volume 44, number 4
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

How Might RCM Change Graduate Education at Temple?
By Kime Lawson, Assistant Editor

   After the current fiscal year ends this July, Temple University will finally implement Responsibility Centered Management (RCM). The Faculty Herald has profiled this budgetary model three times in the past year and a half, in an opinion piece featuring the perspectives of four faculty members and in two interviews with President Neil Theobald and Provost Hai-Lung Dai. Not much has been said officially about how RCM will affect graduate studies at Temple, and I have heard a number of concerns from graduate students and faculty alike over the past few years in my own College of Liberal Arts and at meetings of the Faculty Senate about some recent trends in graduate funding being spread more thinly, so I spoke with C.F.O. Ken Kaiser, Assistant Vice President of Budget Jaison Kurichi, and Vice Provost Zeb Kendrick to address RCM's risks and to prognosticate the coming years of graduate studies at Temple under RCM.
    Anticipation for RCM has been positive generally, as the system will de-centralize annual allocations from administrators to the Deans of individual schools and colleges. From there the Deans, ideally in cooperation with their faculty, will captain the collective educational destinies of their units forward in what Provost Dai has called "a virtuous circle," with this year's funds re-disbursed from 95% of the previous year's course tuition total. The idea is that Deans are better experts than administrators to judge where the money should go because Deans are closer to the educational pulse of faculty and students, which C.F.O. Ken Kaiser calls "aligning authority with accountability." After the startup, the schools and colleges must be self-reliant with little to no help from centralized contingency funds from the President's Office. In best cases this budgeting method will encourage the schools and colleges to produce innovative course offerings and programs of study to draw outstanding students and new faculty hires. Perhaps the worst risk in RCM is schools and colleges engaging competitively in administrative "siloing," or creating redundant course offerings within their own units to keep students from fulfilling requirements and spending tuition dollars in other schools. This problem, however, could be countered with some proposed centralized funding such as the Provost's Strategic Investment fund to encourage more interdisciplinary work.
    Among faculty and graduate students alike I have overheard some concerns about how the new budgeting system could affect the overall operation of the Graduate School and graduate studies. Today's graduate students must be uniquely prepared by their programs to excel in a global context where the necessary training for interdisciplinary encounters is not stymied by departmental rivalries. The RCM model is designed primarily for undergraduate education, and the Graduate School itself is considered an "auxiliary unit" rather than a separate school or college in RCM. This potential narrowing and devaluing of Graduate Education could not come at a more inopportune time. The current state of graduate funding at Temple has barely recovered from the appropriation cuts that resulted from the recent recession. In many departments, and I am more aware of this trend in CLA, the number of graduate lines has diminished over the past decade and in some cases the funding for some lines is currently being split between multiple students. Fewer graduate students have been eligible for health insurance benefits, and some assistantships have been converted to externships. Splitting graduate student lines has also caused responsibilities to be spread more thinly. Graduate students without funding often have to work outside of higher education or teach at other universities, in addition to completing their studies on time, just to make ends meet because current "gradjunct" rules do not permit them to teach at Temple. A silo mentality or other possible problems under RCM could also hamper graduate funding and effectiveness, stifle interdisciplinary cooperation, or make graduate studies at Temple less attractive in other ways to the best potential students and faculty.
    Addressing the issue of siloing, perhaps RCM's most exploitable flaw, CFO Kaiser and Vice Provost Kendrick each said that the Office of the Provost would act as a watchdog for course duplications through a website called Temple Review of Academic Programs and Courses (TRAC). When graduate faculty propose new courses, they must post their proposal to the TRAC website for review by the Provost's Office and the Board of Trustees. If the Provost's Office notes any redundancies or duplications in the course descriptions, they will ask the faculty to change the course. TRAC should offer some centralized oversight to prevent siloing, and similar oversight will decide how the tuition earned from cross-listed courses will be allocated. In addition to TRAC, regularly scheduled reviews of Deans and programs and are also intended to maintain the accountability of each school and college along with a university-wide review of RCM after its third year of implementation.
    Another possible outcome of RCM to graduate education mentioned by each respondent is the outgrowth of existing and new Master's degree programs across the university. More tuition drawn from Master's students could give departments more freedom to "right size" or grow Ph.D. programs in congruence with their respective job markets. Zeb Kendrick noted that "Recently established innovative and interdisciplinary master’s degree programs in Biotechnology, Engineering Management, and Globalization and Development Communication are ... to be approved by the Board of Trustees in the near future." A job market surely exists for researchers from competitive science Master's programs, but fewer employment opportunities exist for students who only complete a Master's degree instead of a Ph.D. from most any department in the College of Liberal Arts. Market outcomes could possibly end up strengthening some graduate programs at the expense of others. Marketing, faculty resources and increased administration for new Master's program start-ups could also end up costing in the long run. An argument for downsizing liberal arts Ph.D. programs has been that it is unethical to send more students into a glutted job market, but bloated Master's programs will not do these students any favors either.
    Most of all, according to Ken Kaiser, RCM is "more about changing Temple's culture." While this might be great for administrators and accountability, a broader concern I have is how RCM could shape the culture of incoming graduate students. Since RCM is largely tuition-driven, the new budget may prompt programs to select fewer students who have financial need. I would hate to see a set of less diverse graduate students at Temple as a result of the new budgetary system. But one quirk of RCM is that its function and success lie with the people who manage it, so its outcomes can be as diverse as the leaders at the helm. Let's hope Temple's culture can change without compromising its mission both as a research university and as a place that realizes Russell Conwell's vision of expanding educational access.  •