Like anniversaries and birthdays, the close of a fiscal year invites reflection on where we’ve been and where we’re going. What marks the flagship’s trajectory?
Viewed from outside, the campus snapshot tells of a rough year. Faculty and staff may know of mission achievements, but often as not these remain well-kept secrets. Consult your favorite search engine for top “news” items about University of Maryland, and you’ll see what others around the state know of College Park. In recent history:
- We suffered a major data breach with the loss of much private information of employees and students, made possible by administrative neglect to basic security practices, …
- … then we suffered more breaches for want of adequate responses to the first.
- We spent tens of millions of dollars to switch to the “big 10” athletics conference even while cutting student programs, then …
- … surprised everyone with a mid-year tuition hike, which we followed a few months later with another tuition increase, including implementation of differential tuition (a wealth redistribution system to ensure affluent students seeking profitable majors will pay others’ tuition bills.)
- We went on a “real estate and building spree“, then flipped properties to private hands in order to place their development outside of state oversight; on campus we began construction of new laboratory and office facilities (to date only about 30 percent capitalized), then …
- … for want of space, we began phasing out parking for campus residents.
- We steered campus donations in private foundations, managed those funds in off-shore accounts, and continued a rich campus tradition of parking failed politicians on our payroll.
- We paid homage to the culture of cocaine-fueled fast living by inducting Len Bias to our basketball hall of fame, and ran interference for any number of today’s athletes to maintain eligibility in sports programs after they were indicted on a variety of crimes.
Where’s the scholarship? You can surf to the campus splash page for press releases, but commonly that is about as far as good news gets. The public largely isn’t seeing evidence of our scholarship, or it emerges in little ways (such as when a professor calls for men control.)
We’d like for the 2015 yearbook to depict an engaged community of scholars working diligently with shared purpose, but the available pictures have been photo bombed by administrators. Is it just that we need to do a better job of telling our story? What are administrators doing to foster scholarship?
Here is just one story line. As I write this:
- We don’t know who will take charge as the new Dean of Undergraduate Studies on Wednesday – if anyone. Donna Hamilton, who has skillfully served in this role, stayed an extra year at the request of leadership, but as her tour of duty winds down, the many critical programs in that college (not least of which is coordination of General Education content delivery) are in limbo. If leadership knows the outcome of an especially long search for Hamilton’s replacement, then they have not shared it with the rest of us.
- An extensive review of the Honors College is now a year old with no sign yet that leaders will act on the several concerns which were flagged. A search for a new Director has just kicked off, though its advertising asserts the role would be to start this Wednesday. The timing makes clear that nobody will be addressing challenges facing the Honors College any time soon.
- Nobody yet knows what will be ACES II – the upper-level component of our Cybersecurity Honors program. With the stroke of a generous check from Northrop Grumman, ACES became one of the Honors College living-learning programs, originally envisioned as a four-year opportunity. It has been refactored several times as the campus struggles to conform their promises to the donors with campus processes. Lacking its own content, it today presents to students as two independent 2-year opportunities which leverage experience-based learning in industry and individualized studies via other departments. ACES I is a degree citation, but even though it has been in the proposal stage for several years, nothing about ACES II has been approved. Students have signed up for it; they’ll be arriving here late August. They don’t yet know what courses or obligations it might involve; whether it will result in a degree citation, a minor or something else entirely; nor how it will overlap, or not, with their home majors.
- And pending information on what ACES II will be, nobody yet seems to know how it will be funded, since campus spent out the original donation getting us through ACES I. Maybe NGC will pay some more but we think they first want to see what they’d be getting, which would not be an unreasonable position.
Let’s roll up that story line: funding for a banner program for which students arrive next month remains blocked, pending approval of a curriculum of study not yet proposed, because it is backed up behind an Honors College Director appointment not yet made by the Undergraduate Studies Dean who the provost hasn’t yet announced.
I think other faculty will witness to similar story lines around campus, with impact ranging from practices of Office of Information Technology to the upending of teacher preparation programs.
Only Main Admin can speak to leadership priorities, but while the scholarly mission appears to languish, people have seen much effort invested on lobbying for beer sales at sporting events and county approval of Sunday liquor sales, plus developmental planning for conversion of Cole Field House from an open facility to a practice field dedicated to the juggernaut athletics program.
As the new fiscal year begins Wednesday, the snapshot we tuck away in our scrapbook does not depict a campus on the rise.