Friday, March 25, 2011

This Doesn't Bode Well...Or It's The Dawn of a New Era

President Joel unleashed a bit of news that has the YU community buzzing. In his words:
    For two years now, we have been advancing the agenda of how best to provide undergraduate education for all of our students. We call that re-imagining. We have accelerated this process with the appointment of Professor Lawrence Schiffman as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, just a few weeks ago. We are now prepared to begin implementing what will be a multi-year course of action. The first step will be to take maximum advantage of all of our strengths by organizing the Stern College, Sy Syms School and Yeshiva College faculties into one Yeshiva University undergraduate faculty that will allow us to provide the highest quality education for our students with greater strength, flexibility, creativity and inter-disciplinary collaboration.
Yeshiva University is now going to have one core faculty that will service all three schools. Why would this be happening? Offhand, it seems like there are a couple of reasons.

1. It may indeed be useful to have one excellent core faculty that services all three schools so that there is a certain continuity in being a YU student, no matter the campus

2. Budget cuts and layoffs mean that extraneous faculty need to be let go

The problem with this potential initiative is that there are teachers who have specifically told us, during the course of their teaching at YU, that while they had taught for some time at the uptown campus, their responsibilities are such that they can no longer manage to do that, teach at Stern and also fulfill their other obligations. I hope this announcement does not mean that these excellent teachers will now be mandated to teach at both places, or else they will be let go.

Other students have been reading this announcement as signaling the dawn of a new era where the Sy Syms School of Business will be disbanded and business degrees will instead be offered through Stern College or Yeshiva College.

It's your turn to join the guessing game...what do you think these words portend?

Hat-Tip: Titian-Haired Goddess


Anonymous said...

This is what my father thinks:

1. some major problems with deans or senior administrators, so that schools had to be merged in order to enable the school to get rid of the positions of the problematic administrators;

2. the faculty of at least one school or department being so bad that they had to be dealt with by merging schools, so that the better groups of faculty could overrule and drive out the problematic faculty or departments;

3. a major financial crisis, because a “unification” of that type can be used as a way to eliminate courses and replace smaller sections with larger ones, making it cheaper to operate.

TPW said...

I think that these changes could actually end up being very good for the student body. There are currently courses of study that are only offered on one of the two undergrad campuses. And we're talking about important things, like certain languages (Greek and Yiddish at YC readily come to mind), journalism, and I'm sure a host of others. I hope that this "reimagining" merger thing will turn out to be a good thing.

I'm sure finances also has something to do with it too, though; always does.

EJB said...

I heard from a certain source (who may or may not be reliable) that YU expects to save 11 million dollars a year from the reorganization.

Anonymous said...

Too bad that YU didn't choose to get specific in order to short circuit the guessing game.
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

Trying to milk the faculty members to their maximum capacity by making them teach on both campuses and thereby assisting in lay-offs. And he thinks this will increase quality of learning/teaching. Wow.

Ezzie said...

It's a pure money move, I'm guessing. And a smart one at that - there's no reason teachers can't teach a full day of classes, particularly if they're being paid as full-time professors.

I'm also guessing Sy Syms is finally going to be going bye-bye.

The troublesome administration faculty comment is an interesting one, though.

Anonymous said...

BTW this paragraph is worth it’s weight in spun gold:

Over the next period of time, we will work together as a faculty and explore curricular and professional opportunities that emerge from being a unified faculty. We will now also begin a period of increased consultation with different constituents including faculty, students and alumni to get the best and next creative thinking to ensure the success of our students in their futures.

Joel Rich

Yitzchak said...

Ezzie, do you understand what the purpose of a research university is? It's not there just to educate the students. It's also there to promote the faculty's research. Part of the job description for faculty members of research universities is doing research in their field. And they can't do that if they spend all day in the classroom. Adjuncts can, but not professors. Most faculty members I know at major schools teach 3-5 classes a year. That's it. The rest of their time is spent on research and advising students. It's not just about the students. If you want it to be all about you, then go to a college, not a university.

Chana S said...

This is being done to save many. I know of a number of effective administrators who have been let go (from their administrative positions) as part of the restructuring. They will still teach. I believe that their positions are being combined and one administrator will run multiple programs.

Anonymous said...

i mean anyone who has ever gone t YU/Stern knows that about half the people in belfer can be replaced with a computer and about a majority of the people in any deans office work as much as about the office plant in the corner. also while there are some truly excellent teachers in the YU/Stern there are also some completely dismal ones who it seems got hired without ever meeting anyone in YU or giving a sample lecture. given that YU prof are some of the highest paid i dont see why they cant teach on both campuses, students shuttle back and forth all the time albiet for other reasons, why cant their be a prof shuttle, or pull a HU and have the prof teach on the shuttle like they do on the trains in Israel.

anything YU can do to cut off all the extraneous jobs that so inhibit the schools future growth is a good thing.

Yosef said...

I think it's likely to be a positive change. Combined departments will open up more course offerings to students. They've been sharing the whole history department for years, and I think it works well.

The YU Dean's office has been doing a lot of curriculum readjustments, and although I've been out of the school for a while, it sounds like it's been for the better. If Stern can take advantage of that, it might work out well.

And I know a lot of Stern students have felt they get the short end of the stick compared to their uptown counterparts (my sister is there right now, and she feels like that), so perhaps this will be a change for the better.

FTFM said...

Yitzchak is 100% correct. It's very easy to say "there's no reason teachers can't teach a full day of classes". Yes, there is. Teaching is an extremely demanding job and often one of the most under -appreciated jobs by both the employers and the students.

What do you propose by a "full day"? Most full-time faculty members at Yeshiva University who are not "Professors" in the PhD sense of the word teach four classes a semester. And those who are tenure-track members teach two or three and devote the rest of their time to research. I'm not sure you understand the demands that being a teacher entails. If a person wants to be an effective teacher, he or she must put a whole lot of effort and devotion into the job. Planning lessons, grading papers, homework assignments, quizzes, tests, office hours, answering scores of emails from students. And the salaries are not exactly competitive. Not to mention the fact that it's even more difficult to be an effective teacher if you unluckily happen to be part of a shoddy department.

In short, teachers who don't know how to teach may as well be fired. But those who actually do a good job definitely should not have additional loads placed on them, as their teaching will suffer.