UT trustees support reorganization to strengthen academics

September 21, 2010 | News, UToday
By Meghan Cunningham

The UT Board of Trustees said it is encouraged by campus conversations to finalize a plan to reorganize the academic operations of the University.

UT President Lloyd Jacobs updated the board during its regular meeting Monday on the communication efforts surrounding the reorganization proposals, noting there has been uneasiness and tension, but he feels the conversations have been productive and have allowed him to receive input from across all sectors of the University.

Last week, two stakeholder meetings were held — one on each campus — in which faculty, staff and students were able to share their thoughts on the proposal offered by the committee of 12 people Jacobs convened to look at the organizational structure, as well as counterproposals that have since been offered.

Jacobs said the conversations were positive during those meetings and he continues to receive input; in fact, just that morning he met with the chairs from the College of Arts and Sciences to get their thoughts.

“It has largely been a constructive conversation that has strengthened the University already,” Jacobs told the board, adding that he continues to seek input.

Several trustees expressed their support of looking at ways of making proactive changes to the University that will enhance academics and better prepare for the future.

Trustee Susan Palmer said that she was initially against change but is now a strong supporter of what the University is proposing.

Trustee William Koester also noted he supports improving academic performance and encouraged the president to look to universities such as the University of Notre Dame that made changes for the better.

UT Trustee Dr. S. Amjad Hussain said he supports dialogue, but disapproves of the tone of some of the ongoing discussions at the University and called it “unbecoming of an institution of higher education.”

“I am appalled by the tenor of some of the conversation,” he said.

William Fall, chair of the UT Board of Trustees, said it is clear Jacobs has been deliberate and respectful during the conversations about reorganization. Fall noted it is important to connect with the past, but to be ready for the future, which has already thrown the University a curveball.

The University of Toledo learned late last week that the state of Ohio plans to defer to 2012 a total of $127.5 million set aside for state share of instruction dollars in fiscal year 2011. UT’s share is $7.9 million and UT leaders are now investigating its response to these cuts, explained Dr. Scott Scarborough, senior vice president for finance and administration.

Jacobs said this means nearly $8 million planned for this fiscal year will no longer be paid to UT and existing concerns about a difficult fiscal year 2012 — with a projected $8 billion shortfall at the state level — prompted the president to wonder if that money would ever ultimately be transferred to the University.

Dating back to his recent address to the community, Jacobs has said the stresses of the local, state and federal economies are requiring universities to think creatively about the way they deliver high-quality education most effectively and efficiently.

Jacobs plans to have a recommendation on University reorganization soon to offer the board and its Academic and Student Affairs Committee will discuss the recommendation at a planned committee meeting Monday, Oct. 11.

“Those recommendations will be consistent with the strategy of excellence the board has outlined,” Fall said. “I’m looking forward to hearing the president’s recommendations and discussing them as a board.”

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