“Frankly, I dont believe you”: Certain faculty members skeptical about graduate college at town hall
In an attempt to listen to and address concerns regarding the administration’s plan to create a new academic college for graduate education, Interim Provost Robin Morgan held a town hall forum prior to the beginning of spring break.
Almost 40 people showed up to the town hall and gave comments or asked questions about the proposed college. Significant concerns included the lack of a finalized plan for funding and administering the new college, curiosity about the apparent urgency of creating the new entity and questions about the necessity of establishing an entire college to achieve the goals laid out by Morgan.
At least one faculty member who attended the town hall expressed disbelief over the authenticity of the administrations intentions, suggesting that they wish to create a top-down power structure where the administration consolidates control over graduate education.
The university announced in November that it plans to name the proposed graduate college after Stuart and Suzanne Grant, who have collectively pledged $10 million to the project. The Review previously reported in March that Stuart Grant has brought a lawsuit against a former partner at his law firm, Reuben Guttman, claiming that the partner stole a client when he left the firm. In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit Guttman claims one of the reasons he left the firm was that Grant had sexually harassed female associates at his law firm.
When asked at the town hall whether the alleged sexual harassment claims factored into their decision to name the college, the university declined to comment.
The $10 million that the Grants pledged to the formation of the graduate college remain included in the tentative financial plan that Morgan presented. The gifts will be given in $2 million increments over five years and will be treated as an endowment for the college.
Several faculty members who attended questioned Morgan on the perceived urgency of creating the graduate college and whether that urgency is tied to the Grants’ gift. The university plans for the college to be formally established by Jan. 1, 2019.
“There seems to be some urgency for creating a college but yet there is going to be no details,” Deni Galileo, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the university and current president of the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), said.
Morgan responded that the sense of urgency was because it was important for the university to broadcast its focus on graduate education.
“I think it is urgent,” Morgan said. “We are creating a graduate college because we need one.”
Galileo also openly wondered if there are conditions the university must fulfill with the graduate college in order to receive the $2 million incremental gift from the Grants each year.
“Are there other strings that are attached?” Galileo asked.
Morgan was noncommittal about what, if any, conditions might be attached to the Grants’ money. She told The Review that she did not have any information on the matter.
The urgency surrounding the proposed graduate college means the university Faculty Senate will vote on the resolution at their meeting in May. At present, the plan for funding and governing the graduate college remains fluid and is meant to inform the faculty what the administration expects the project to cost.
“It is not a final plan by any means,” Morgan said. “So your input is welcome.”
The absence of a concrete plan indicates that the numbers and ideas presented to the faculty now are meant to guide their vote on the resolution in front of the Faculty Senate, but may be subject to change later on, if it is passed.
Stuart Kaufman, a professor in the Department of Political Science & International Relations, is glad that graduate education is getting more attention.
“A lot of these ideas and initiatives are very welcome,” Kaufman said.
However, he is worried about the level of control the administration envisions having over the graduate college, as opposed to the current decentralized power structure that exists, where each department governs its own graduate programs.
“The president’s style is to centralize things,” Kaufman said. “You said this is not intended as a top down directive sort of thing, and frankly I don’t believe you.”
The new graduate college would appoint a dean with authority equivalent to the deans of the other seven academic colleges, despite the already existing position of a senior vice provost, who is responsible for graduate and professional education.
It is unclear if both posts will be held by the same person if the college is established.
Morgan stated that the goals of the graduate college are to reduce redundancies, lift the administrative burden on faculty creating interdisciplinary graduate programs and to increase the visibility of graduate education at the university.
In the face of those goals several faculty members asked Morgan why a new graduate college was necessary for the university to accomplish the things they want to do.
“Why can’t these things be done in the existing structure?” Kaufman asked.
Morgan emphasized that the graduate college would lend much needed visibility to the university’s efforts to expand graduate education.
“To me the upside is the visibility,” Morgan said.
John McDonald, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, remained unconvinced. He found it hard to believe that prospective graduate students would decline a hypothetical fellowship offer to study at the university because it was being offered by a graduate office, as exists now, as opposed to the proposed graduate college.
“Visibility to whom?” McDonald asked.
Morgan remained adamant that creating the graduate college was a necessity to improving the education and lives of graduate students at the university.
“Graduate education is a very high priority at the University of Delaware,” Morgan said.
The resolution to create the graduate college was introduced at the monthly Faculty Senate meeting on Monday. The body is scheduled to vote on the resolution at the next meeting in May.