Friday, November 1, 2013

Comments on the Strategic Plan from a Faculty Member Who Decided this was not her Battle

by Barbara Regenspan
Associate Professor of Educational Studies

At this late date I want to present the reality that some of us, myself included, who love teaching and writing, and are grateful to Colgate for providing us with a place to do both, did not believe there was a way to usefully contribute to the strategic plan process.  Quite frankly, and here I will speak for myself, in an era where global warming is getting about the same attention as the Kardashian sisters, where poverty and cynical wars continue as though they were not our problem, and where public schools are being systematically defunded as an out-of-control standards, testing, and “accountability” movement eviscerates the K-12 curriculum, I believe that Colgate should not be considering its own survival in a context that fails to address the reasons why the focus of the strategic planning document is almost entirely on gaining a competitive edge to attract “the best and the brightest.”

And let’s be honest: The expensive sports facility, the costly downtown museum, and the efforts to globalize without making the elimination of poverty and war the central focus of our “interest” in the globe, were done deals before participation was invited.   Need blind admissions, which I support, is not primarily motivated in the only way it can be meaningfully justified:  to attract a group of young people without financial resources who will dedicate themselves to addressing the problems that are currently dooming the globe.  Also, although the intentions of “Living the Liberal Arts” are positive, even noble, many faculty believe that the campus fraternity culture, supportive of the campus excessive drinking culture, will cancel out the potential effects of these fine initiatives. 

Colleges and Universities need to be aligning with one another to create a coalition of public intellectuals dedicated to reversing the current non-sustainability (socially and environmentally) of our world, including the negative social habits that the narcissistic, non-sustainable culture teaches our young people.  It is unconscionable to me that we focus instead on our own survival in the ultra-competitive context created by the fact of this non-sustainability.  

I needed to write this brief letter because I am not a cynical person, and because I genuinely respect the individuals who worked hard to create this document, including some whom I know share my general views about it.  My position on the strategic plan is that I cannot support it, but that I also do not have the right to insist that it do what it was never intended to do.   I recognize the contradiction here, that my livelihood is dependent on the functioning of an institution whose strategic plan I cannot support.   But such contradictions are a reality in times of national and global crisis, and I believe we are living in such a time. 

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