By ARMAND BUTERA
It’s 2020. Classes are at both the Metropolitan and Florham campuses, professors commute between Teaneck and Madison, and the Student Union Building is now planted in the Northpointe parking lot.
The future of the Metropolitan campus isn’t certain, but it looks clearer every day.
University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Gillian Small announced the merging of schools and programs across the Metropolitan and Florham campuses on Oct. 5. The decision came after the advisory committee, comprised of two elected faculty members from each college, three deans and one campus executive, voted to continue with the proposed restructuring on Oct. 1.
The news broke earlier this month when Small sent an email to faculty members regarding the future of both campuses. While some of the changes had been talked of earlier this semester, there was no official word on any developments until the email.
The restructuring will bring about the establishment of independent professional schools as well as a shared college of arts and sciences on both campuses. In an email sent to the Equinox, Interim Campus Executive Craig Mourton spoke of the committee’s vote.
“As the Interim Campus Executive, I only recently joined the advisory committee, but I know the group worked long and hard to identify the best plan to help the University move forward,” Mourton said. “There is much work ahead and many decisions that need to be made together, but I believe this structure will provide us with a great opportunity to become a stronger and more cohesive university.”
Another member of the committee, Interim Dean of University College Dr. Vicki Cohen, expressed her concerns about the national and statewide trends in higher education. She believes that the restructuring will help the university grow in the coming years.
“It’s a very difficult time for higher education,” Cohen said. “Many of higher education institutions are going under, and they’re not able to be sustainable anymore. So this reorganization allows us to be a little more nimble and flexible in terms of meeting some of the challenges that are ahead and allowing us make Fairleigh Dickinson University into a better, higher quality institution.”
While the university might benefit from the restructuring, individual faculty members have expressed concern with the changes in the curriculum on the Metropolitan campus. Cohen mentioned that directors from the Metropolitan campus and department chairs at Becton College will hold a meeting in the following weeks to discuss curriculum and checksheet changes. She also stressed that one of the requirements of the restructuring plan is that no student will have to travel between campuses in order to fulfill educational requirements , and hypothesizes that most of the courses offered on the neighboring campus will not be required courses for students.
Students are among those most affected by the proposed restructuring plan, but Political Science major Johnathan Miller is not concerned with commuting between campuses if need be.
“It doesn’t really change that much, because if there’s not a class here that’s offered [on Madison], I can just take it there,” Miller said. “As long as we can find the classes we need to take, it’s fine.”
Other students such as sophomore Sports Management major Christian Jackson would entertain the idea of commuting, but would prefer a kind of transportation system between campuses for those without cars.
“I can’t drive, so I’d have to find a way to get there,” Jackson said. “If it were to happen, I could just get through it. It’d be difficult, but if that were to happen, I’d just have to deal with it.”
Jackson noted that had he not already been enrolled at FDU, he might reconsider attending due to the coming changes in curriculum – a concern that’s echoed in Former Director of the School of Art and Media Dr. Karen Buzzard’s comments.
“Students would stop coming here for degrees,” she said. “They would just seek other colleges.”
Buzzard also said that faculty moving between campuses could affect students academically as well.
“If the faculty are commuting, that means they won’t be here advising or meeting with students because they’ll be gone half the time,” she said. “It will have a direct effect on students if they intended to meet with their faculty.”
By February, Small will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees for a preliminary report on the restructuring to go through Fall 2020, according to Cohen. After that, a timeline will be put in place. However, Cohen doesn’t think current students “are going to notice much of a change.”
“If you come in as a freshman, and you have a checksheet, that’s the one you’re going to be graduating with and are going to comply with,” she said. “So the first class that will really be affected will be the freshman class of 2020.”
Cohen also said she is aware of the concerns raised by students and staff.
“There is a lot of anxiety about the changes going on, and rightfully so,” she said. “It means re-aligning the curriculum, and sometimes it isn’t going to be as easy as we think it might be.”
Graphic by Cindy Kim.