The Faculty Senate has motioned to express its dissenting views to the provost’s White Paper.
Provost Richard Englert’s White Paper, a 25-page document that, among many other functions, contains restructuring proposals for various departments around the university have been met with skepticism.
The Faculty Senate, Temple’s body of full-time faculty, has made it known with the motion they passed last Wednesday, Feb. 8, that they could not support the restructuring aspects of the White Paper without seeing more details regarding the financial and academic impacts of such moves.
“The Faculty Senate of Temple University cannot support the proposals involving the restructuring of existing schools or colleges, or the creation of new schools or colleges… without a cost-benefit analysis, and an analysis of the effects of any proposed restructuring on Temple’s mission, our students, our faculty, our reputation, and the impact on the university in general,” the Faculty Senate’s motion read.
The faculty most vocal in its response to the White Paper were faculty from the four schools that were mentioned as targets for restructuring: Tyler School of Art, the School of Communications and Theater, Boyer College of Music and Dance and the College of Education.
“We’re concerned about the lack of detail in the restructuring document, particularly with respect to administration of various merged units, allocation of space, funding for graduate and undergraduate programs and a myriad of other issues that will arise as a result of such a major upheaval,” Stephanie Knopp, the Faculty Senate representative from Tyler said at the meeting. “It is hard to know how staying as is with our merging is going to work without clear and careful analysis.”
In the White Paper, two of the three proposed restructuring plans involve merging Tyler and Boyer into a center of fine and performing arts, a prospect that does not sit well with some Tyler faculty.
“We flourish with our identities,” Tyler faculty member Jo-Anna Moore said. “Why would you punish excellence by mushing it together with something else?”
At Boyer, the faculty have the same concerns with the White Paper that they had when the provost proposed two years ago that the theater department become part of Boyer. According to the minutes from a Boyer Collegial Assembly meeting, “a faculty member expressed grave concern that a group of Boyer faculty met with Provost Englert about two years ago about this very issue and raised virtually every one of the concerns raised today, yet not one of these concerns has been acknowledged in the White Paper.”
“The reaction is that the thoughts of our faculty have been simply ignored by the provost,” Jeff Solow, the Faculty Senate representative from Boyer, said. “I know that when Provost Englert addressed the Faculty Senate, he was saying that the White Paper addressed many topics, which only a small portion was devoted to reorganization, particularly in the arts.
“However, we felt that much of the White Paper appears to be very focused on the consolidation of the arts – eight pages are entirely devoted to it – so we thought that the view expressed that it was just one small portion is not actually correct,” Solow added.
In SCT, the department chairs of advertising, broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media, journalism, strategic communications, the media and mass communications doctoral program and communications have expressed to the provost that they currently want to remain a stand-alone school of communications.
“We do not see any of the options as making a significant economic improvement over the current structure for the school. Instead, any restructuring that diminishes the current strength and potential growth of the school will be an economic disadvantage for the school, for its departments and programs, for TUTV, and for the university,” a Feb. 7 letter from the SCT department chairs to the provost said.
The other two departments in SCT, theater and film and media arts, have expressed interest in exploring joining together to be part of a new College of Fine Arts.
The College of Education has also expressed that it would like to stay at its current configuration.
For Paul LaFollette, a faculty member in the computer information and sciences department and president of the Faculty Senate, he has seen his department relocate five times and, only the most recent move, the move into the College of Science and Technology, was beneficial to his department, he said.
“With any kind of restructuring that happens, it isn’t going to work if there’s not a commitment from the university and from the provost’s office that someone is going to act as gatekeepers from the benefit of the schools and departments in the newly-formed colleges to make sure they are not over run by larger departments or by deans whose primary interests is not in their particular area,” LaFollette said. “The provost’s office has historically been utterly unwilling to assume that kind of responsibility and I see no reason to believe that will ever change.”
For Englert, the Faculty Senate’s resolution was seen as one aspect of ongoing dialogue between the provost and the faculty.
“[There were] very thoughtful comments, the faculty are great, they just don’t take anything for granted, they raise issues, which is what this whole period is and I thought the faculty resolution was a very good one,” Englert said.
While the provost and the faculty can exchange dialogue on what they think is best in terms of restructuring, ultimately the decision-making power lies with the provost, who drafts a proposal that is sent to the Board of Trustees for approval. This can be done without necessarily reaching a full consensus with faculty.
“I need to make my independent decision after talking to everybody involved. So I make a decision based on what I hear and based upon what I think is the best thing to do,” Englert said.
In the past, restructuring moves have been done with varying levels of faculty support. Examples of faculty-supported moves include moving kinesiology and social work into the College of Health Professions. A move that was not initially well received was Tyler’s move to Main Campus by the school’s faculty.
“There was a lot of opposition to that in terms of what was going to happen,” Englert said. “It was hard for people to see how moving to Main Campus was a step up.”
“In those situations, change is hard, but I don’t think you’ll find a student or a faculty member that doesn’t say that the move from Elkins Park to Main Campus wasn’t a home run,” Englert added.
With some ideas, like the idea of moving the theater department into Boyer, there was not much support from faculty to go forward with the plan and it was dropped before a proposal was drafted and sent to the trustees, Englert said.
It is possible that discussions regarding restructuring, as well as other aspects of the White Paper, could continue into the following year and after a new president is hired. Englert said the next steps are to continue to meet with the faculty and speak to them and draft a more concrete proposal that will contain analysis of the budgetary and academic impact of such moves.
“It’s actually something we agreed on that I will do when I put a concrete proposal on the table, so the next steps are to continue the conversation,” Englert said.
“The range of opinions is fantastic, people don’t necessarily agree with each other, which is fine – this is a university – if we had total agreement on any one point, I’d worry because we want to have lots of discussion,” he added.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.