Dean's Newsletter

Volume 13, Issue 2

A Newsletter for Faculty & Staff in the
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Volume 13, Issue 2

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed, entitled “Gallup Survey Finds Falling Confidence in Higher Education,” reported that only 48% of all respondents had a “great deal of confidence” in American higher education.  This number reflected a 9% drop in confidence over the past three years.  No other American institution fell so far so fast.  Yet what is equally notable is that respondents still had significantly more confidence in higher ed. than they did in almost any other major American institution, including organized religion, the medical system, public schools, organized labor, big business, and all three branches of the federal government!  Only the military, the police, and small businesses scored higher.

So is the glass half-full or half-empty for higher ed.?  I think that we can still take pride in our place in these rankings although we cannot let ourselves be complacent.  Americans seem to be losing confidence in all of their public institutions, and, that, more than the drop in higher education’s rating, is the bigger cause for alarm.  Certainly the college debt crisis has hurt the reputation of colleges, and more and more people are questioning the value of a college education.  In addition, the perceived liberal bias of college campuses has affected the opinions of conservatives.  Only 39% of Republicans had a great deal of confidence in higher ed. as opposed to 62% of Democrats.  Allowing a diversity of opinion on our campuses, both in public programs and in the classroom, is the best way we can combat the perception of liberal bias.  My experience at CSU suggests that we do indeed allow this diversity of opinion on our campus.

There is perhaps little we at CSU can do to improve the perception of colleges and universities nationally, but we can play a big role in improving public confidence locally and regionally.  For one thing, we can produce more supportive alumni by continuing to improve our retention and graduation rates.  Jeff Jones, a Gallup Analyst, noted that alumni, no matter what their political views, “have a soft spot for their alma maters,” and, thus, they can be effective ambassadors in the community. Second—as a result of the first—we can continue to be an active agent for social mobility.  Recall that the Brookings Institute rated CSU #18 in the nation in promoting not only social mobility but also cutting-edge research. In my opinion, that ranking is much more significant than a higher rating in U.S. News and World Report would be.  Third, we can continue to expand our constructive engagement with the community. The more we can be seen as an effective agent of neighborhood transformation, a vital center for the arts, an effective partner in improving primary and secondary education, a critical source for top-tier health workers, and a center for serious reflection on the qualities of “the good life” (both as individuals and as a community), the more we will merit the increasing confidence of our fellow Northeast Ohio citizens.

The CLASS Faculty meeting on October 22nd was intense.  In part, the intensity was due to the high number of new curricular changes that the faculty was asked to approve.  But a more important factor was the issue of revised CLASS workload guidelines, which were on the agenda.  The issue of workload affects faculty personally, and it is important that we arrive at guidelines that are perceived to be fair.  Cheryl Bracken has been working with both the Provost’s Office and the CLASS Faculty Affairs Committee to draft revisions that are faithful to the intent of the contract and are acceptable to both camps.  No document is perfect, but the draft that was recommended by the Faculty Affairs Committee had in it several major advantages for the faculty.  For example, they would now earn credit for supervising internships and independent studies, and CLASS junior faculty would no longer have to worry about that pesky 16th teaching hour building up a negative balance in their “bank accounts.”  At the meeting, the faculty voted in a few amendments, and our hope is that the Provost’s Office will find these acceptable and, thus, the revised document will take effect for the January workload meetings.  Overall, the meeting was just another good example of faculty governance in action, and I want to thank all those faculty members who took the time to attend and participate.

Given the length of the workload debate, we didn’t have time for me to give my Dean’s Remarks at the meeting.  One of the things that I wanted to share was a list of all the new faculty hiring authorizations.  The authorized positions are:

  • Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing (Art and Design)
  • Assistant Professor of International Relations (Political Science)
  • Assistant College Lecturer in Composition (English)
  • Assistant Professor of Practice in Music Therapy (Music)
  • Assistant Professor of Practice in Post Production (Film & Media Arts)
  • Assistant College Lecturer in Journalism and Promotional Communication (Communication)

These searches will be carried out over the course of the academic year, with the new hires beginning in fall 2019.

As I reported in the last issue, our enrollments are down just a bit this fall.  Overall, we are down 1.45% in headcount, leaving us with a total enrollment of 2,250 majors.  In terms of student credit hours, however, we are more or less flat, down only 0.2%.  The really good news this fall is that our graduate enrollments have gone up.  Graduate student credit hours are up 1.1%, but our graduate headcount is up 3.4%!

The college is indeed being proactive with respect to enrollments.  At the last faculty meeting, we approved thirteen substantial curriculum changes, which will make our undergraduate degree offerings more attractive in the future.  We revised programs in American Studies, Anthropology, Communication Studies, Comparative Religion, English, Graphic Design, Journalism and Promotional Communication, Sociology, Studio Art, and Visual Studies.  We also approved a new M.A. program in Music Therapy.  I want to thank departments and schools, as well as the college Curriculum Committee, for shepherding through these critical changes.  Moreover, in addition to making our degree programs more attractive, we also plan to initiate a new internal campaign to promote our 4 + 1 and graduate degree programs on campus.  Finally, we have been working with the Provost’s Office to devise strategies to improve success in critical gateway courses.  All these measures should help us counteract some of the market forces that have been pushing our enrollment numbers down.

Textbook affordability continues to be a major issue for our students.  However, many CLASS faculty have made heroic efforts to bring down the costs of their required class materials by using open access textbooks and other electronic resources, making learning materials freely available to their students.  Recently, seven CLASS faculty members, who had previously been awarded Textbook Affordability Grants from the Michael Schwartz Library, were recognized by the CSU Student Government Association with Textbook Hero Awards.  Among these faculty are Lisa Bernd (Theatre & Dance), Kathy Curnow (Art and Design), Adrienne Gosselin (English), Shelley Rose (History), Sonya Charles (Philosophy and Comparative Religion), Melanie Gagich (English) and Emilie Zickel (English).  Congratulations to these award winners!

Finally, I wanted to highlight just how robust CLASS activities have been this fall.  “The Story of Us” campaign, for example, is in full swing, and you will continue to receive emails and messages on social media touting several of our programs.  When you receive these messages in your email or social media accounts, please do forward them to your list of contacts.  This will help us get the word out about the great work being done by CLASS faculty.

The Film School ribbon-cutting on October 11 was a big success.  A crowd of nearly 200 film students, faculty, and community supporters gathered to hear inspirational remarks by President Sands, Ronald Berkman, Ivan Schwarz, and Frederic Lahey.  Among those attending were a large number of local and state elected officials, who enthusiastically showed their support for the new school.  All in all, it was an auspicious beginning for what we hope will be one of CSU’s nationally prominent degree programs.

On the same day as the ribbon-cutting, the School of Social Work hosted two visitors from the Council on Social Work Education.  The two visitors were on campus as a part of the professional re-accreditation process for the school.  While on campus, they met with President Sands, Provost Zhu, representatives of the college, and school faculty, staff, and students.  This visit was the culmination of a long process of preparation, during which the faculty, under the leadership of Cathleen Lewandowski, wrote a multi-volume self-study.  Preliminary indications are quite good, and we look forward to a positive decision by the CSWE.

The ribbon-cutting and the school visitation are just two of the activities that have made this semester so busy.  Just recently we’ve seen our resident dance company, GroundWorks, give a fantastic performance in the Allen Theatre; John Perrine and his colleagues play cool jazz for a John Flower Series broadcast; Steve Cory hold his annual map walk exercise; and Lindsay Turner and Leila Chatti read poetry for the Poetry Center’s Lighthouse Reading Series.  In addition, Cathleen Lewandowski, Miyuki Tedor, Patty Stoddard Dare, and Wendy Regoeczi presented a fascinating panel discussion for the most recent Multidisciplinary Research Panel, sponsored by the CSU Office of Research.  And the rich variety of activities will continue.  I’d like to call your attention to just a few upcoming college events:

  • The People’s Art Show, Galleries @ CSU, October 26th through December 7th.
  • Ben Kiernan, Sociology Lecture on Genocide, November 5th, 6 p.m.
  • Violet, November 8-18th, Allen Theatre
  • 5th Ohio Archaeology Symposium, November 9th, Berkman Hall Auditorium, 12:30 p.m.

The more we can make Northeast Ohio aware of all the positive activities (like these) of our productive CLASS faculty and staff, the more we will help grow public confidence in our institution.

Best wishes,