Few show at forum

Rachel Abbey

Town meeting produces talk about policies

Interdisciplinary education and university songs were some topics discussed by faculty and administrators yesterday at the Academic Town Meeting.

This open-forum meeting is held every year and gives members of the university community an opportunity to express concerns and offer suggestions directly to Provost Paul Gaston.

While disappointed in the light turn-out, Gaston said the discussion was worthwhile. About 40 people came to address issues in a more casual setting than usual, complete with refreshments and lacking the formality of microphones.

The informality of the meeting was attractive to many faculty members in attendance. Kathe Davis, associate professor of English, said one of the best qualities of the meeting is the unpredictability, because anything can come up.

“I haven’t known them to be anything but productive,” she said.

Those in attendance expressed regret that more people did not come. Dave Keller, interim chair for Teaching, Leadership and Curricular Studies, said he would like to see more participation from both faculty and students. He said students would have a lot to offer at a meeting discussing concerns and suggestions such as this one.

After addressing the outcome of the Board of Trustees meeting in Columbus earlier this week, Gaston opened the floor to discussion. Questions and comments were quickly volleyed for the remainder of the meeting.

While some, such as the possibility of an academic bill of rights and the recent sculpture by the Art Building were only briefly discussed, others sparked in-depth conversations in the group.

For example, the subject of interdisciplinary education, or education between more than one field of study, created a heated discussion. While Gaston said the university has not had a strong history in interdisciplinary teaching, faculty members spoke in favor of the practice, saying it enriches education and better prepares students for the future.

This style of teaching would encourage teamwork between departments, which Gaston said ties in with another item discussed at the meeting. The university has been encouraging faculty to become more involved with students, creating a “culture of caring.” After finances, connection with faculty is the most influential criteria for retention, Gaston said.

Another issue brought up involved finances and faculty positions. Gaston said recently vacated positions will be maintained but may be filled with a lower level faculty member. While the decision was difficult, tough financial times force the university to make such decisions.

The meeting was a place for more light-hearted concerns as well. E. Timothy Moore, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, mentioned some students had told him they would like to see a new alma mater being written for the university. This issue was also discussed, and one concern was its inclusion of only the Kent campus.

“For every concern you hear,” Gaston said, “there might be 10 alumni whose hearts would be broken.”

The possibility of a more modern university song was discussed. However, this meeting existed to debate and discuss, not to create conclusions.

Directly after the meeting, a reception was held for the new dean of the School of Nursing, Julie Johnson.

Contact academics reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].