Implementation Committees Address Strategic Plan

Oliver Bok and Eliza Guinn

Implementation committees for the Strategic Plan have started meeting. That much is clear.

Everything else — from who is on the implementation committees to how the implementation committees will interact — is far more obscure.

The process is byzantine, but the stakes are high. The Strategic Plan is intended to guide the Board of Trustee’s decisions for the next five-ten years. Among other proposals, the plan recommends developing “theme-based course clusters,” creating a new advising system and increasing diversity in both the faculty and student body.

The plan advises “analyzing current operational and capital expenditures, determining appropriate tradeoffs, and reallocating resources.”

Implementation committees will help determine what sentences like that actually mean in practice.

In the spring, the General Faculty Council — including six elected faculty members, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the Dean of the Conservatory and President Marvin Krislov — established an ad-hoc committee for Strategic Plan Implementation. The ad-hoc committee includes the GFC, two members of staff and two students: double-degree senior Hayden Arp and College junior Jesse Docter.

The ad-hoc committee’s main purpose is to appoint members to the implementation committees — a function fiercely contested by Student Senators, who believe that student representatives should only be chosen by students.

After negotiations, Student Senate achieved the ability to nominate students to the implementation committees, although the ad-hoc committee still has the final say over the decision.

Last semester, the Student Senate threatened to issue a vote of no confidence in the GFC’s ability to implement the Strategic Plan. Senators were frustrated not only over the perceived lack of student representation, but also by an implementation process that seemed to raise as many questions as it answered in terms of how key issues would finally be resolved — such as what would happen if two of the implementation committees made recommendations directly in conflict with each other.

Several recommendations in the Strategic Plan seem to be in conflict— it’s unclear how the College could simultaneously reduce tuition, increase faculty compensation, reduce the endowment payout and increase diversity. The question of who will make the final decisions is far from academic.

While the plan indicates that “we” as a community will make these tradeoffs, Student Senator and member of the committee for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Thobeka Mnisi questioned what that actually means.

“The point is that the ‘we’ is supposed to be everyone, but it’s not actually everyone,” Mnisi said. “Defining the ‘we’ is so important, because that means the people who actually make decisions.”

Student Senate liaison and double-degree senior Jeremy Poe criticized the lack of transparency in the implementation process as a whole.

“Information about the implementation process was different based on which administrators or faculty we spoke to and when,” Poe wrote in an email to the Review. “This conveyed to Senate that this process was not systematic, but rather being improvised based on private conversations between administrators. Absent clear rules for student inclusion, it is easier for students to be tokenized.”

Dean of Arts and Sciences Tim Elgren emphasized that in addition to the implementation committees, there would be subcommittees that would actually perform most of the work, and that student representatives would be extremely important to their functioning.

“The goal is to engage the folks here who have expertise in these various areas to draw them in as subcommittees to work on those things, so the representation happens,” he said.

In addition to choosing members, the ad-hoc committee has created five Strategic Plan implementation teams: Advising; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Resource Management; Curricular and Co-Curricular Innovation and Support; and College Governance.

The ad hoc committee has appointed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team, co-chaired by Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo and Associate Dean Pablo Mitchell. Student Senate nominated four student members, three of whom were selected by the ad-hoc committee. It will hold its first full meeting this week.

The Resource Management implementation committee — chaired by Director of Finance Mike Frandsen and Vice President for Devlopment Bill Barlow — has begun to meet. Senate nominated three students, all of whom ad hoc appointed.

According to Elgren, the Curricular group will start this semester, and the co-chairs are Elgren and Dean of the Conservatory Andrea Kalyn.

According to Elgren, the ad hoc committee will continue to play a supervising role throughout implementation.

“The [ad-hoc committee] is part of essentially the stewardship of the implementation process of the Strategic Plan itself,” Elgren said. “The idea is that by creating these implementation groups, all those groups report back to that extended GFC. That group is what is moving all things forward.”

A Steering Committee consisting of staff, faculty, administrators, students, trustees and alumni wrote the Strategic Plan over two years.

General Faculty — which includes Student Senate — approved the Plan in early February, followed by the Board of Trustees in early March.

However, approval by the General Faculty was not unanimous.

“In the General Faculty meeting, Student Senate unanimously opposed the adoption of the Strategic Plan, which does show the limitation of fifteen votes among hundreds,” Poe said.

Members of Student Senate were also concerned about the accountability needed to implement the reforms indicated in the Strategic Plan.

“I do think that the general response to these extreme challenges has been to create a plan and an implementation process that does not hold the administration accountable to the aspirations that they should be chasing,” Docter said.

As of this week, the ad-hoc committee has chosen the members of the advising implementation committee, and meetings of the committee are ongoing. Student Senate nominated three students for the committee, and the ad hoc committee accepted the nominations in the spring.

However, the co-chairs of the committee — Associate Dean David Kamitsuka and Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Ofori- Mensa — objected to the student nominees out of diversity concerns. Negotiations between Senate and the co-chairs remain ongoing.

It’s unclear who the co-chairs of the Governance implementation committee will be or when the committee will begin to meet. Student Senate nominated three students including Poe, but have yet to hear whom the ad hoc committee will select.