The Arizona Desert Lamp

One White Paper to Rule Them All, Part I

Posted in UA Transformation Plan by Evan Lisull on 8 November 2008

Things have obviously been busy here (VOTE!); enough so that we somehow missed the release of the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee’s decision [PDF] on the 75 white papers that came through.

Suffice to say, it’s a pretty important step; this is stage two, before the actual proposals come in, the proposals that will actually be implemented. We’ll be going through this in more detail, but for now, an initial gloss.

First, the review provides a list of proposals that have made the cut to the “Full Proposal Stage” :

#112 Graduate Program in Integrative Insect Science
#115 School of Geography and Development
#118 Umbrella Program for Graduate Training in Molecular Life Science
#125 School of Information Science, Technology and Arts
#127 Literary Arts Emphasis
#129 Future of Science and Mathematics Teacher Development
#137 Department of Mexican American and Raza Studies
#140 School of Animal Systems
#141 Institute for Mineral Resources
#146 Consortium for Critical Analysis and Social Change
#147 Research Institute for Arts in the Americas
#149 Disability Studies
#151 Arizona Center for Educational Success
#153 Educational Studies or Teaching and Learning
#154 Leadership, Higher Education and Policy
#158 School of Anthropology
#159 School of Plant Sciences
#162 Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture
#164 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
#185 Near Eastern Studies

We haven’t been through all of these (yet!), but there’s nothing here that immediately stands out as a bad choice.

The SPBAC review buries the lead, though, in its analysis of the proposed school of Government and Public Affairs:

The merger proposed in #138 has positive potential and the support of the affected units.
Therefore, we recommend development of a Full Proposal. We suggest that the proposers  explore possible collaboration between the proposed School of Government and Public Affairs and the Udall Center and, likewise, that they explore collaborations with UA South, particularly with regard to the Criminal Justice program.

We recommend that no further action be taken at this time on #150, pending the outcome
of #138.

Two notes here: one, the committee is really trying to smooth over the hard feelings over Portney’s stab-in-the-dark on Public Administration, assuring the program that if this merger falls through, they’ll still have a home at Eller. Secondly, you really do have to wonder why UA South exists in the first place. The Criminal Justice program is one of the major offerings of the school, which already operates in an awkward no-man’s-land between big school university and community college. Assuming that there are serious tuition increases, it increasingly becomes either an expensive community college, or a shoddy version of UA-Tucson.

The review, however, is straight-up disappointed with the papers by the Arizona Health Science White Papers:

More generally, the SPBAC Transformation Subcommittee is concerned that the Arizona
Health Sciences Center (AHSC) colleges and units have not fully utilized the White
Paper process to explore the opportunities for improvements and innovations. We
recognize that this is likely due to the fact that the Arizona Health Sciences Center is in a
transition period with new Vice President for Health Affairs, Dr. William Crist, just
beginning in this position as we write.

Among the papers singled out with no mitigating praise are those of the Sarver Heart Center and the “Tripartite Reorganization” of the College of Medicine. The review goes on:

Therefore, our overall and strongest recommendation is that the “Transformation”
process for AHSC be re-started under the leadership of the new VPHA.
We
recommend that Vice President Crist bring together the Deans and Faculty of the four
colleges to explore possibilities for cross-college collaborations, mergers and other forms
of restructuring to achieve collective and individual prominence and success.

If this were a college paper, it would read, “Please Rewrite.”

The review then tackles the the Broad Issue of “College-Level Structures,” and the many proposals for new Colleges on campus. The SPBAC cites a lack of  “adequate information” as to whether or not this would be a good idea, as it pertains to rankings and keeping up with the Jones’s in the Association of American Universities.

The school is surprisingly gung-ho on the Honors College, dropping this tidbit:

The committee encourages the Honors College to be as creative as possible in developing
solutions; at the same time, we acknowledge that additional funding, or a redistribution of
resources, might be needed to support and build on the excellence represented and
advanced by the Honors College. The strengthening of the Honors College is a priority,
which should not be lost sight of during this time of transformation.

This is at least partly influenced by a “Let’s at least keep up with ASU” sentiment, but the strengthening of an Honors College within a major state school is a model that has been modeled at Georgia, South Carolina, and the University of Maryland.

As far as general education is concerned, the paper saves some its harshest rhetoric for the asinine proposal to “specialize” Freshman English:

#126 raises legitimate concerns about the writing skills of our undergraduates. However, we do not believe that the proposed solution, which would be to dismantle the Writing Program and relocate writing instruction to the disciplines, has been properly informed by expertise regarding writing instruction. Nor is it clear that it would cut costs as claimed.

It also recognizes the stark divide between the two futures for General Education: specialized faculty and courses designed specifically for Gen Ed (as proposed by the VP for Instruction), or an expansion of students taking 100 and 200 level courses (as proposed by ASUA). The review’s proposal?

. . .we recommend that the Provost appoint a committee, on the model of an Academic Program Review (and thus including external reviewers with expertise in the relevant areas), to provide an authoritative and independent review of Foundations (to include not
only writing skills but also mathematics) and General Education.

If there’s anything this school needs, it’s more committees and reviews.

The rest of the analysis largely consists of the committee taking papers of similar themes (such as the eleven papers relating to Earth and Environmental Sciences), and telling them to get together and form a common Proposal.

Yet out of recommendations, a bit of certainty for a few programs on campus:

#133 Arizona Research Laboratories
#156 Arid Lands Resources Sciences GIDP
#160 Cancer Biology GIDP

These white papers do not propose the reorganization of academic units but, rather, argue that the proposing units should remain as they are. We are persuaded that these units should in fact remain in their current form. Therefore, no further action is needed on these proposals.

Looks like the “Don’t Tread on Usattitude fared pretty well in the process.

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