Oct 13, 2006

Transitioning to "Toledo Tech"?

University Hall at the University of Toledo The notion that every well educated person would have a mastery of at least the basic elements of the humanities, sciences, and social sciences is a far cry from the specialized education that most students today receive, particularly in the research universities. -- Joseph E. Stiglitz

(Toledo, OH) I received a leaked copy this week of the "White Paper" prepared by University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs, and my initial reaction is that this is yet another attempt by short-sighted administrators to gut the humanities and social sciences in favor of engineering and health services.

This controversial document is the basis upon which Dr. Jacobs intends to lay out the direction in which UT will travel in the next few decades. A short article on the paper is available at this UT link.

Dr. Jacobs envisions a university focused on the STEM² (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) curriculum. He believes that, by 2011, the University of Toledo should phase out "all non-state funded PhD programs." He argues that new PhD programs should be limited only in "STEM² and professional colleges; e.g.: Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, Doctorate in Nursing Practice, etc."

There are three key "thematic areas" that Dr. Jacobs believes should be the primary focus of UT:

1. The environment and its impact on human life, wellness, and health;
2. Renewable energy sources and uses of and intermodal transportantion; and
3. Cell signalling systems as applied to the maintenance of human health and the prevention, early detection, and treatment of disease.

Dr. Jacobs, it appears, views the future of UT as an organization in which the emphasis should be squarely upon a few narrow technical specialties, and in which other disciplines merely serve to prepare students for their futures as tomorrow's technicians.

Unfortunately, this type of philosophy is all too common in American universities. Facing declining tax revenue, many states have begun to cut funding to their public universities, preferring to support only those programs with immediate, short-term payback. In Ohio this trend accelerated in the 1990s; the state once supported about two-thirds of the operating revenue of state universities, but currently provides about one-third of the funds necessary to maintain the system of public higher education.

Budget-cutting at the University of Toledo Universities then pass on these shortfalls to students in the form of higher tuition and reduced services and programs. Dr. Jacobs is merely the latest in a series of UT presidents who have tried to develop a solution to the funding dilemma.

The University of Toledo in particular - and Ohio in general - will thus sacrifice long-term quality in favor of short-term financial shell games. The gutting of graduate programs in the humanities and social sciences (and likely the Colleges of Education and Business) and the "aligning of interdisciplinary institutes and centers to the research themes" (shorthand for slashing the budget of the College of Arts and Sciences) will only exacerbate the deteriorating state of higher education in Ohio.

"Penny wise and pound foolish" was the maxim my mother preached to me as a child, and this phrase succinctly describes the thinking of the new administration of the University of Toledo and the government of the State of Ohio.

Onward and downward, mateys!

(Full disclosure statement: the author is a graduate student in a "non-state funded PhD program" at UT whose department will likely be among the first that the budget-cutting chainsaws will slice through)


Maggie Thurber said...

HM - not having seen the document but only some reports of it, I'd have to wonder about other universities that may offer phd's in these specific fields. I'm curious as to whether or not there's any coordinated effort to ensure that various phd programs are offered within a region versus at every university - especially if they rely upon state funding for viability.

Guess I'd come up with a bunch of questions about availability versus nearness. Perhaps it makes sense for UT and BG to offer different, unduplicated phd programs. Maybe they already do - I don't know, but I wonder...

I've also seen some reports from the Board of Regents that they're looking at the same issue - should they fund duplicative programs at, say, 15 universities, or at 5 that are positioned geographically around the state?

I think this raises more questions than it answers....

microdot said...

I don't know enough about the issue to comment, but I would hate to see UT lose its School of Design!
There were some great teachers there in the 70's when I was a student!

historymike said...

Hi Maggie, thanks for weighing in.

Yes, I have heard the "duplication" argument. It's a bit of a misnomer, because scholars rarely "duplicate" each other. Of course, to the bean counters in Columbus, PhD programs at BG and UT look the same on paper.

The bigger question in my mind revolves around whether we as Toledoans want the University to be an intellectual center in the humanities and social sciences, or if we prefer to be a sort of uncultured intellectual backwater.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were a time in which Toledo's civic leaders saw the value in promoting the humanities, as evidenced by the development of such entities as the UT, the Toledo Museum of Art, and our library system.

IMHO - if we really "want Toledo to grow" (borrowing a phrase from Toledo Blade shill Jeff Heitz) - then we should not only protect the humanities but enhance their study.

historymike said...

Hi Microdot -

I believe the School of Design was carved up into its engineering and visual arts components at some point in the past (I may need to be corrected by a person mopre familiar with the history of UT in the 1970s and 1980s).

Mark said...

Holy crap, Maggie Thurber actually has an opinion. Hey Maggie, unless you actually want to suggest something that IMPROVES the city, I don't want to hear it.

I think it disgraceful that UT is discussing and scheming YET AGAIN to eliminate Arts and Sciences programs. My God, doesn't this sound like a broken record by now? enough, Enough, ENOUGH!

This ruined Vik Kapoor, and this never got off the ground under Dan Johnson. If this actually works this time, I'll be shocked, and I'd be happy having it ruin Jacobs as well.

Fine. Even though obviously the University thinks that its A&S majors don't have any money and actually follow the stereotype of working at McDonald's, I'm a law student and plan to make plenty of money some day, AND NOT ONE CENT IS GOING TO UT if they're going to cut back on A&S programs.

And there are more of us than Jacobs thinks. And we will speak up (eloquently) and let the entire city and state feel and hear our wrath if he wants to make cuts.

Sure, screw the future...that's the plan at UT. But it's the past that gives money and support to UT, and we WILL cut that off if the very programs that we graduated under will be gone some day.

By the way...so will Education be next? Because I doubt teachers will attend UT for the engineering programs.

Peahippo said...

UT is just chasing the myth that high-tech will save their university, the region, and the USA in general. Firstly, the high-tech areas of the USA have already been long established. Secondly, anything done in high-tech can be offshored with greater ease with each passing year. UT's tech grads will just pop out with massive debts, only to find that (at the very least) Toledo is hardly going to hire them, and that the collapsing auto industry in the region is not in the hiring mood, either. They'll have to go elsewhere. So, why not just attend a better school on the coasts since they'll just end up working for a corporation on the coasts, anyway?

Anyone who believes that Toledo should somehow go high-tech is living in a fantasy world. Jacobs is just doing as an institutional official what the politicians and corporate executives are doing to us: getting the working man to pay all the bills of our civilization while the elite take home the largest possible paychecks, grants and subsidies under massive tax exemptions.

Maggie Thurber said...

Mark - I asked questions but didn't express an opinion. In fact, the link HM provided states the same thing - that the report raises more questions than it answers.

HM - I agree with your perspective that programs can be different in reality yet look similar on paper - especially to those in Columbus. Perhaps you could clarify further - is UT looking to eliminate programs or just establish different priorities. Would establishing different priorities result, in the long term, in the elimination of non-priority programs?

As always, I appreciate your insight!

Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

While I'm skeptical of a "university" focusing on just a few things, from talking to faculty and staff down here at UT HSC (the former MCO/MUO), those who have been around long enough pretty much agree that Jacobs turned this place 180 degrees from where it had been heading.

I should note that UT's Engineering graduate program was just listed in the top 20 by someone, was it US News? I haven't seen any of their liberal arts programs ranked lately, so I'm inclined to believe a shift towards technology has been underway for some time.

But then, changes this big take a cooperative faculty & staff. Even if his ideas are great, they could still be torpedoed.

Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

And forgive me for the juvenile humor, but shouldn't it be not "Toledo Tech" but "Toledo Institute of Technology?"

Hooda Thunkit said...

As a not so recent graduate of Comm. Tech, after 1 year of engineering and the A&S courses that a 4-year degree offers, I would like to point out to Dr. Jacobs that the SIlicon Valley (Mecca, to him) is full of techno-nerds.

Technical training without the Arts and Humanities breeds people who cannot effectively interact easily with their fellow creatures.

In the late 90's and since, the Silicon Valley has developed an industry of civilizing these techno-nerds, turning them into better rounded and more social individuals.

In my limited experience, Dr. Jacobs is sadly mistaken in his beliefs.

Anonymous said...

A bit off-base (a "digression")
But until the Toledo Blade, as we know it, is history, they will dictate higher education, politics, economics, etc. in northwest Ohio with eery politician and public figure scared to death. The Darth Vader here. Now...the Blade propoganda.
I knew Jeff Heitz from almost the day he started as a street reporter for Channel 11, doing what I did and “on-screen”, I got to know him for 30 years of news stories and his journalistic integrity and ability.
All gone now… a “whore” for the Toledo Blade…how sad.
Has lost all he spent a career building for a few measly bucks from the Toledo Blade.
I am not “pro-union”, by any stretch of the imagination, but Heitz has lost even the semblence of a journalist…. a “shill”, a “propogandist”, “mouth piece”, could add more, but let you decide.
But give me a break…if the Block twins don’t make a profit (yeah, like they don’t), Toledo is doomed.
The Toledo Blade has tried to control northwest Ohio since the days of Paul Block, virtually unfettered…what goes around, comes

around, and everytime you see a Jeff Heitz Blade infomercial on the cable monopoly they own, (what, 48 times a day?) hope you believe that the best thing that could happen is if the “If it’s news today, it’s news to us” Blade goes under and a real newspaper company, takes over, Toledo will be much better for it.