Friday, October 19th, 2018

Faculty concerned about metropolitan universty’s $2 million price tag

Bruce Raymond | The Free Press

Posted on September 29, 2014 in News
By Sam Hill

Last month the Metropolitan University Steering Group released their interim report, outlining what the university can do to transform into a highly-engaged institution with strong ties to the community and a focus on service learning.

The report, which lists suggestions for administrative responsibilities, leadership roles and how to centralize engaged learning efforts, estimates that the cost of implementing the plan over the next five years would cost around $2 million in funds to complete.

The dollar amount raised concerns and questions at last week’s Faculty Senate meeting, where faculty members discussed the cost and specifics of the report.

“If this committee is proposing something with a $2 million price tag, we’ve just upped out budget deficit to $18 million, and I can’t imagine that we want to do that right now,” said Jeannine Uzzi, a professor of classics. “It just seems so wrong-headed.”

Libby Bischof, a professor of history and member of the MUSG, reminded the senate that the interim report was a working document and that they were willing to take suggestions for revisions.

“We’re looking for feedback, we’re looking to improve this,” said Bischof.

Some faculty questioned the plausibility of the report’s goals in USM’s current economic situation, and Bischof told the senate that MUSG was charged with a strategic focus and that figuring out how to implement that strategy would come later.

When Richard Barringer, chair of MUSG and research professor, spoke with the Free Press earlier in the month, he said that the financial plausibility of the plan was the responsibility of the administration.

Wayne Cowart, a professor of linguistics, openly wondered if the metropolitan university plan was distracting administrative and faculty efforts from this year’s budget deficit.

“There’s obviously a major bloodletting coming, we may very well attract national attention for the scale of that bloodletting,” said Cowart. “This is going to be damaging to the reputation of the institution and, as far as I’m seeing, the only thing that looks like a response, has been this metropolitan university idea.”

The senate considered passing a resolution stating that any funding for this project should be taken from a system-wide fund to avoid widening USM’s structural gap, but decided against it because the report isn’t finalized.

After the meeting, Bischof explained that the costs were estimates based on other metropolitan universities that the group has been studying, including Rutgers University, the University of Massachusetts in Boston and the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, among others.

Nancy Gish, a professor of English and women and gender studies, voiced concerns about the language in the report.

“This [the report] is to a large extent completely abstract, so it depends entirely on how you interpret things,” said Gish. “When I look at engaged, I think ‘what do you mean by engaged and who’s going to decide whether it’s engaged or not.’ What I see as a serious problem is that it can be read to shift all of the decision making into an administrative structure.”

Bischof said that the group has been having similar concerns and questions in their own meeting and that it was good to hear similar voices in the senate. She said that the group hopes to make revisions and have a final report by December.

Despite concerns raised in the meeting, a lot of faculty members still noted that the idea of a metropolitan university was appealing.

“This is a very difficult time for all of us and I think that even though it may not be the best time to put forward something that’s going to cost $2 million, the idea helps,” said Rachel Bouvier, a professor of economics. “I think that it’s at least a glimmer of hope.”

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