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Published: Wednesday, 5/7/2008

UT president says he backs liberal arts

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Leah Lederman, 24, a masters student in English literature and a composition teacher of undergrads, says that the strategic planning commission needs student input and volunteers to participate. She spoke during Tuesday's 'town hall' meeting at UT's Health Science campus. Leah Lederman, 24, a masters student in English literature and a composition teacher of undergrads, says that the strategic planning commission needs student input and volunteers to participate. She spoke during Tuesday's 'town hall' meeting at UT's Health Science campus.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

University of Toledo students sought answers from President Lloyd Jacobs yesterday about his plans for liberal arts education.

About a dozen gathered outside UT's Health Education Building on the Health Science Campus before a town-hall meeting with signs reading, "Leave my major alone," and "We want a well-rounded education."

Evan Morrison, a junior majoring in history, and several classmates organized the group to give the administration a collective student opinion.

"We're not happy with what they're doing," he said. "All the decisions here, at best, have had a veneer of faculty input, and we need to have a real dialogue."

This week is the break be-tween the spring semester, which ended with graduation on Saturday, and the summer semester, which starts Monday. The participating students said they represent a larger group who could not attend.

Among concerns expressed were proposals to merge college departments, such as history with philosophy, and communication with theater and film.

Students said the mergers appear to be cost-cutting measures that would weaken the departments and allow UT to focus more money on STEMM disciplines - science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine.

"Students are not products, and it feels like that's what we are in this new direction," said Meg Sciarini, an art and film student who just finished her sophomore year.

While the state is focusing on higher education as an economic driver with the STEMM disciplines, Dr. Jacobs does not agree with that model and said the arts are important at UT.

"I have no intention of eliminating, decimating, getting rid of any of the arts - performing arts, visual arts, political science, social science, any of them. OK. I have not espoused that. I do not intend that," he said. "And I know you don't believe me, but the only way you can ultimately see is watch the budget, watch the history of the institution unfold."

Dr. Jacobs said if he were to change the character of the institution, it likely would happen by selectively limiting budgets.

He said there are meetings all day tomorrow to consider the products of budget reallocation talks. He urged the students to follow that process to see that liberal arts will not be targeted selectively.

Students also were concerned that Arts and Sciences Dean Yueh-Ting Lee has a job after the college's council voted no confidence in him last month.

Dr. Jacobs said he takes the input seriously, but that it is only one piece and administrators are gathering more information. Ultimately, he said, Dean Lee's status will be up to the Board of Trustees.

Other student concerns included much-needed repairs to the Center for Performing Arts, student involvement in strategic planning, and inadequate funding for the arts.

In his defense of UT's commitment to the arts, Dr. Jacobs used as evidence that 10 professors and an instructor had been hired recently in the college and that "well over 90 percent" of the Memorial Field House renovation project will be devoted to arts and sciences faculty and disciplines.

Students such as Don Blankenship, a theater major who just completed his sophomore year, said the dialogue was important, but he would have liked Dr. Jacobs to address issues more head on and to commit not to make changes during the summer.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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