A Response to Provost Englert’s “White Paper"
By Joan Shapiro, Professor of Educational Administration and
Vice President of the Faculty Senate
Dear Colleagues of the College of Education,
I am responding to Ken Thurman’s request, as Chair of the Collegial Assembly, to react to Provost Englert’s Proposal for the Creation of a School of Education.
At the outset, I would like to say that I am concerned about the two central ideas within Provost Englert’s proposal. From my perspective, the changing of a name of an institution is not something to be treated lightly; and the folding of three departments into one department is a crucial revision and may lead to a number of unintended consequences.
First, let me address the title change of our institution. For many years, I have thought that those of us in Teacher Education, School Psychology and Educational Leadership, for example, have been preparing professionals. We respond to state mandates, have to deal with certification issues, and must address the standards of our scholarly organizations. But this is not the case for all of the diverse programs in our College. Some of our programs are not subject to the varied requirements that we face in the professional areas. They draw upon a broad range of students who may or may not go into education. Thus, to create a professional school with a single mission of preparing educators may leave out a number of our current programs. It also seems to me, in the 21st Century, that we should be broadening the scope of this College, by seeking new student populations, rather than narrowing the mission. Even if our students do not become educators, they can use the important knowledge from our field in an ever-increasing array of careers. Additionally, if changing from a school to a college is meant to be a cost saving objective, I do not understand how this can be so. Not only do we have to change all of our advertisements and stationery, but our alumni/ae may not respond favorably to this transformation. After all, we have been a College of Education at Temple University since 1919!
The suggestion of moving from three departments to one department, I find to be even more troubling. I could locate only one of the #1- #9 ranked educational institutions in the most recent U.S. News and World Report that focused more on programs than on departments. Department chairs have served both administrative and supportive functions. Without that layer, I believe we will suffer a true loss of discipline identity and mentorship. Departments were developed because there was a need for them. In addition, the role of the one department chair is not clear. It could be queried: Is this person a dean? How would this individual, who really runs all the programs, be different from a dean? And how would this chair respond to the demands of over 60 faculty members?
It is interesting to note that a number of schools/colleges of education have tried the interdisciplinary model, suggested in the report, and all too often, these innovations have not survived the test of time. One cautionary tale comes from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. There a dean eliminated departments and attempted to create interdisciplinary areas, such as aesthetics education. It turned out that high quality faculty were extremely hard to recruit because they could not understand where they belonged within the institution. They also were especially fearful of moving towards tenure in a broad-based area that might not recognize or understand their discipline. In addition, departmental responsibilities became confused, and teaching loads, faculty lines, and even the budget were in a state of disarray. Within a few years, UNC returned to familiar areas and the dean stepped down.
To my knowledge, only Stanford, ranked currently within the top ten education institutions, has been successful with a model based on programs, and it really is not Temple. Stanford is a private, elite institution while Temple is a public institution with a social justice mission. Having run an interdisciplinary program for almost a decade (Women’s Studies at University of Pennsylvania), I know how challenging it can be to work across the disciplines. Moving across the programs in this new school might not be as easy as the Provost envisions. Also, the centralizing of staff, which will occur with the demise of departments, could be unhelpful. Currently, our staff knows our students and helps to develop positive relationships between the faculty and students. This function could easily disappear under the new model.
Most importantly of all, I believe that by becoming one department, an unintended consequence may occur in a few years. A single department can easily be placed into one of the larger schools/colleges, suggested as options in the first Provost’s report on restructuring.
Thus, I am deeply concerned about the two major changes suggested in the Provost’s proposal. I think we have to take very seriously these revisions and determine if they will enable us to flourish in the future. As you can tell from my letter, I am doubtful that they will serve us well over time. •