CLA wrestles with ideas for University realignment plan

The public-comment period for the realignment plan closes Sunday.

Nina Petersen-Perlman

PFor the University’s realignment plan to succeed, which aims to position the University as one of the top three public research universities in the world, the University needs to overcome a double-headed monster of inertia and apathy.

The College of Liberal Arts strategic positioning task force had an open forum Wednesday to invite community commentary on its recommendations before the monthlong public commentary period closes Sunday.

Task force members then will have until May 5 to revise their report and turn it in to Academic Task Forces team leader Tom Sullivan, who is also the University’s provost.

Task force member Marvin Marshak, who is also a professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy, said the sense from his colleagues is that the realignment process will result in chaos or in nothing.

“The amount of inertia is huge,” Marshak said.

Task force co-chairman Robert Kudrle said the realignment plan is different from similar University realignment plans in the past such as U2000.

“This one is certainly different; it’s make or break,” Kurdle said. “We’ve put all of our heads together and come up with a lot of ideas.”

Assistant Vice Provost Linda Ellinger, who provided staff support to the task force, said Sullivan will look at the academic task force recommendations to try to decipher four or five overarching themes.

The major CLA task force recommendations include adding 44 faculty positions, starting a junior seminar program and thinking of ways to better combine CLA resources.

In following the success of first-year student seminars, the recommendations also suggest starting a series of junior seminars. Taught by distinguished faculty members and capped at 25 students, the seminars would fulfill liberal education or major requirements and focus on interconnectedness.

One of CLA’s problems as the University’s biggest college is that it lacks a sense of physical identity, the report stated.

Forum attendees said that because CLA is so big and physically dispersed it’s hard for it to act as a single community because students, staff and faculty members don’t feel a connection to their college.

Kevin Coyle, a financial accountant in the department of pediatrics who takes CLA classes as a non-degree seeking student, said he thinks the University is more concerned with students getting a degree than learning anything.

“Your time here isn’t important besides your end product,” Coyle said. “That’s the money shot.”

As with many other task force recommendations, the CLA task force recommended interdisciplinary research, a goal some said is not practical.

Valerie Stedman, house manager of Ted Mann Concert Hall, said that because faculty members are so used to working in their highly specialized disciplines, it might be difficult to get them to work together.

“Going to a collaborative mind-set is the complete antithesis of higher education,” Stedman said. “(Faculty members) are told to collaborate when they don’t talk to people in their own department.”