• October 25, 2014

Academic Changes at Kean U.

To the Editor:

The admiring portrait of Kean University President Dawood Farahi in "Big Changes Frustrate Faculty at Kean U." (The Chronicle, November 7) only gestures at the central issue of Farahi's tenure. Academic programs are being starved of resources as the "country-clubification" of the campus becomes the university's top priority. Since 2002, the year before Farahi took over:

  • University debt exploded from $46-million to $357-million.
  • Full-time faculty numbers­­—once almost 400—are now down to 325.
  • Adjunct faculty increased from 455 to 1,044 and now teach 60 percent of all classes.
  • Student-to-full-time-faculty ratio is now 49:1, up from 44:1 last year and 32:1 in 2001.
  • The university's budget has grown 50 percent, from $140-million to $210-million.
  • Tuition and fees have risen 92 percent, from $5,121 to $9,815.
  • Farahi's new schedule cut weekly class time by 10 minutes—a loss of an entire week per semester—but requires an extra trip to the commuter campus.
  • In short, students are paying more and driving more for less education. The State of New Jersey ought to complete a forensic audit of Kean University's finances, to be conducted by an independent professional free from political influence.

James A. Castiglione
Associate Professor of Physics
President, Kean Federation of Teachers
Kean University
Union, N.J.

***

To the Editor:

In the midst of a major economic downturn, colleges and universities can choose very different paths. One approach is to cut back, retreat, and rely on the status quo in the hope that things will get better. The other path is to assess operations campuswide and reconsider how we teach students from the ground up. Yes, the second path requires doing more with less.

I believe that challenges offer new opportunities. As part of an academic-reorganization plan at Kean University, we considered the question of whether or not traditional academic departments focusing on a single discipline was in the best interest of student learning. Indeed, redefining or eliminating departments is being considered on campuses nationwide. Instead of cutting back and offering fewer opportunities for our students, our academic reorganization includes new schools that offer our students more choices and the opportunity to study subjects across disciplines. The benefit of such an approach can be far more than operational cost savings.

We are just beginning a transition toward executive directors leading the new schools that will support students 12 months a year. Working with deans, these teacher-scholars can also increase research opportunities for students and faculty. Administrators and faculty share the common goal of enhancing student learning both in and out of the classroom. Many of our administrators continue to teach and collaborate with faculty and students on research projects. A healthy academic unit should always adapt to changing environments; breaking down single-discipline silos to nurture cross-disciplinary learning can be viewed as one example of punctuated evolution.

Jeffrey H. Toney
Dean, College of Natural, Applied,and Health Sciences
Kean University

***

To the Editor:

The academic reorganization at Kean University once again established an authoritarian model of governance, nothing more. It fits in the pattern of increasing the managing staff from 146 in fall 2005 to 165 in fall 2009—a 13-percent increase with no end in sight.

This is what frustrates the faculty. However, this alone is not the full Kean story. There have been significant academic achievements in multiple venues, including the Science Center, the introduction of a student-oriented culture through mandatory and certifiable advisement of students through faculty, a better use of time slots and space, a focus on scholarship and research for promotion, the availability of faculty to students over a four-day schedule, and so on. It appears that these changes are being vigorously implemented.

These are welcome changes and could have been and should have been implemented without sidelining the Senate, without the elimination of academic departments that have stood the test of time, without the authoritarian model of governance, and most of all without the unprecedented building spree that has placed Kean under severe academic constraints for the foreseeable future.

Mervyn D'Souza
Professor of Philosophy and Religion
Kean University

Comments

1. subramanian - December 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Education, as a mechanism of societal living, has transformed from the days when it was school or university based to one of universal occurrence not confined to any one or a few campuses. Tools and techniques have evolved to provide this at a more reliable and cost effective manner. Students can learn free from cultural, political and even religious biases in their own environments and be more productive, remunerative and even healthier. Given these advantages along with the cross-disciplinary assimilation and use of knowledge available in these newer mediums, educational institutions housed in concrete structures are unlikely fair well. Kean University and its President Farahi are not alone in this distress. More disruptive innovation or even punctuated evolution of the academia may not be able prevent their extinction.

2. tay192 - December 20, 2010 at 08:56 am

What is the term, now, "business facing"? I recall the Chronicle profile of Kean's president in which some of these concerns were first raised. Unfortunately, the possible shame and embarrassment of being viewed nationally as a "dictator" has not caused a change in approach. Furthermore, if it is any consolation to Kean faculty, this management style ("Bully CEO") is not unusual. In the interest of "money-interests" and ideological commitments, these types of administrators seem to be what boards of trustees want--sadly.

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