Friday, August 10, 2007

What is the University For?

Officials (full disclosure: the people who cut my check) at the local institution of higher education here in Laredo – Texas A&M International is a part of the Texas A&M System that wouldn’t exist but for a 1987 MALDEF lawsuit that sought to rectify the disparity between higher education funding in South Texas and the rest of the state -- have decided to axe our Social Work program because more students are interested in business degrees and marching bands.

Citing financial losses and student apathy, TAMIU closed its seven-year-old, nationally-accredited social work program. Its phase-out will be complete in 2010.The university's decision sparked an outcry among department members and students, as well as community social workers.

"It's very hard to believe that this university, given the tremendous need for social work in the community, will not support this program," said Elaine Davila, a former instructor. She is now employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The program has about 42 student majors and 12 minors, a number that department officials say is comparable to other universities. But Texas A&M International University officials say enrollment is too low.

"If we had 80 majors, we wouldn't be having this discussion," said Ray Keck III, TAMIU president. "We thought that the great, great, great need for social work in Laredo would translate into a great interest for pursuing it. That didn't happen. (The program) has been in trouble for a number of years."

At this point, Keck said, TAMIU has two areas needing more funding: business and health sciences.

[ . . . ]

TAMIU Provost Dan Jones said, however, that few Laredoans are interested in social work to begin with.

"We live in an area that has a high poverty rate, but social work is not a career path that many students choose," Jones said.

[ . . . ]

"Our recruiters who go out to the high schools will market and respond to what students ask about," Keck said. "I've asked them, and they said they have never had a student ask about social work."

Setting aside, for the moment, the Provost's strange choice of conjunctions, above (sadly, I don't think he even meant to say "We live in an area that has a high poverty rate, so social work is not a career path that many students choose"): what kind of high-school student -- particularly one talking to a recruiter from a regional state university -- says he is considering social work as a major? How many high school students in a historically ignored and underfunded part of the country even know what social work is?

Still more from Keck:

Furthermore, the role of a university is not to provide programs that meet the needs of a community, Keck said.

"We're not funded to provide what the community needs. We're funded to provide the education that students want to pursue," he said.

For the record, I'm really just asking: is this what we want from higher education?

Maybe we could build a drive-through lane . . .


Anonymous said...

It's ironic how a higher education is supposed to open the student's mind to new ideas,as well as help the city grow and progress by preparing its citizens to become active members of the community,but yet again is administrated by some of the most closed minded people in the town.

Anonymous said...

mmmmmm free's all about supply and demand, baby.....f@#k reading and learning...maybe they should put together a major in "gaming"...the recruiters wouldn't even have to "market" the damn sells itself....

pepe carvalho

helmut said...

Damn, I got into university life to accumulate vast sums of wealth. I sure fucked up.

Anonymous said...

I'm astonished the a state/regional college thinks it is totally isolated from its community's needs. They pay the tuition, the taxes, and most important, provide the political support that sustains the campus, its employees, faculty, and other resources. What I have found is that that clueless HE administrators get that way because both the community and the campus have effectively decided the other is irrelevant. No wonder there is so little support for HE. Try checking out the National Talent Market Initiative that attempts to use the "talent" that that is transformed by post-secondary education as the crucial component in an open "market" where employers, individuals, and the community can expresses their mutual needs for future economic and social growth. Right now, the market for talent has no idea what you have, and the raw talent has no idea what talent the market will reward. Until HE takes a role in meeting the talent needs of its communities, much of our talent will be wasted and mis-directed. If you want to see how it can work, visit:

Anonymous said...

Gilbert Ramos, LCSW

Anonymous said...

Keck allocated more money to his pipe organ then he did to the Social Work program. Way to go Keck, you lost a valuable program that benefited the community.

Anonymous said...

Keck, looks like UT took the some of your students away. That social work program you said was not needed, well UT has it, in Laredo. You seem to be losing revenue... again. How's that 500k organ doing? Pulling any new students your way?

Anonymous said...

No, seriously, is your 500k organ pulling in more students then the UT social Work program is? How many Social Work Graduate students graduated this past year from UT Laredo? Lots. Keck, you are a financial wizard. You tore down the SW program from TAMIU, and you know what, it was the best thing you could have done to it; it became free of your mismanagement. Hey, Hook'em!