specifically at adults, e.g., “no-frills” model.” Where in our current degree programs do we have “frills?” A group of scholars designed our current programs and certainly thought that what is in the program was necessary. So, what do we drop out?

In yet another statement on page 43, UT is to take responsibility and “ownership” for the lifelong learning of its graduates. Learning is an individual responsibility: while I promote that people need to learn until the die that they die, I do not feel it is the role of government or that of a university to assume that responsibility. Nor is it the role of government or universities to force people to learn.

“Redefine the roles of chairs as academic leaders…” This same administration continues to load Chairs with “adminutia” and take away their ability to lead their programs. Just recently Chairs were forced to change workloads to meet the needs of the Provost rather than use this tool to lead their departments.

On Page 44, there is a quote by the Provost Haggett, “The University of Toledo is committed to a University wide initiative that engages all colleges in a transformative partnership to develop innovative active environments with pre-k-to-12 education.” Is this the function of a university? Does this not take resources and time away from both teaching university level courses and the discovery of new knowledge? Furthermore, is not a an invasion of the missions of out school districts and in the jobs of our K-12 teachers? “Become a leader in designing, testing, implementing, refining or expanding programs that …” “Online Courses Clearinghouse and Instructional Materials Repository.” We can not even support the needs of our library but we are willing to do this? “The School Setting, Calendar and Resources.” Again where is this the mission of a university? What is worse, is that statement by Provost Haggett envisions this to be the mission of every college to do this!

April 23, 2010 11:17 AM

Anonymous said...
Part 6:

Chapter 7 lays out the Innovation System. It clearly is designed to be innovation for revenue generation. As a result it focuses on the last stages of research including technology transfer and business incubation. This statement from Page 48 clearly identifies the author’s ideas about new knowledge discovery: “Thus, unlike the traditional definition of university research, the knowledge discovery functions of an innovation system are not university centric. Some new knowledge originates in other established R&D organizations (federal laboratories, for example). And, studies have demonstrated that the largest portion of innovations in regions is generated by technology entrepreneurs working in the region and by large, mature companies.”

If I may restate the sentiment expressed, original university research and scholarship are not valued.

Yet the Goals on page 49 clearly desire that UT generate more new knowledge, generate more research funding, and support entrepreneurial activities. Furthermore, the goals envision the creation of new academic structures to support research which is inconsistent with the definitions given.

In the Engaging the Present section for Research, Discovery, Creative Works and Engaged Scholarship, it is pointed out that UT is ranked by NSF between 78th (Physics research) and 148th (life science research). As an afterthought, a four line paragraph entitled “Not Just About STEM2” was added that tokenizes scholarship and creative works. Then in the Creating the Future, growth targets for research are set to double the 2009 sponsored awards by 2012, Medicine, Engineering an Pharmacy are on the hook to provide this doubling. A goal is set to triple the number of STEM faculty engaged in research. And “As a function of the new corporation (Innovation Enterprises, Inc.), employ scientists and technical research personnel who are not university employees to conduct contract research projects…” I hate to be negative but how else can you interpret this section other than as disparagement of faculty research and scholarship?

Chapter 7 is quite long and I can not do justice here to commenting on it. The remaining parts concentrate on expanding incubation and entrepreneurship with focuses on Advanced Renewable Energy, Transportation and Logistics, Biomarkers and Sustainable Manufacturing. It envisions up to 40 more faculty for advanced energy (page 59) $100 million dollars from the University, state and federal funds and an annual $50 million operating budget. An addition $50 million is needed for facilites at Scott Park. In addition, UT is reported to have signed contracts with Bottom Line Resource Technologies as a consultant in this effort. The Logistics and Transportation piece (page 63) envisions $30 million in one time funds and an annual operating budget of $5 million. Biomarkers (page 65) envisions $100 million in one time funds and a $50 million operating budget. I guess there wasn’t any money left over for Sustainable Manufacturing as not budget estimates are given.

April 23, 2010 12:03 PM

Anonymous said...
Part 7:

Chapter 8 is dedicated to Health Care and Wellness. I would suggest that Provost Gold wrote this section as it reiterates a number of items in his speeches on campus. There is not really anything new in this Chapter. Basically, the Heath Care needs stated are more doctors, more Healthcare Workforce, more collaboration in North West Ohio among medical providers, promote wellness, and become a member of the Club of 100. Expansion of medical services are envisioned on page 75. Page 77 brings restructing the region’s medical services. Page 79 brings us expanding health care education by training (NOTE: I DID NOT SAY EDUCATING!) more doctors, amd creating the next generation of world class physician educators {trainers?}. More, more, more…

So I will move to Chapter 9: Quality of Place. I would submit that this section was written by the Poggemeyer Group. (Of course, attribution is given to them on page iii.) This is a rehash and not much new from the Corridor studies that were initiated during President Johnson’s time. It envisions calling the area around the University, “University City” and would include Old Orchard, Secor Gardens, Ottawa Hillside, Bancroft Hills, Burroughs, Highland Heights, Indian Hills, and Scott Park. (Of course, the City of Toledo and the Village of Ottawa Hills is ready to do this.) What was called the Science and technology Corridor is now just incorporated into the Health Sciences Campus.

The goals are to brand Toledo as a “college town,” plan and redevelop the lands within University City, create a 21st Century Mixed use Campus Model, continue to grow Arts, Culture and Leisure, provide for Sports, Recreation and Athletics and to achieve sustainability.

In order to create a mixed use campus, parts of the main campus would be made available for private partner use. (Page 91) The Health Campus would be greatly expanded. I was looking for the light rail that President Johnson envisioned but I couldn’t find it. But they do promote “walkability.” Of course retail on Dorr Street is featured. And the existing railroad tracks are spotlighted for use for logistics.

Then, surprisingly, on page 96 and 97, we find the Arts and Culture. They have to be connected to the STEM2 Disciplines (page 97), and industry. And of course there must be entrepreneurship and tourism. Do the authors really know anything about the Arts and Culture? Have they ever worked with real artists?

The last part of the Chapter is on sustainability and covers the usual “buss words”: plenty of green everything, plenty on environment and energy saving but no real definitive understanding of the costs or the difficulties of doing it. But if you say “sustainable,” I guess the words count for something. At least this does provide recognition for the environmental scientists and connected social scientists and is probably a worthy goal.

April 23, 2010 12:42 PM

Anonymous said...
Part 8 and last part!

I am really getting tired of rereading this document. Chapters 10 on Leadership, Partnerships and Operations, Chapter 11, Business Plan and Chapter 12 Outcome and Metrics forms Part Three entitled Implementation Elements.

It is interesting that on page 104, the authors state that most of the decision making process and priority setting management will be in the hands of existing governance bodies including Faculty Senate. So we should look for a total redirection of leadership on this campus from the current fatwahs of the President and action by the Staff model. They intend to build a Leadership for Change, a “University Wide Way of Thinking and Problem Solving Orientation.” Partnerships and Collaborations are featured. The author also envisions making effective use of university corporations. The university currently has at least five of these listed on page 108. The author envisions the creation of 2 more energy subsidiaries connected with Scott Park.

On Page 110 is a logo for “plug smart.” Remember the comment made earlier about UT have a contract with Bottom Line Resource Technologies? Both Bottom Line Resource Technologies and plug smart are affiliated in some way with Juice Technologies, LLC, a Columbus based company. The common denominator seems to be a Mr. Thomas A. Hurkmans and Mr. Aaron E. Martlage who seem to be electric utility entrepreneurs. It is difficult to state what their place is in this document.

The Business Plan begins on page 114 and focuses on branding, marketing, funding and resource development and land use. It envisions expanding the More and the UT Matters campaigns with added emphasis on relevance and engagement. The funding section states that the changes envision are too great to be accomplished by normally increasing annual resources. So they plan to double their budget! Now how exactly do they plan to do this?
Well page 119 seems to imply, more growth in tuition and fees, more research growth (consistent with the doubling of research by 2012 mentioned earlier but inconsistent in the number used,) growth in clinical revenues and aggressive capital and investment funding. Clearly as a funding plan, this section is not sufficient.

At last, finally the Outcome and Metrics begin on page 124. The goal (page 125) is to develop new metrics… so I guess they haven’t really thought about these.

I would be negligent if I failed to mention the Afterward by President Jacobs. Well I mentioned it. It is not relevant.

Overall, this is the greatest assault on scholarship that I have ever seen published at a university and supported by a university administration. There is a severe lack of depth in understanding the mission of the university and an over willingness to expand the university mission into areas it has no place in except for study. Furthermore, they have no idea of the magnitude of resources needed. It appears that they will bankrupt the university before they realize the impossibility of what they propose. But many of these administrators will be long gone and the remaining faculty will be left holding the bag.

April 23, 2010 1:14 PM

Emeritus Publius said...
Thank you for your anonymous toil in writing this review. I commend your altruism and community spirit.

April 23, 2010 1:29 PM

Anonymous said...
Thank you for your incisive critique of this bumbling document. "Relevant" should be replaced with "Inept" in its title. Klein should return her consulting fees and Jacobs, finally, laughed out of town.

April 23, 2010 2:01 PM

Pity said...
Think how much public money has been wasted on this vanity publication.

April 24, 2010 5:29 AM

Pity said...
A caveat to my previous comment: I am definitely not saying that UT press is a vanity publisher, just that Jacobs abuses his power by using its name to publish his vanity production.

Interestingly, this Relevant University book is designed and printed exactly in the current model of private sector corporate annual reports--lots of glossy paper in four color expensive designed-to-superficially-impress-style--except for the totally missing budget profit/loss statement. Jacobs seems to prefer financial fog when it comes to releasing information on what happens to all the money.

April 24, 2010 8:02 AM

Anonymous said...
The whole thesis seems to pre-suppose that our university was somehow "irrelevant". On the contrary, UT has been remarkably engaged with business and community since its inception and despite the current regime, continues to be so. The whole idea sounds very arrogant. Why should I be surprised.....

April 24, 2010 8:40 AM

Bruce said...
Good work, Jim! This may be the silver bullet we've all been praying for!

April 24, 2010 11:14 AM

Anonymous said...
"UT has been remarkably engaged with business and community since its inception and despite the current regime, continues to be so"

I thought the problem was UT was too business-focused. I was surprised to read those who think this admin has diminished interactions with business when I'd thought the focus on economic development at the expense of academics was the problem.

April 24, 2010 6:00 PM

Anonymous said...
Dear Anon, 6:00PM,

This administration has been contradictory about our interactions with business. Verbally, they have promoted a more business like stance. And they have been proactive in forming businesses to use, for a price, university assets. However, this has caused many of our actions with businesses to wither because the business owners and executives have felt that the university was in competition with them.

As an example that is not too far from the actual circumstances but without revealing the participants, a particular company came to the College of Engineering for help on one of their products. The company owned the patents on the product and it was one of their revenue producers that needed some upgrading. A team was formed with a Chemist and a Chemical Engineer to redevelop the product formulation to improve its properties. As develop continued, a slight reformulation was made in the chemistry which gave the product the desired properties. The company wanted to put the reformulation under their patent; however, certain people at the university insisted that the complete product was now a university patentable development. As a result the company immediately stopped working with the university.

The new requirements for University intellectual property and the delays and changes to contracts being enforced by our legal department regarding the applicable law, the applicable locations of the law and indemnities are making work with local and national businesses almost impossible as companies are terrified of losing their intellectual property.

In fact, I have a couple of ideas that I will not develop until after I retire because of the fear of losing my intellectual property to the university. This is based on what I have seen the University do to the companies that I have worked with in the past.

April 25, 2010 7:49 AM

Anonymous said...
To Anonymous at 6 PM:

You are falling into the killer dichotomy trap re business. A problem is that the current administration, in its intellectual state of bankruptcy, wants all "business" (as they misunderstand it) and does not value liberal arts which they seem to see as impractical (even though they make money for the university, so the administration doesn't even understand this) . The College has always had business ties because liberal arts are VERY practical and indispensable to life-which is in part business. It's a question of balance and moderation.

They seem to think turning UT CAS into a low class degree mill is their good business.

April 25, 2010 9:33 AM

Anonymous said...
Are there examples of current ties between liberal arts and businesses in the community?

April 25, 2010 10:47 AM


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Anonymous said...

Deep review. Well done. Uncovers the nothingness of this self-published "book."

My fear concerns the BOT folks, who seem to have been insulated from reality by the information-filtering propensities of UT administration.

I hope that members will take the time to actually read and discuss "The Relevant University" so that they see what kind of nonsense is being spouted by the overseer they have empowered.

Anonymous said...

The unfortunate part of all of this is that nobody cares what the faculty think. All of our politicians, all of our Board of Trustees (of course, they are politicians,) the City of Toledo and the local businesses really care nothing about scholarship and the improvement of scholarship. They don't even understand it and can appreciate why a university needs to focus on that. If the student walks away with a faux degree, everyone seems happy. No wonder we are in the fourth tier of the US News and World Report.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the everything you said until you said that U.S. News is somehow relevant to the value of a college. U.S. News exists because of the same superficial business model as we're fighting now. Do you really think there is validity in the U.S. rankings that relate to what students learn earning a degree? It felt like you were playing a wonderful melody and all of a sudden missed a sharp or a flat with your last sentence.

Anonymous said...

Point well taken: US News and World Report Rankings are not good measures of what students learn. What USNWR does do is follow reputations. And ours is not too good in scholarly circles.

My frustration is that our leaders and communities allow the university's resources to be siphoned off by our administrators for consultants and their pet projects which have very little to do with the teaching of students or scholarly efforts. How much did this book totally cost including the consulting fees that resulted in its preparation? $2 or 3 million? No one really knows.

Every recent year has seen the revenues of this university increase. But in the last several years, we have laid off people so that money could be spent on things like this. As a result, we are short faculty, short academic staff and it is showing in our classrooms and is being reflected, I think, in our reputation.

Anonymous said...

Do they get to count it as a publication on their ARPA?