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Rawson finds facutly vote 'perplexing'

April 4, 2013

By Samah Assad

In response to students’ uproar at President Berkman’s curriculum conversion forum, as well as the Faculty Senate’s vote of no confidence in Berkman, Rawson sent an open letter to the Cleveland State community via email on April 8. He stated the nine-member board has full confidence in Berkman despite the Faculty Senate’s mistrust.

“In the light of recent events, I wish to state unequivocally that the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees has full confidence in President Ronald M. Berkman and his stewardship of the University and that we stand behind our resolution to support a new curriculum model to help ensure student success,” the letter reads.

The Cleveland Stater contacted Rawson for interview, and upon his reviewal of questions, he agreed to respond via email. Joe Mosbrook, director of strategic communications, sent Rawson’s answers to The Stater.

Rawson said that he finds Faculty Senate’s vote of no confidence to be “perplexing” and “misguided,” and emphasized that the university must be aware of a distinction in that the vote is representative of the Faculty Senate, not the entire faculty.
Robert Rawson
“Frankly, I don’t understand why the Faculty Senate thought this vote would further the consideration of any issues or serve the best interests of the University and our students,” Rawson said via email.

In his letter, he questioned the Faculty Senate’s vote and cited examples of Cleveland State’s progress under Berkman’s presidency, such as a yearly balanced budget and enrollment growth (among others), to be indicators of his leadership at the university.

“The contrary view reflected in the Faculty Senate vote is perplexing, because all around us is clear evidence, and cause for celebration, of the substantial progress of CSU during President Berkman’s tenure,” the letter reads.

Despite the vote, Rawson does not believe there is a breakdown of trust between administration and faculty/students. Instead, he considers miscommunication to be the prime reason for any confusion on the curriculum changes.

“I don’t think this is an issue of trust,” Rawson said. “What we could have done differently, however, was communicate the issue more effectively. There is still a lot of misunderstanding about the issue.”

According to Rawson, the Trustees, along with Berkman and administration, have studied and reviewed this issue for more than two years, and the faculty has discussed it as early as 2007. However, many students and faculty members have stressed that the swift timeline will lead to the opposite of student success, such as students having to enroll in more classes, spend more money and possibly graduate at a slower rate.
Faculty will also have to redesign their courses to accommodate the three credit model.

However, Rawson said that current students will not be negatively affected by the changes once the curriculum is put into place despite the short timeline. In his letter, he said the current system disadvantages Cleveland State students and that the Trustees believe the three credit model will be to students’ advantage.

“It does not change the overall amount of class time or work needed,” he said. “Students will graduate in the same amount of time as under the old system — or sooner — and they will pay less because the new system will eliminate the need to take unnecessary credits toward graduation.”

Some students have expressed their fears of the curriculum change flipping their entire degree program as it will be implemented in the middle of their college career.

At Berkman’s forum, students raised the questions of whether or not there will be a mixed system — one class being offered as a three- and -four credit course simultaneously, and how that will work successfully.

Rawson explained in his letter that the new system will not apply to current students and “therefore has no impact to them or their progress toward graduation” because the university is bound by a state mandate that allows students to complete the curriculum that was published in the catalogue when they registered.

When asked why the implementation date could not be extended, he said that Cleveland State is 14 years behind on the change, following its conversion to semesters in 1999.

“We need this as soon as reasonably possible,” he stated.

The Trustees developed a website (csuohio.edu/conversion) in which Rawson said clarifies some questions and misunderstandings that people may have about the conversion. He also mentioned that the Trustees will monitor the progress that the faculty and administration make on a quarterly basis, as well as better the communication with the university to relieve misunderstandings on the issues.

“To address the controversy,” Rawson said, “we are heightening our internal communications efforts to clarify the misconceptions and make everyone aware of why this is necessary, and to encourage a constructive conversation.”