UT planning focus stirring controversyWritten by Jacob Ruhe | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Toledo Executive Strategic Planning Committee is gradually mapping out its proposal for the university’s future, but not without some controversy. Many students and faculty worry the university may make cuts to departments that do not have a science, technology or professional focus.
On Nov. 15, the strategic planning committee met. Prior to meeting, committee co-chairs Thomas Gutteridge, dean of the college of business, and Jeff Gold, dean of the college of medicine, sent a new strategic draft to committee members. This draft, co-authored by Gutteridge and Gold, built off a first draft written by President Lloyd Jacobs released over a month ago. That first draft suggested UT should “create an identity … as a science-oriented university” instead of pursuing the path of “a four-year liberal arts university.”
Like Jacobs’ original proposal, the second strategic draft envisions UT becoming “a science, technology and professionally based university.” Both strategic drafts emphasize the need for graduate program growth in STEM2 areas. STEM2 refers to science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
Unlike Jacobs’ document, the second draft adds the school should have “a broad liberal arts context” in the future.
Despite this concession, committee member Carter Wilson, a political science professor and chair of Faculty Senate, said the second strategic draft is a step backward.
Wilson said Gold and Gutteridge’s draft “totally ignored” the input, comments and opinions of main campus faculty members.
Minimal market demand
“The top university administration has done a poor job of listening to different departments. It has done an atrocious job of listening to faculty members,” Wilson said.
Nicole Creech Cassidy, a committee member and graduate student in history, also opposes the second draft.
At a town hall meeting with Jacobs on Oct. 11, she said graduate students in the humanities and social sciences felt they weren’t represented on the committee. In response to this comment, Jacobs put her on it.
Creech Cassidy said the 46-person committee had no non-medical graduate student representation before she joined. That was a problem because non-medical graduate departments are the ones facing cuts and elimination, she said.
Creech Cassidy said the second strategic draft threatens more graduate programs than the first. The first draft called for non-state funded Ph.D. programs to be “phased out” by 2011, but the second also recommends phasing out minimal market demand and non-state-funded Master’s programs by that deadline. The second draft also suggests minimal market demand Ph.D. programs should be “phased out.”
“The only non-state-funded Ph.D. program at UT is history, so it’s worded like the history program is being specifically targeted. A lot of departments are worried about the ‘minimal market’ wording,” Creech Cassidy said.
She said the history Ph.D. program is profitable.
Wilson said the threat to the history program has faculty and students talking about leaving.
Gutteridge said he and Gold did not intend to target the history department in their draft.
Gold said the section of the draft that calls for the elimination of non-funded and minimal market graduate programs is unlikely to make it into the final strategic document.
However, Gutteridge acknowledged that sacrifices will likely have to be made in many departments.
“All of us have a responsibility to best deal with limited resources,” he said. “No one can say, ‘Don’t touch us.’”
Jacobs said he does not want to comment on the activities of the committee because he doesn’t want to interfere with its discussions.
An alternative strategic draft was produced by five committee members prior to the Nov. 15 meeting. Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Sue Ott Rowlands, Penny Poplin Gosetti, Carol Bresnahan, Mary Jo Waldock and Kaye Patten Wallace contributed to the document.
Ott Rowlands said the alternative strategic draft, which doesn’t include plans to eliminate any graduate programs, is similar to Gutteridge and Gold’s proposal.
“There are some slight differences of vocabulary. We wrote that the university should have a ‘liberal arts core’ while they wrote it should have a ‘liberal arts context,’ but the two documents share a lot of common intentions,” she said.
Gutteridge also said the documents are similar.
“There’s a 90 percent overlap in content between the documents,” he said.
Despite the similaries, Wilson said the alternative strategic draft is substantially better than Gold and Gutteridge’s document.
Interim Provost Robert Sheehan, another committee member, also prefers the alternative strategic draft.
“It more cogently describes what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Wilson said the executive strategic planning committee rejected the vision statement of the Gold and Gutteridge draft but accepted that of the alternative draft with some modification.
“This document [the alternative draft] defined The University of Toledo as a comprehensive university,” he said.
By contrast, the Gold and Gutteridge draft defined the university as a science- and technology-oriented university, Wilson said.
Gold and Gutteridge said the liberal arts will remain a part of the university.
“It’s clear to all of us that a strong liberal arts background is valuable,” Gold said.
Gold and Gutteridge said the decision to emphasize science, technology and professional departments at the school follows the lead of the state and federal governments. They said UT will receive more financial support from the government because of its emphasis on STEM2 education.
Gold said many universities and colleges in Ohio are forming consortiums. In these systems, all majors are not necessarily available at each university, but different schools collectively offer all majors to a region, he said.
Gold and Gutteridge said the proposal they wrote is incomplete and, like Jacobs’ draft, was meant to stimulate discussion. They said the committee won’t ultimately decide which direction the university takes, since it’s only advising the president and board of trustees.
Gold said he hopes the committee delivers its final recommendations for UT’s future in mid-December.
Downloads of several relevant documents are stored at www.utoledo.edu/colleges/as/as-council/white%20paper%20info/.