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Friday, July 23, 2010

Summary of ASC Emergency Meeting of July 16

To: Dr. Nina McClelland, Dr. William McMillen, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs

From: Arts and Sciences Council  Ad Hoc Committee (L. Rouillard, M.Caruso, E. Johanson)

Re: Summary of Arts and Sciences Council Meeting, Friday, July 16, 2010

Date: Friday, July 23, 2010

            With nearly seventy faculty members, students, alums and emeriti  in attendance, Arts and Sciences Council discussed the restructuring proposal made by the Committee of Strategic Organization (CSO) and the proposal made by Arts and Sciences Chairs. During this two-hour discussion, participants generally expressed opposition to the CSO plan, primarily because of the extensive addition of administrators, particularly in the face of the often predicted budget crisis looming in 2012. Lack of documented need or even a precipitating problem requiring restructuring has left many faculty puzzled about the charge given to the CSO. Since the only college restructuring substantially addressed by the CSO plan is for the College of Arts and Sciences, and since there was only one tenure-track faculty from Arts and Sciences on that committee and one tenured full professor who is in an administrative position, faculty are concerned about the lack of representation from the College of Arts and Sciences. The students present also questioned the need for such sweeping changes of the college, changes they perceive as having no positive effect on their education.

            Indeed, it is not clear how the CSO plan will address the goal of being a student-centered institution; nor is it clear in either plan how restructuring will improve teaching or help us to strive for excellence. The CSO plan was described as emphasizing research interests at the expense of classroom instruction and students' academic needs. Dedication to providing a strong liberal arts education is part of the University's mission and features prominently in UT's advertising campaigns. It was pointed out that one of the hallmarks of such programs is the presence of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, something UT has been unable to attain. Fragmentation of the College of Arts and Sciences will only make achieving this distinction less likely even as institutions such as Ohio State University re-unite their previously divided College of Arts and Sciences.

            Departments such as Math, English, and Foreign Languages already are forced to rely heavily on part-time instructors and visiting assistant professors, which has serious consequences for students in introductory courses and composition courses, and indeed serious negative consequences for student retention, as current research shows. While part-time instructors and visiting assistant professors are chosen because of their experience and qualifications to teach, the constraints under which they work do not leave them enough time to spend with students outside of class, to mentor students interested in research, or to actively participate in the life of the university community. Faculty and students are understandably concerned about adding administrators when there is such a great need for full-time tenure-track faculty.

            It was pointed out that the Faculty Senate was not consulted about the composition of the CSO, a direct violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Ironically, the College of Arts and Sciences would be dismantled in the hopes of creating more collaboration, yet the concept of shared governance, by its nature a collaborative endeavor, is undermined by this proposal in particular, and by this current administrative culture in general.

            Participants noted that trans-disciplinary initiatives already exist, such as Writing across the Curriculum, and yet this particular initiative has of late been less than adequately funded. If we cannot fund the interdisciplinary programs we already have, how will we fund the sweeping new initiatives proposed by CSO? The appendix to the Arts and Sciences Chairs' proposal contains a brief listing of extensive collaborative and creative work already being done by this faculty. Can we do more? Yes, but only with the needed resources: more tenure-track faculty, not more administrators.

            The structure proposed by CSO impressed the faculty as being exceptionally vague: there is no explanation of how schools differ from colleges, how institutes differ from schools or how directors will carry out the discipline-based responsibilities that Chairs currently perform. Since the CSO has officially disbanded, there are no answers to such major questions. While the collaborative cohorts are depicted as suggestions, fragmenting the College of Arts and Sciences into three colleges only threatens more isolation and the creation of more "silos." There are also serious unintended consequences. For instance, the Department of Physics and Astronomy will be divided; yet that department already does much collaborative work with Engineering, Chemistry, the Medical College, to cite only a few examples. Should this department be divided, one of its Ph.D. programs with a concentration in astronomy will effectively come to an end since the State of Ohio will not permit universities in its system to grant Ph.D.s in astronomy alone.

            On the other hand, the Arts and Sciences Chairs' proposal features associate deans who would work across the current college structure to facilitate and coordinate collaboration by allocating the resources needed for team-teaching, cross-disciplinary research and creative work in the arts. Groupings into schools or institutes would arise naturally over a period of two to three years, and faculty and students would establish their own creative, collaborative teams and initiatives. In the discussion of the Chairs' proposal, several people commented favorably on the creation of these positions of associate deans described as "activist agents responsible for improving the 'cross-pollination' in all areas."

            Neither plan was collectively endorsed, though we note that there were more positive responses to the restructuring proposed by the Chairs. The leadership changes outlined in that proposal were perceived as potentially having more connection to the students. There was a call for a vote of no-confidence in this administration, but no action was taken at this time. It remains to be seen whether faculty and students will be allowed to collaborate in shaping the future of the College of Arts and Sciences.


Anonymous said...

Wait, you're acknowledging UT is marketing A & S now? In the president's assessment there were complaints that there's no marketing of A & S. I'm getting confused. You all need to get your complaints in order, else you might not be taken seriously.

I only kid. No one takes you all seriously.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 1:08

So because you don't take it seriously you and 1,400 other people visited the Blog this week?

You may be fooling yourself, and that's ok, but you are not fooling anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that every single visit is by a new unique person? Really? Have you any understanding of how the Web works? Do you really think 67,000 separate people have been to this site in the last threw years? Your ignorance is adorable!

Anonymous said...

You did. And you obviously care about what's here--i.e., taking it seriously. And now you can't leave it alone.

You seem an unpleasantly soured creature. But I guess one of the functions of this blog is to give you a vent for your pestilential vapors. You might explode otherwise from excess pressure. You should be grateful.

Anonymous said...

Focusing on the document. It seems pure milquetoast ...

Suppicants (on knees, eyes averted): "Oh! Pardon me Mr. Corporate Pirate Gang for interrupting your dividing of the spoils from your savage sacking and pillaging of my public university. Please? Read our humble document?"

Pirate Chief Jacobs: Argggh! Keep your damned toilet paper and take a hike off the plank! And read THIS on your way down (tosses a book to the A&S Council grovelers while Pirate Gang jeers and cheers).

Supplicants (backing away embracing the book, still on knees, eyes still averted): Thank you Merciful One! Ayn Rand! Yes! Our library has ordered ten thousand new copies and nothing else! When we reach bottom we too will be spreading The Word ..."

Anonymous said...

Yes, the meeting was much more spirited than this carefully modulated, understated memo suggests. People were upset and angry--righteously so.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised it took the authors a whole week to write such engaging and passionate prose.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered the possibility that Jacobs may actually be “Dr. Evil” in disguise – and that his true intention all along was to first “empower” the twelve women on the CSO by giving them just enough rope to hang themselves with their silly PowerPoint org charts?

If Jacobs were to now initiate Phase 2 of his diabolical scheme, setting aside the CSO’s obvious train wreck in favor of his own completely different proposal for A&S reconstruction (the one he intended to implement from the beginning) – Jacobs’ new proposal (whatever it might be) when compared to the bureaucratic nightmare of the CSO org charts, would almost come as a welcome reprieve from lunacy.

Seriously. At this point, how much worse could a different proposal from Jacobs possibly be?

This is only a theory, of course. But if there’s any substance to it we may have a true academic administrative genius hiding in our midst.

Anonymous said...

jacobs is serpentine.

Anonymous said...

Una bicicleta is blanco. Yesta is burrito. Jacobs es blanco y verde.

Anonymous said...

Just another couple notes and observations, as I recall them ...

It was suggested that there be an outside audit of the books at UT. What's (been) going on with the money? It's certainly a poor administration that engenders such distrust.

Nina said that Jacobs was interested in listening to us, or at least willing to do so. In my experience, Jacobs stops listening shortly after others start talking. I've seen him comandeer meetings to his own benefit--interrupting people as they speak and taking the meeting in his direction, or simply declaring a meeting over and walking out. Clearly, if he does attend one of the A&S Council meetings in the fall, we need to be prepared for this and not let him get away with it. We need to get things back on track as quickly as possible. Let him rant if he wants.

This leads me to

"... There was a call for a vote of no-confidence in this administration, but no action was taken at this time. It remains to be seen whether faculty and students will be allowed to collaborate in shaping the future of the College of Arts and Sciences."

That no action was taken at this time doesn't mean no one agreed with the call for the no-confidence vote--in fact, everyone I heard comment on it was in favor of it. (Wasn't this already suggested, and more than once--by another faculty member--in Spring 2008, during the discussion of the no-confidence vote for then-Dean Lee?)

Jacobs and his administration govern, or rule, not by respect but by fear. I'm as afraid as anyone, but we need to stop this, and we're the only ones who can.

Anonymous said...

There's an outside of audit of UT per state law conducted every year. With the accounting changes after enron, if a firm lies, its CEO goes to jail. I'm doubting accounting CEOs care enough to go to jail for jacobs.

Anonymous said...

Evasion is the name of the game around UT by administration--and a policy of deliberate obfuscation, obscurity and the old budget shell game. They technically do not need to lie--but the truth is hidden and they go their merry way to ruin.

Anonymous said...

I am a concerned student of A&S. I was an undergraduate in the college of A&S here at UT and I am now a graduate student. I have been very disappointed with recent changes that invoke "student centeredness", if anything I think they have made things worse.

I just learned about the restructuring this past week and was linked to this blog. I would be severely affected by such a restructuring, since I am working on a PhD in physics on the astronomy side of things. I do not think splitting the department or college benefits me in any way. I think awareness amongst the student body needs to be increased.

Anonymous said...

Outside audit? Who are you kidding? They don't need to steal because they can do everything in a perfectly legal way. These days, nation-wide, I think it is not unusual for boards to vote obscene bonuses to administrators who steer contracts to the right companies or third parties who just happen to have mutual financial interests. You don't think they really believe all their nonsense about "improving the human condition" and "quality education" do you? I worked with people like this and the only thing they are concerned about is their own bottom lines and their own human conditions. I assure you they are all using the money machine in a perfectly legal way. Why should they do otherwise when they have such a great thing going? All perfectly legal.

Anonymous said...

A number of you have commented on the outside audit, how the administration can do what it wants and do it legally, even if it isn't right, and we all know it. All the more need to get the facts out in the open and expose whatever corruption is hidden in their self-created murk.

Anonymous said...

This meeting was taped, wasn't it? Where can we see it?

horns n' fins said...

To Anon 5:43 - Apparently there were many technical issues that delayed/prevented the video being posted from UT's servers. Council's web guy informed me that he uploaded the video in segments to YouTube. I've created a new post with the YouTube videos.

Anonymous said...

Horns n' Fins,
Thanks! 5:43