Faculty votes for MA program
By Joshua Keating
The College faculty voted 43 to 12 last Friday to approve a new graduate program in education. This program would be the first of its kind at Oberlin since the early 1970s and College administrators hope to have it up and running by the spring of 2006.
The program will likely accept around 20 students when it reaches its full size. It is intended mainly for Oberlin graduates but will be open to qualified applicants from other liberal arts colleges as well.
Participants in the program will receive intensive training over the course of one summer and then begin working in the Oberlin public school district. The faculty of the department will consist of one full-time professor, one site manager and an adjunct professor. There will also be seven classes taught by part-time faculty.
The program is somewhat unusual in that it is aimed at students with liberal arts degrees rather than undergraduate education degrees.
“People will be banging on our door to get in,” said Psychology Professor Patricia DeWinstanley at last Friday’s meeting. “I will be proud to know that there are people out there and that they have a degree from Oberlin.”
By partnering with the public schools, the College hopes to help the school district perform better and, as a consequence, make Oberlin a more attractive employer.
“This will help us recruit and retain faculty,” said President Nancy Dye. “There have been many Oberlin babies born in the last few years, and they’re going to be going to kindergarten soon.”
This is not the first program that the College has sponsored in the Oberlin public schools in recent years, but this would be the largest cooperation to date. Provost Clayton Koppes brought this up at the Friday meeting.
“This is one of the best things you can do to improve the situation of the public schools in Oberlin,” he said. “Will this program solve all the problems? Probably not. Will it make a step in this direction? Absolutely.”
While most of the faculty clearly approved of the project’s intention, some had concerns about the economic viability of a new academic program at a time when the College is working its way through a financial slump and has announced it is considering reducing the size of other departments.
“Starting a new program at this time does not seem rational,” said Computer Science Professor Bob Geitz. “It’s going to take time and it’s going to take money, and we don’t have time and money.”
Neuroscience Professor Janice Thornton also worried about the long-term consequences of such a project.
“As a college, we have trouble getting rid of things,” she said.
According to Dye, the College will soon begin fundraising for startup capital for the project and intends the project to be financially self-sustaining after a few years.
However, the financial sustainability of this project depends largely on the fact that participants in the program will not receive the same level of financial aid as undergraduate Oberlin students. This worried some faculty members.
“About two-thirds of students receive financial aid,” said one professor. “If they suddenly can’t receive the same level of aid, what will that do to the level of students that fill this program?”
The proposal now needs to be approved by the state Board of Regents. If
approved, the College hopes to begin searching for faculty.