Excerpt from the June 19 newsletter:
Clearly, in spite of the marketing strategy, UA faculty, students, alumni, and community members already know what a “polytechnic” is, and they do not like it. At best, they see a “polytechnic” as a university where engineering and polymer science rule, and everything else is irrelevant. Based on decisions now being made at UA, they may be right. The College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering currently has 32 full-time faculty (two may be retiring), and their presidentially-approved strategic plan is to increase that number to 50. In Arts and Sciences, however, where faculty numbers have been shrinking for years and dozens more are planning retirement this summer, only one is currently slated for replacement with a tenure-track position. Going forward, the president plans to find funding for his priorities of engineering and polymer science, yet fund other faculty lines only if there happens to be any money left over. As he said on June 10, “This budget was strategically constructed to fund the high priorities and then to fund historical commitments up to available funding levels.” We’ll note that it was a “fund the faculty last” approach that originally created strong support for a faculty union..
Disturbingly, turning UA into an engineering school is not the worst that alumni, students, and prospective students fear: others see a “polytechnic” as primarily a vocational or trade school. Many have quoted the dictionary and Wikipedia definitions to that effect. They trust these sources more than the marketers’ efforts to dust off the roots of “polytechnic” in Greek terms meaning “many crafts” or “many arts.” Some have pointed to Britain’s “polytechnic institutes” rebranding themselves as “universities” because they believed that label was an upgrade. Fears of “Ohio Polytechnic” becoming the equivalent of ITT Tech are not assuaged simply by announcements of a new Center that will welcome professional dance companies to campus–a Center pursued by the School of Dance long before the current administration arrived. It is the only example of support for the arts and humanities that the president has offered.