Faculty approve new major, debate OWU’s future

When the call to adjourn the faculty meeting echoed across Merrick’s third floor, faculty and administrators breathed a collective sigh of relief.

This Sept. 21, faculty met to discuss issues ranging from ways to increase revenue streams without compromising educational quality to the merits of a new major.

President Rock Jones initiated the discussion on ways to improve OWU’s incoming revenue by offering final statistics on the class of 2019. He reported that there are 464 freshmen, 14 more than were projected and thus budgeted for.

Professor Karen Poremski of the English department asked “what kinds of implications does that [number] have for budget, specifically in regards to the very painful cuts to personnel and classes right before the school year started?”

Jones replied that, unfortunately, in order to net those students, OWU had to leverage financial aid options. As a result, “there is no extra revenue from those extra 14.”

Jones also outlined his analysis of the areas where improvement could bolster the university’s current financial situation. Three in particular need attention, he said: “Admission, retention and new programs.”

Due to targeted recruitment on the part of the Admissions Office, school visits are up slightly, and a small pool of interested students have been contacted by OWU (as opposed to the broad, 40,000 student search typical in past years). “New promotional materials, and a new website, that will be released next month, will also enhance [OWU’s] appeal,” said Jones.

In terms of the retention rate—a low 79.3 percent—the administration is focusing on a number of strategies to provide assistance to students who are in danger of dropping out. Jones noted the importance of programs like StART, FreshX, and the UC 160 courses. Beyond that, he and senior leadership are looking at “all aspects of life on campus through the lens of how it affects students.”

Finally, Jones argued that “with demographics changing as dramatically as they have, if we offer only the programs we have in the past, the numbers will stay down.”

When it was time to ask the president questions, many faculty countered Jones’ three categories for improvement with categories of their own. On the top of the list was the state of residential facilities. Professors noted that students often complain about the outdated and even neglected buildings that they call home.

One professor even said that this was the number one complaint of students when she was on the Faculty Planning Committee ten years ago.

When Chris Wolverton, professor of biology, took the podium to present the Governance Committee’s recommendations for increasing revenue, he emphasized student happiness.

“Retention looks to us like a mountain to climb,” said Wolverton. “It seems like a jog around the track to keep students we already have. We need a thorough review of student happiness; that is a valid question.”

Wolverton went on to compare investing in new programs to playing the lottery. “When you put keeping students up against the potential investment required for new programs, coupled with the uncertain revenue from a new program, keeping students that we have is a much better payout.”

Professor Mark Allison of the English department commented that “The portion of the student body we have the most problem retaining are those students whose academic performance is poor. The problem is also one of admission; we have to have a more educated base.”

Anne Sokolsky, a professor in the comparative literature department, supported Allison’s comment, adding that some of the “big cuts made to the library and to academics as a whole are counterintuitive to recruiting smart and talented students.”

Despite these and many other complications that feed into an analysis of OWU’s revenue stream, Wolverton wanted to make it clear that there was no area that should be left unexamined.

“There’s a lot of room to grow, I just think the broader we can make the conversation the better,” he said.

N. Kyle Smith, associate professor of psychology and chairman of the Academic Policy Committee (APC), turned the conversation from revenue streams to academic majors when he introduced a motion to approve a new area of study.

The department of economics submitted a proposal to APC to create a business administration major. Business administration majors would deal primarily with the management/accounting side of the department’s offerings, rather than on traditional economics courses.

Many faculty members were concerned that the integrity of OWU’s liberal arts philosophy would be threatened if the already large economics department grew larger still.

Smith and Barbara MacLeod, a professor of economics, assured their worried colleagues that the major would not take away students from other departments; the change would only affect students already within the department.

Still, the debate was contentious enough to warrant a motion for a “secret ballot,” a procedure that allows faculty to vote anonymously on measures before them. After the ballots were distributed, collected and counted, the motion to create a business administration major passed 59 to 19.

Smith introduced the second economics-­related motion to the assembled faculty. The department of economics had also submitted a proposal to APC to petition a name change for one of their minors: they wanted the “Management” minor to be renamed “Business.”

The seemingly uncontroversial motion provoked almost as much discussion as the first, and again a secret vote was called for. The motion passed 65 to 8.

Faculty discuss changes to faculty handbook

Discussion centered on problems with the budget and changes to personnel policy at the Ohio Wesleyan faculty meeting on March 23.

Provost Chuck Steinmetz expressed concerns about faculty involvement in the budget problems in light of the recent closure of Sweet Briar College in Virginia.

Sweet Briar College, a small, all-women’s liberal arts college near the Blue Ridge Mountains, announced on March 3 that it would be closing in August, citing financial problems, according to The Washington Post.

This announcement came as a shock to both OWU faculty and students.

Steinmetz does not want the same thing to happen at Ohio Wesleyan; he proposed to have a summit in May for him and the faculty to discuss strategies moving forward.

“This has been a difficult year to serve as your provost,” he said. “The faculty needs to take the time to come together as a faculty on the future of OWU.”

Sean Kay, professor of politics and government, and Dan Vogt, professor of chemistry, also brought up concerns that austerity measures the university is taking to fix the budget won’t work. Instead, they could lead to faculty and student dissatisfaction.

President Rock Jones responded by saying that he thinks “austerity does not drive prosperity,” but he still supports the budget.

Other faculty expressed concerns that the Board of Trustees are not doing their jobs and that they are taking hits themselves with no rewards in overall salary. This came after the announcement that there would be a freeze on salary and compensation pools for next year.

Chris Wolverton, professor of botany and microbiology as well as chair of the committee on university governance posed a question to the OWU faculty.

“How can we make OWU one again, instead of fiefdoms, which don’t work,” he said.

Faculty also discussed at length the proposed changes to the personnel policy in the faculty handbook.

After much discussion and many presentations by various professors, the changes were approved with a vote of 65 to 24.

Faculty discuss branding and class changes at meeting

Discussion centered on the issue of how Ohio Wesleyan portrays its message to prospective students at the Monday faculty meeting.

President Rock Jones announced that MindPower Consulting, based in Atlanta, will visit campus next week to meet with faculty and tour the university.

“MindPower is a sharp, clean, forward-thinking firm,” said Susan Dileno, vice president for enrollment.

The goal in bringing in the consulting company is to better present the message of Ohio Wesleyan to prospective students, especially the OWU Connection. Such programs include Theory-to-Practice grants, Travel-Learning courses, Course Connections and student individualized projects.

Jones said this campaign should focus on developing a comprehensive message of what we [the university] are promising students. He said they need to find a way to better present the opportunities in the OWU Connection, especially the student individualized projects (SIPs) because they are more compelling.

Amidst concerns from faculty members about the effectiveness of hiring an outside firm to better tell the message of OWU, Jones said this company will provide expertise and creative thinking and it is not unusual for universities to pursue this route.

He added it has been 10 years since such a comprehensive look from a consulting firm has happened at OWU.

Professor of English David Caplan brought up the concern of cost for hiring MindPower.

Jones said outside of the normally printed publications and yearbooks, the range would be around $200,000.

“I appreciate the candor and depth of thought,” Jones said at the end of his report.

Changes to classes

The Humanities-Classics department split into the comparative literature department and classics program at the end of the spring semester last year, but the course designations stayed the same.

The Academic Policy Committee approved the transitions of formally addressed HMCL classes to the new designation of CMLT and CLAS at the faculty meeting.

Anne Sokolsky, associate professor of comparative literature and head of the department, added that the previously labeled HMCL 124 Love and Sexuality classes will now be four separate course numbers, which allows students to receive credit for taking the class with different professors.

She said each class is completely different from the other and focuses on different locations and literature.

Previously cross-listed courses between botany/microbiology and zoology, such as ZOOL/BOMI 120, will now be addressed as biology courses, BIOL 120. These classes will still count as both botany/microbiology and zoology classes in terms of distribution, according to Paula White, professor of education and chairperson of the Academic Policy Committee.

The faculty also approved the addition of four new permanent additions to the curriculum.


Three deceased members of the OWU community were remembered through memorial resolutions.

Verne Edwards died in November 2014. He taught journalism at Ohio Wesleyan for 34 years and was the advisor for The Transcript and had an impressive resume of journalism work in the field.

Chaplain Jon Powers honored Reverend James Leslie who died in October 2014. Leslie was the first full-time chaplain and director of religious life at OWU for 28 years and helped support numerous clubs and organizations at OWU, such as founding the Student Union on Black Awareness (SUBA).

Catherine Schlichting was an honorary alumna who died in July 2014. She worked her way up from a reference librarian at Slocum Library to being the curator for the Ohio Historical Collection. Catherine Cardwell, who read her memorial, commented that she was a source of knowledge for anything about OWU, and the phrase “ask Cay” was often used.