About 60 University of Minnesota faculty, students and staff came forward Wednesday to express concern over the proposed Graduate School’s decentralization, including what the benefits would be and whether it should be restructured at all.
The open meeting was the first of a handful which will be held by the team in charge of making recommendations to the Provost’s Office.
When asked how the reconstruction will improve graduate education, the chair of the implementation team, Institute of Technology Dean Steven Crouch, said it was unclear.
“That’s a question that the committee will have to ponder,” Crouch said. “Centralized functions do not necessarily need to be in the Provost’s Office.”
Among the most prominent concerns was how restructuring the school’s central administration would affect the admissions process for incoming graduate students.
Crouch, however, said he would be surprised if there isn’t a new central admissions office put in place after the reconstruction.
Some faculty suggested all departments should remain centralized in the Graduate School, as they are now.
Former Director of Graduate Studies and current Assistant Chair of Political Science Daniel Kelliher said he would be “horrified with the idea of doing away with the Graduate School.”
He said his department’s experience with the school has been “wonderful.”
“[The Graduate School] has its own specific mission, which is graduate studies and nothing else,” Kelliher said.
Kelliher said it would be a mistake to move Graduate School administration into the individual colleges.
“Then you get into the politics that just really undermines everything that the Graduate School does quite well,” he said.
Crouch said if the committee decides that certain departments should remain centralized, their recommendation would be seriously considered, but ultimately, the Graduate School will be dissolved.
He also said it is still not clear where there will be any cost savings, which administrators have predicted.
Faculty also said they are concerned that their programs will not run as efficiently under the new structure, and Yuichi Kubota , director of graduate studies for the physics department, said restructuring the Graduate School could negatively affect international students.
“Sometimes shaking up the institution can produce something good, but transition can be tricky,” he said. “Even if we can make up a great system at the end, I’m afraid that the loss of education of our international students can be really fatal.”
Kubota said his department relies on the excellent students they get from foreign countries, and the effects of the transition are worth thinking about.
Although the implementation team is making an effort to meet with faculty, particularly department heads, Linda Lindeke , the assistant director of graduate studies for the school of nursing, is not satisfied with their consultation.
She said in the weeks since the restructuring announcement, she has only been solicited to have coffee with a member of the committee.
“That is not going to tap the kinds of insights, the deliberations that I and my other DGS colleagues could, and I believe should be contributing right now … when decisions are free floating,” Lindeke said.
The committee has already welcomed two department heads into their closed meetings, and they plan to solicit more guests, but Lindeke suggested getting additional opinions through a questionnaire.
“The danger in the model right now is that the committee will miss a lot of wisdom,” she said.
The University is looking to five other universities, including the University of Chicago and MIT, as models for restructuring the Graduate School. But Jennifer Gunn , acting director of the history of medicine program, said the University of Minnesota is much different from the small, private schools that administrators are comparing the University to.
“We have a much greater richness both in terms of the range of professional schools, but also in terms of agricultural sciences and things that those institutions do not have,” Gunn said. “When I look at them as models, I’m curious as to why they are appropriate models for us.”
Crouch said there may be better examples that should be considered.
The implementation team will continue to hold closed meetings on Fridays, but open meetings will be held at various locations throughout the University system, including the Duluth campus.
The implementation team is due to present their initial recommendations to the Provost’s Office by mid-April, but if necessary, administrators have said they will be given more time.