gather varied input on Virginia 2020 reports
will be no shortage of input for the University's leaders to review
as they sit down in the coming months to turn the Virginia
2020 recommendations into an action plan. Faculty, alumni
and students have all weighed in with their comments and questions.
Robert Hull, professor of materials science, here with doctoral
engineering student David Longo (seated), is heading research
efforts in the new Center for Nanoscale Design. The Virginia
2020 Science and Technology Commission is proposing nanotechnology
as one of the areas that should be enhanced.
raising the University's profile in some areas lead to decline
in others? Should the University take on new initiatives, or pay
more attention to its aging infrastructure? Do the recommendations
go too far in some areas, not far enough in others? And who's
going to pay for all of this, anyway?
are questions that have been raised during the public comment
period that technically ended at the close of December, although
reaction is still being accepted, according to Laurie Kelsh, the
University's chief planning officer.
At January's Board of Visitors
meeting, Kelsh broadly outlined some of the concerns that need
to be addressed. "We need to make more connections between
these reports. We need to accommodate and maintain existing strengths,"
she said. "We did not explicitly address diversity."
The four original Virginia 2020 commissions -- charged with elevating
science and technology, the fine and performing arts, international
activities, and public service and outreach at the University
-- published their draft reports in the fall. All four of the
chairs report widespread enthusiasm for the general thrusts of
their reports, if not all of the details.
Student volunteers from Madison House, one of whose programs
is depicted here, told the 2020 public service commission
that they hope the University will help the organization find
support in the future.
Nov. 30 meeting of the Arts
& Sciences faculty highlighted two major concerns. First,
faculty members worried that a fund-raising emphasis on the chosen
2020 areas might drain support from areas of current excellence.
Dean Melvyn P. Leffler noted that it was "preposterous"
to think that the English department, for example, would retain
its top-five national ranking with mere cost-of-living-type funding
increases over the next two decades.
It is not clear to him, he said, how much fund-raising support
areas outside of the Virginia 2020 fields would receive.
faculty's other general concern was whether repairing the aging
infrastructure of many of the main Arts & Sciences buildings --
particularly Cabell, Rouss and Cocke halls -- was being put on
the back burner. One faculty member's suggestion that renovations
should be addressed before any of the 2020 recommendations drew
murmurs of support.
closer look at reaction to the reports, commission by commission,
Jones, who chairs the Science and Technology Commission, said
there is consensus that the sciences need improvement. "The community
realizes that technology is playing a larger role in life, affecting
choices that our graduates make every day in life," she said.
"The need for all of our graduates to be literate in science and
technology is now an imperative."
commission's first four recommendations, aimed at general improvement,
have been particularly well-received. They include three separate
$100 million endowment funds to support faculty research start-ups,
improve the quality of graduate education, and to support grants
to jump-start new research projects, plus the establishment of
a central provost to oversee both medical and non-medical research.
The commission's other three proposals, to establish centers of
excellence in information management, quantum and nanoscale science
and biodifferentiation, generated more varied reaction.
said she was grateful to find that there have been no efforts
to substitute alternative areas of focus -- which she called "purple
spotted pelicans" -- to the three the commission selected.
Still, many faculty, at both the Arts & Sciences meeting and at
a Faculty Senate-sponsored December forum on the biodifferentiation
proposal, wondered how the proposed interdisciplinary centers
would relate administratively to existing departments. Would they
compete for funding and faculty lines? How much teaching would
faculty assigned to the centers be expected to do? Who would the
centers' directors report to?
assured attendees at the Faculty
Senate that all faculty would be assigned to departments first,
and that there would be no competition for resources. "We
are they," she said. "Maybe it's a little schizophrenic,
but it does work."
Arts & Sciences committee set up to review the Science and Technology
report also raised administrative concerns, and added that focusing
too strongly on the three recommended areas might constrain development
of other possibilities. "In science, there is no such thing as
a 20-year plan" that could account for the twists and turns
research might take, said biology department chair Raymond E.
Keller, who chaired the Arts & Sciences review panel.
Keller said, his panel strongly supported the Science and Technology
Commission's system-wide recommendations, and supported the specific
recommendations "with the caveats described above."
Jones said there is no need to separate the proposals for general
improvement and designated specialties; they can be done simultaneously.
"The two kinds of projects will appeal to different sources of
funding and different potential donors. One will reinforce, not
detract from the other, and the University will be a more vital
place if we pursue both kinds of objectives," she said.
and Performing Arts
This report may be the least controversial, but arguably one of
the hardest to implement, calling for hundreds of millions of
dollars of new construction and faculty hiring.
"Although it is bold in regards to how we hope to expand
and improve the arts at U.Va., most feel it is realistic and that
our goals are certainly possible to fulfill," said commission
chair Robert Chapel of the drama
He conceded that the report could have been more specific in addressing
diversity concerns, but said commission members were committed
to a diverse University and arts culture.
A representative of the student-run Campaign for Dance questioned
Chapel closely about plans for an undergraduate dance program
at a Dec. 7 forum to receive student input on the 2020 reports.
She feared that the report does not go far enough in its plans
-- proposing, for instance, that the dance programs share rehearsal
space with drama.
just hope as a student we make the vision as big as we can,"
said the recommendations aren't meant to make the University competitive
with top dance programs nationwide, but to provide a presence
now that may be expanded down the road.
department chair John Miller, who chaired the Arts & Sciences
review panel that examined the Fine and Performing Arts report,
said they approved of the report's "sweeping vision."
Their only concern was that the arts programs remain integrated
with the rest of the University -- that the physical separation
of the "arts precinct" not become a de facto split from
the rest of Grounds.
said the crucial factor will be funding. "Without adequate facilities
and adequate space, we have no chance for improving the arts at
U.Va.," he said. "If the buildings are improved, many things
Arts & Sciences panel that reviewed the International Activities
Commission report also questioned whether the commission offered
a grand enough vision. The current International Studies office
is terribly understaffed, said Jeff Legro, acting chair of the
government department, who chaired the review panel.
also questioned the commission's focus on regional studies programs.
Although he acknowledged that "you can't neglect cultural
literacy," he suggested that students studying abroad --
the commission set a target of 80 percent of undergraduates doing
so -- could study more than just the countries they visit, including
substantive themes that cross geographic boundaries like human
rights and international development.
B. Quandt, recently appointed vice provost for international affairs
as a result of the commission's recommendations, called the discussions
of the report "very helpful."
difficult part is to decide how to start and where to find the
resources," he said.
report remains a work in progress, he said. "I have heard that
we didn't aim high enough. I'm not sure that criticism will still
be heard when our specific proposals are seen."
Service and Outreach
Like her counterparts, Rebecca Kneedler of the Public Service
and Outreach Commission said she, too, had encountered mostly
"really positive enthusiasm from students and alumni."
absent from that phrase are faculty, who were cooler to the report's
recommendations. History professor Michael Holt, who chaired the
Arts & Sciences panel charged with reviewing the report, was particularly
critical of two specific items. One, an option to attach an extra
hour of credit to a course for participating in a related public-service
project, he panned as "pernicious." Some disciplines are
ill-suited to public-service projects, he said; students could
conceivably avoid such disciplines in search of more credit-rich
coursework, which "could wipe out entire departments," he
said the fourth-credit option was only included in the report
as an example of possibilities for including service in the curriculum,
and would likely be dropped from the final report
Holt was also critical of a "dual ladder" for faculty performance
evaluations, which the report said would "permit senior tenured
faculty to choose public service in combination with either research
or teaching as their primary activity, with the remaining activity
being of secondary importance in evaluating the individual's contributions."
Holt called such an idea a "sure route to scholarly mediocrity."
said Holt's criticism is misleading. "[Public service] is part
of our mission, by all of the statements you look at," she
said. "Where we get in problems with a few faculty is when you
get into the rewards system.
three [teaching, research and public service] have long been part
of the evaluation process," she added. "The hard thing about
teaching and service is that it's difficult to quantify it, and
hard to evaluate the quality of it."
stressed that the commission did not intend for public service
to be an exclusive factor in tenure and promotion decisions, but
for it to be considered more carefully in annual performance reviews.
also lamented that only one Arts & Sciences faculty member was
included on the commission.
students from Madison
House, the student-run public service clearinghouse, also
expressed some concerns about the report, although they welcomed
the focus on service itself.
than 3,000 students now volunteer their time through Madison House,
yet Student Council has mandated that its funding to Madison House
will be gradually discontinued over the next 10 years, said assistant
director David Norris.
"We would be interested to see some concrete statement of support
in the report for the long-term financial viability of Madison
House," Norris said.
University's deans discussed the 2020 draft reports at a Jan.
11 retreat. Their formal comments were forwarded to the commission
chairs, who are to respond by mid-February. President John T.
Casteen III, the deans, and Kelsh's office will then work together
to craft an overall vision plan, tentatively scheduled to be presented
at Casteen's April 18 State of the University address. A five-year
implementation plan is expected by January 2002.