The UD News article on the proposed New College for Adult Degree Completion surveyed two faculty members’ views, but I would like to provide a more comprehensive outline of faculty concerns that might be valuable for our conversation on the topic going forward.
At a series of all-faculty meetings last fall semester, many faculty expressed principled, financial, and procedural concerns regarding the proposal, and the administration has failed to address these concerns in any substantive way since.
Despite the almost unanimous concern, President Keefe asked the faculty senate in March to form a committee to consider the university’s need for new revenue-building programming. Many faculty members, however, doubt that the administration is genuinely open to any ideas other than the Degree-Completion College, which the president hopes to present to the board in May or October.
First of all, many faculty members do not consider the New College plan “new” or innovative. In 2001 President Milam Joseph proposed a similar program; the faculty rejected it as financially unsound and a bad fit for UD. In 2007 President Frank Lazarus tried to push through a new school of pharmacy as a revenue builder; he faced a vote of no confidence in the senate and resigned.
Since then, many schools have launched degree-completion programs. It will be very difficult to underprice UT-Arlington, UT-Richardson, Texas Wesleyan and University of Phoenix. Many private schools have gone under after becoming mediocre copycats of their state competition.
It is also not clear where the start-up funds for the New College would come from, considering recent budget cuts. Would it not be dangerous to create a new academic unit which would compete with the already existing colleges for resources?
Many faculty members would like an accounting of why the university continues to lurch from financial predicament to financial predicament based on a fundamentally unsound revenue-based financial model. Many had hoped that the university would shift toward a transformative, endowment-building, capital-campaigning approach that would establish the university on a firmer, more sustainable foundation than our current rather desperate dependence on tuition.
Second, the faculty have expressed procedural concerns about the way the provost presented the New College Plan to the faculty in the fall.
Since the Pharmacy School debacle of 2007, faculty have worked hard to put proper processes in place for establishing new institutional units. But when Josh Parens, dean of the Braniff Graduate School, raised the question about following the proper Faculty Handbook procedures, he was abruptly told that his contract as dean would not be renewed for the following year.
Now a cloud of potential retribution hangs over the president’s call for “civil and respectful dialogue.”
There seems a danger that if Constantin faculty voices are ignored now, they will be even more marginalized when the faculty senate is flooded with representatives from the New College, and commitment to the Core will be even more diminished.
Third and most important, the history of higher education in the 20th century has been the history of the dilution of commitment to the liberal arts.
Many other institutions, including Catholic institutions, have followed this path of multiplying a variety of colleges, reducing their liberal arts college to a mere “honors college” within a larger entity.
Henry Adams famously described modern universities “growing to dinosaur proportions” — the larger they grow, the less alive they are with the spirit of genuine liberal arts education, the more they approach educational and financial extinction. The college responsible for liberal education becomes proportionally weaker, and the spirit that should inform the whole ends up informing only a part of the school.
One faculty member compared creating a new undergraduate college to grafting a parasite onto a living tree — trying to make money from a parasite that will kill the host.
The University of Dallas was founded on the innovative idea that the liberal arts education that formed the founders of our republic is the best education for all participants in our modern democracy. Diluting or weakening that education in an attempt to reach greater numbers does service to no one.
The University of Dallas is distinguished as a truly unified university in a higher education landscape of multiversities. Creating the first undergraduate “unit” without the Core is a fatal step towards disunity and fragmentation.
The president has referred to the faculty’s expression of concern as an “emotional catharsis” — he assumes that having gotten over our “emotional attachment” to the Core as the centerpiece of UD’s undergraduate education through a series of “cathartic” meetings last fall, we will now move on to dealing with the financial exigencies he has outlined. But “civil and respectful dialogue” needs to be precisely that — dialogue — a two-way conversation where the reasons given and concerns expressed are actually addressed.