Facing backlash, college reforms slowed; responsibility shifted
Updated May 6
The embattled leader of Connecticut State Colleges & Universities wrote Tuesday morning that he is slowing implementation of a controversial plan for the 17-school system’s future and will leave planning for it to individual school presidents.
“I now believe that further implementation of Transform depends upon us slowing the process down. Based on the reactions we have seen across the system, I am of the opinion that faculty and staff on each campus must have a full discussion at the local level concerning Transform if we are to obtain full buy in and endorsement by all key stakeholders,” Gray wrote Tuesday morning to a steering committee that he appointed to implement the plan and that included faculty.
“I had hoped that would have been accomplished through the new steering group, but unfortunately that has not occurred. Therefore, I am transferring the responsibility for overseeing the Transform planning process from the Steering Committee to the college and university presidents,” Gray wrote.
The announcement is a major victory for some faculty, who have been voicing concern for months that decisions for their schools cannot be made by a central authority.
But faculty members on the steering committee saw its disbanding differently.
“We have been decommissioned. Another misstep, in my opinion — one that characterizes the continued refusal of the system to work with the faculty. It appears we were to have been window dressing. When it was discovered that the mannequins were animate, they were disposed of in short order,” William G. Faraclas, a professor at Southern Connecticut State University wrote to other members of the panel. “Presidents are much easier to program and control, not having tenure.”
Panel member, Stephen Cohen, a professor at Central Connecticut State University, Cohen wrote Gray of his concern.
The Transform steering committee “was, I believe, CSCU’s best chance — perhaps its last chance — to salvage a genuinely participatory, inclusive Transform that balanced the priorities of the system and the needs of the campuses, and truly enhanced the educational experience of our students,” Cohen wrote. “Now I fear that chance has been lost.”
At the last meeting of the steering committee four of the 36 Transform initiatives were adopted. But Gray has made clear he wants more of the initiatives to move forward.
“It appeared to me at that time that we were positioned to make great strides going forward,” he wrote Tuesday. “I sincerely believe that Transform CSCU 2020 has the potential for helping us make important improvements within our system…
“I had hoped that the Steering Committee’s structure, with representation from across the CSCU system’s institutions, would be sufficiently reflective of faculty and staff interests on individual campuses so as to create the momentum necessary to move forward with the Plan. Clearly actions taken since the April 23 meeting now suggest otherwise,” Gray wrote.
Some faculty have taken issue with initiatives in the Transform plan to offer more courses online and create a standard set of courses for the community colleges, whose credits are guaranteed to transfer to any of the four Connecticut State Universities. The faculty feared these changes would reduce their academic independence.
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