Illustation by Samantha Sarvet
By Megan Quint///News Editor
Controversy and discussion surrounding pressure by the board to institute more business programs on campus has embroiled the faculty in recent weeks, as Lewis & Clarks struggles to define where entrepreneurship belongs in a liberal arts program.
This discussion comes in response to a purported mandate from the Board of Trustees, who have said that they “would not fund other programs until a Business Program was installed” at the College of Arts and Sciences, according to a letter written by Professor of Religious Studies Alan Cole.
LC historically had a business program, and many board members are involved in business, which has been rumored to be a motivating factor behind the move. Cole cites additional motivations in his letter, including the claim that “a more robust business/entrepreneurship program would provide greater ideological diversity on campus,” attracting students with different interests as well as more male students.
Cole and other faculty members have concerns about the effects of instating such a program, concerns which they were able to express during interdepartmental Business Task Force Report discussions in February and March. The first of these, as Cole said in his letter, is a concern with “curriculum initiatives arriving from on high.”
Students also had mixed responses when the idea of a business program was first presented to the ASLC Senate in October of last year.
“I love the idea of a business or entrepreneurial major. Those are relevant skills, and would enhance our diversity,” said Senator Tyler Church (‘14). Others expressed concerns about the additional cost to students of programs such as Winterim and other entrepreneurial workshops.
Another large issue raised by faculty is the fact that business programs are not generally associated with liberal arts colleges, and is irreconcilable with the college’s image and the students it attracts.
“Like it or not, we have a board whose members do not universally recognize how a liberal arts education differs from other colleges,” said Sr. Professor of Natural Sciences Paulette Bierzychudek at a discussion on March 1.
“Our students come here as real explorers who want to change their minds. They come here ready to have their minds changed,” said Associate Professor of English Kurt Fosso, who also said that any business program instituted will need embrace the college’s quirkiness.
Rigor is also a common concern.
“I look at empirical evidence,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy Rebecca Copenhaver. “Business programs are the lowest performers at undergraduate student learning. In addition, students who are attracted to business majors are consistently the lowest performing students. Also, there is no evidence to support the claim that schools with a business program have a different sex ratio.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Chemistry Tuajuanda Jordan has been working as the key liaison between the Board and the faculty to reach a solution that will satisfy both parties.
“We have to get something done,” said Jordan during a Business Task Force Report discussion with faculty on March 1, “the question is to find a way that makes it work with the faculty.”
“They said that in the past they had in mind a business major because that’s what they knew from when they were in school,” said Jordan during a discussion on March 9, who says that the Board has been open to her suggestions. “They told me that they trust me.”
“They now understand that the faculty controls the curriculum, said Vice President and General Counsel David Ellis at one Business Task Force report discussion. “They have heard it meeting after meeting. They get that. But they are very interested in doing things that will benefit our students. They are continuing to push, trying to find out what we should do as an institution.”
At the current time, the compromise that Jordan has found to be most agreeable to both the faculty and the Board has been an emphasis on entrepreneurship.
“My thoughts are that there cannot be a business program at the College just by the nature of where we are as an institution and looking at our faculty and students,” said Jordan on March 5. “The idea is to introduce students to some basic business principles if they’re so interested, and then give them opportunities to engage in entrepreneurial activities.”
These activities might include internships, grant writing workshops and related courses. In the short term students will have the opportunity to earn a certificate in entrepreneurship, and, in the longer term, a minor or major in Entrepreneurship or a major in Management of Science.
Challenges with this plan include funding, primarily in regards to bringing in appropriately trained faculty and staff members. In her presentation, Jordan estimates the total cost of these activities, both short and long term, at $709,000 annually, between personnel and other funds. No money will be taken from the College’s endowment to fund these activities.
“I would encourage you to put the worry about the money in the background,” Jordan said to faculty members at a discussion on February 27.
“I have had conversations and have no doubt that no money will be taken from the current endowment to fund this and that it will bring in money to the college, and our endowment will grow. I have been guaranteed.”
Rather, it seems at least some of the funding will come directly from the Board themselves. “Several board members told me after the presentation that if we get this going, they promise there will be money to support it,” said Jordan on March 1.
Evidence of these doubts comes in the form of the Curriculum Committee’s rejection of Personal Finance, a business-related economics course that was proposed in February.
The minutes from this meeting reveal the connection between this course and the larger plan for a business program, reading “Dean Jordan informed the Committee that this course proposal is part of an ongoing response to the Board of Trustees’ wish that the College better and more proactively prepares students in areas that enhance their potential success in entering the business/entrepreneurial field.”
However, they also state that it “is not meant to start a business major or department but to provide students with new knowledge and perspective.”
The committee’s reasons for rejecting this course included the fact that the course emphasized teaching life skills and did not have an essential academic focus. “Teaching financial life skills belongs in places such as Student Support Services and not the academic curriculum,” read the meeting minutes.
Committee member Associate Professor of Biology Greta Binford suggested the course title be changed to Financial Literacy, and “[frame] the curriculum in such a way that begins with those necessary personal skills but then ties them to a global landscape, showing students how their personal financial decisions can impact the broader economy.”
The minutes for the Business Task Force Report discussions can be found at http://college.lclark.edu/administration/dean/business_task_force/.
The minutes for the Curriculum Committee can be found at https://college.lclark.edu/live/news/13315-curriculum-committee-minutes-20112012.