Report sees promise in ‘150’, points out flaws

By Gus Bode

[email protected] Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus fifty points for using all my letters. Game’s over. I’m outta here.

Editor’s Note:this is the first of many stories examining a report on SIUC’s humanities, arts, business colleges and law school.

“Southern at 150” has set broad, “laudable” goals for SIUC, but according to a recent report on the University’s arts, humanities and social sciences, there is “little evidence of specific strategies for goal achievement.”

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A six-person consultant team, the second independent group hired to assess the University’s research efforts, reported a definite lack of communication, which has left many liberal arts faculty feeling left out of SIUC’s long-range plan.

“Frankly, they believe that ‘Southern at 150′ is largely a vehicle to strengthen the sciences at SIUC and at the expense of the Liberal Arts,” the report stated in reference to liberal arts’ importance.

Kay Zivkovich, an associate professor in visual communication, said she believes that many times money is directed away from liberal arts.

“Money talks,” Zivkovich said. “Money takes precedent over so much. There has to be something to even out how we look at research.”

The report also stated that some faculty believe the University only measures faculty research in funded research and development, which is typically found in the sciences.

In August, SIUC paid the team $10,000 to analyze and identify the strengths and weaknesses of its research development in the arts, humanities and social sciences. The team also explored SIUC’s potential for reaching the research goals as defined in “Southern at 150,” which is SIUC’s 15-year plan to push the institution into the top 75 public research institutions by its 150th birthday in 2019.

The team examined the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Business, the College of Mass Communications and Media Arts, the College of Education and the School of Law.

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More than a year ago, the University paid $70,000 for the Washington Advisory Group to evaluate the research capabilities of SIUC’s sciences.

The humanities group was brought to campus at the request of the Graduate Council and the deans of the colleges not included in the science-based report.

One of the report’s top conclusions was a lack of strategic planning at the college level. The consultants applauded many of the colleges for their proposed efforts at increasing interdisciplinary research.

Each college was analyzed separately, and in each report the consultants repeatedly asked the colleges, except the School of Law and the College of Education, to develop firm strategic plans quickly to help them achieve their research goals. Many of the college deans said talks are ongoing to develop these strategic plans.

The consultants commended the School of Law for its 5-year plan to offer more scholarships, increase faculty salaries and seek to increase the school’s endowments. Dean Peter Alexander, who arrived at the school in 2003, said the school has a long-term goal of becoming the nation’s best small, public law school, but he realizes to get there, they must have many short-term plans in place.

“Your long-range plan might not have to be realistic today, but your short-term goals of how you are going to get there do have to be realistic,” Alexander said.

The consultants also found an extremely low level of communication within the University, forcing some faculty to feel left out of the “Southern at 150” process.

Within the “Southern at 150” document, SIUC defines its commitment to excellence as not a single idea or measure. It even points out that defining excellence by funded research dollars would only set the University up for failure.

However, the consultants said the University’s heavy focus on the sciences in “Southern at 150” and by bringing in the Washington Advisory Group only “confirmed in the minds of some that they were being left out of the equation.”

Peter Chametzky, an associate professor of art history, said he agreed that if SIUC wants to do cutting edge research it needs a strong commitment to the arts on paper as well as in resources and facilities.

“The arts are valuable in and of themselves and need to be supported, and colleagues involved in the arts at the University need to be trusted to provide measures of ‘quality’ that might not be quantifiable,” Chametzky said.

“Pride, trust and communication on this campus are really important and we have to work on that every day,” Dunn said. “It’s not apparently as obvious as it should be.”

The report also pointed out the importance of permanent monetary support for diversity hires. Until this fall, colleges were given money to make diverse hires, but the money was only given for a four-year period.

Seymour Bryson, associate chancellor for diversity, said this policy allowed colleges four years to find the money within their budgets to support the hires. The report expressed concern about this policy, saying it recommends, “that the campus explore some form of more permanent support, even if it is only partial.”

Bryson said this fall the administration announced it would provide 75 percent of the money for hires as part of its new faculty hiring initiative, but if the hire is a minority or a woman, the 25 percent required of the college would be waived.

“A concern has been addressed and responded to,” Bryson said. “Now the deans do not have to pay back the money.”

Although the report highlighted the enormous task ahead for the humanities if “Southern at 150” is to be achieved, it did commend the University for its pursuit of excellence. The team reported they were impressed by the colleges’ amount of great potential and the faculty’s willingness to pursue excellence.

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