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Published: Saturday, 9/25/2010

UT leader proposes reshaping colleges

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Dr. Jacobs, in a proposal presented Friday, said he wants to unlock and better advertise various disciplines now under the single arts and sciences banner, thus "raising them up."

If approved by the board of trustees, the 20-some departments inside arts and sciences would be reorganized as the college of language, literature, and social science; college of mathematics and science, and the college of visual and performing arts.

As new colleges, each of the three units would have equal seats at the university table with law, medicine, engineering, and other specific colleges.

The reorganization would create "units that are more discipline-driven, more accessible, and more inter-active," Dr. Jacobs told The Blade.

The proposal has miffed some faculty who say Dr. Jacobs, a surgeon by training, doesn't have the appropriate qualifications to make deep structural changes to a traditional university.

Some who might agree with his proposals say he goes about them in an unacceptably autocratic way. And he has been accused of favoring the health sciences campus in South Toledo over the main campus on Bancroft Street.

Dr. Jacobs called the assertion of favoritism "utter nonsense."

And he has said that change can be painful and those in the path of change naturally become uncomfortable.

Dr. Jacobs said the plan is part of his stated commitment to create a UT academic experience more relevant to everyday life, and to ultimately remake the university into one of the best in the world. "Almost everything I do is in pursuit of that vision."

Dr. Jacobs has been president of UT since 2006. Before then, he was president of the Medical University of Ohio, the former Medical College of Ohio, before it merged with UT to create Ohio's third-largest university.

He said he told the trustees when he interviewed for the job that his goal would be to create an international reputation of excellence for the school.

The move to break up arts and sciences is an outgrowth of the near-carte blanche the board of trustees has given the president to increase the academic quality of its programs, students, and ultimately, its reputation. That in turn drives more research dollars and donations to the school.

Raymond Marchionni, a tenured professor of music and the former department chairman, said he was an early critic of the president.

Mr. Marchionni, who holds a committee chairmanship on the faculty arts and sciences council, said he is open to the idea and also finds it exciting.

But he said Dr. Jacobs has fomented dissatisfaction among some faculty by not consulting with them enough before announcing major changes.

Mr. Marchionni said a committee of 12 appointed by Dr. Jacobs was charged with looking at reforming the structure of arts and sciences and other areas of the university. The committee was made up mostly of administrators, and all of them women, Mr. Marchionni said.

"Nothing really wrong with that, but it was strange, and it was mostly administrators," he said. "It was suspect."

The committee released its report over the summer, "when none of us were here," he said.

The report included some ideas about creating new colleges from inside arts and sciences.

On Tuesday, Nina McClelland, the dean of the college of arts and sciences, presented her own counterproposal to the arts and sciences council.

Mr. Marchionni said her proposal would preserve the college but create two defined divisions, with hard sciences under one banner and the arts and humanities under the other.

"No details were given, a lot of questions were asked," he said. "My problem was that I wanted details. I don't want to buy anything that I don't know anything about."

As of earlier this week, there were at least two proposals outlining major change, and some faculty felt they were not being kept informed or consulted, he said.

"We begin to wonder, just how much is this president listening? It begins to look awfully autocratic to us," he said.

"In fact, what is going to happen is that new colleges are being formed."

Dr. Jacobs unveiled his plan for new colleges at a meeting Friday of a campuswide committee looking at retooling and updating the university's long-term strategic plan.

The meeting was streamed live for anyone on campus to watch over the Internet. Mr. Marchionni said he watched.

"I'm not sure that many people in the arts have been asked their opinion," he said.

"This is happening rather quickly, too quickly for some. There's going to be tremendous change on campus."

Under the plan, the new college deans would be chosen from within the university, Mr. Marchionni said. He'd rather have national searches to bring in new administrative blood, and potentially new faculty and grant dollars.

But he said overall he's optimistic about the possibilities from giving certain disciplines higher profiles.

"Because something has been done the way it's been done for 100 years, it doesn't mean we have to stay in that mold," he said. "I think we can scream autocracy, but it could also be very exciting."

Contact

Christopher D. Kirkpatrick at:

ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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