Joe Podelco / Photo editor
President E. Gordon Gee said the university is in a strong position both academically and financially in his quarterly address to the faculty Tuesday night.
Gee began his 40-minute remarks with a tip of the hat to the relatively small crowd of about 75 faculty members and administrators.
“We forgot to note that only those who show up will receive a significant pay raise this year,” Gee said.
Despite the jokes and optimistic tone of the speech, Gee acknowledged the difficult times the campus and the world are facing and that this difficulty has left many people skeptical of government and even the education system.
But Gee said these turbulent times represent an opportunity for OSU to demonstrate its true value to the world.
“People are questioning institutions. In an era when the sum of the world’s knowledge can now fit in your pocket, big organizations are thought anachronistic,” Gee said. “I would of course argue the contrary, however. Our contributions become more vital, not less, in an information and knowledge economy.”
The president recognized the contributions of scientific study at OSU, but emphasized the contributions of liberal arts studies to campus and the world. This emphasis of the arts was a theme throughout the evening, which began with a poetry reading from OSU English professor and renowned poet Andrew Hudgins.
Myroslava Mudrak, professor of art history and chair of the faculty council, said she appreciated Gee‘s inclusiveness of the arts.
“I sense that he really does understand the value of the liberal arts,” Mudrak said. “Education is about more than a vocation and skills.”
Mudrak said no matter the area a person hopes to work in, education in the arts helps create a more nimble worker.
“The bottom line is that you are educating a human being,” Mudrak said. “This is a president that understands that.”
Gee also tried to clarify his position in the debate over three-year degrees.
The proposed state budget requires public universities to develop a plan to offer three-year undergraduate degrees for 10 percent of their programs by 2012.
Gee had previously expressed concern over the requirement, but gave a more measured opinion of the proposal to the faculty in attendance.
“We should not say you can’t have a three-year degree,” Gee said. “We should not have a race to a degree. It should not be the norm. It should be an exceptional opportunity.”
Mudrak agreed with Gee and said if a student is motivated, then a three-year degree should be an option.
“There are students who double-major. I know a student who triple-majored and graduated in four years,” Mudrak said. “It is about exceptional students who don’t need to be held back.”
Jim Kinder, OSU professor and interim director of physical activity and educational services, said spending four years in college has more value than the requirement recognizes.
“College is a wonderful transition period between adolescence and adulthood,” Kinder said. “The college experience is about more than a degree.”
Gee said the university made its case very clearly to state officials.
“We have been heard downtown,” Gee said.
For one member of the audience, the discourse between Gee and the faculty was a demonstration of what it means to be heard. Andrey Shcherbak is a visiting professor from Russia, who is lecturing on Russian politics and international studies.
Before heading to a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception, Shcherbak said he came to the address to see how the whole thing worked.
“It is a good tradition to address the faculty,” Shcherbak said. “At my home university it doesn’t happen this way. At least, not with a reception afterward.”