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University of Toledo students question five-year plan at forum

Staff Reporter

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:02

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Bob Taylor / IC

Approximately 80 people attended a forum hosted by Main Campus Provost Scott Scarborough Tuesday night about Imagine 2017, his strategic plan.

For more information on the provost's five year plan, visit the IC's online resource for 'Imagine 2017.' 

The deficit, smaller class sizes and flipped classrooms were some of the topics students questioned Main Campus Provost Scott Scarborough about at Tuesday night’s student forum. 

Student Government hosted the forum and about 80 were in attendance to hear about Imagine 2017, the Main Campus strategic plan.

Scarborough said he wanted to hold the meeting to allow students to have an impact on the plan as it begins to take shape.

“The next three months are going to be a living hell,” Scarborough said during the meeting. “If you go through this type of change with all these people who are passionate and intelligent, not only in this room, but our faculty, these conversations are not going to be easy.”

Many questions involved how UT planned to deal with next year’s projected $36 million deficit, which Scarborough said it will be a year and a half process to fix the deficit. 

“For the last two years, on top of losing the $20 million from federal stimulus money, we’ve also had enrollment decline exceed what we thought,” Scarborough said. 

Proposed class size changes entail a minimum of 30 students in a class, compared to the current 24. This opened up dialogue about student to faculty ratio. 

 “Colleges with a smaller student to faculty ratio are generally ranked better because those students get more individualized attention in their classes,” said a student in the crowd.

Scarborough said problems wouldn’t be created from increasing the size by a few students. He said in comparison, UT still has a better student to faculty ratio than larger universities.

Students also questioned the idea of “flipped classrooms,” which involve students watching lectures online as homework and spending class time to discuss material that is usually worked on outside of class.

Several students were angered, and some didn’t think spending time outside of class to watch lectures was a good idea. 

“I would have to go online and potentially watch 18 credit hours at home,” another student in the crowd said. “Now if I have a job on top of that, or even if one of my classes doesn’t assign homework in the room, where am I finding all this time?” 

Scarborough said the flipped classroom concept would only be applied to certain classes. He emphasized that the plan does not involve adding extra work on students, because students would be “literally flipping” their workload.

SG Cabinet member Elizabeth Greer, a senior majoring in public health, said the changes at UT are scary but she is happy there is a plan in place.

“I have a lot more confidence in where our university is headed,” Greer said. “I was a little unsure for a while and it’s always frightening to everybody. I think we are all here because we want to make sure our degree is going to matter, that it’s going to be relevant.”

SG Senator Ben Lynn, a sophomore double majoring in history and political science, said the forum was interesting as well as informative.

“It cleared up some misunderstandings, some cloudiness about the provost’s plan and the entire Imagine 2017,” he said. “It was nice to see so many people there that had so much concern. It’s good to know that something of this importance is definitely high on people’s radar.”

Some students disagreed with the plan and what the outcome of the plan will do.

“I was appreciative of the provost coming and addressing us, however, I feel not everybody’s questions got answered,” said Alcy Barakat, a senior majoring in biology. “The plan is still so vague and not put together. There are still a lot of questions students have and even the questions that had an answer weren’t even too clear or too direct to the students.”

Scarborough said he thought the feedback was good and helpful to the students.

“I’m hoping whatever concerns students had, they had an opportunity to express those, hear something that calmed those concerns and learn something about the plan so they can be optimistic about it,” Scarborough said.“Even those who were aggressive did it from a sincere place and I didn’t think anybody was over the line tonight.”

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