Wither thou, Lit Major?

It’s 2019, Lakeland fills the bowl of Polk Parkway, and your daughter wants to go to a state college. Why? Because you raised a smart and frugal child.

She wants to be a Literature major. Why? Because that’s what she loves.

So you send her to live in Gainesville. Why? Because over a decade earlier the local state school, the University of South Florida Lakeland, decided the future was in creating employees and not educated citizens.

That’s the world I envisioned after reading Billy Townsend’s article on the direction Marshall Goodman wants to take with USF. That short piece caused a bit of debate in my household on Sunday.

My wife believes in the dream of Marshall Goodman. She thinks this is the best future for USF Lakeland. On the other hand, I believe we’re selling short the university, the city, and our youth.

If you want to understand what she believes, you’ll have to ask her. This is my website.

I’m sure Marshall Goodman’s vision of a polytechnic school will be realized. It’s his university to run. And he has very capable and intelligent people who believe in his vision. Like the staff of USF Lakeland, USF Tampa, and the fine congresspersons representing our community.

However, that doesn’t mean his plan is completely without flaw. I feel the flaw won’t be in the execution, but is built into the currently presented concept.

I admit I want a full-service, four-year state university in my hometown. One that teaches well-rounded students in a healthy variety of subjects.

Here’s how Billy Townsend characterized Marshall Goodman’s Plan:

Marshall Goodman wasn’t hired to build a regional branch campus. A University of South Florida “mini-me” for Lakeland doesn’t interest him. — Tampa Tribune

What does that say about Lakeland? That Lakeland doesn’t deserve a full four-year state university? We don’t need a state university that prepares students for all walks of life? I agree, we don’t want a mini-USF Tampa. We deserve a full USF Lakeland.

Townsend writes, “USF-Lakeland plans to focus its resources on teaching and research in information technology, applied health and biotechnology, manufacturing technology, business and education – with an emphasis on producing math and science teachers.”

Compare that to later in his article, “But beyond simply giving 550,000 Polk residents and others in nearby rural counties access to a full-service, four-year university, Goodman said the campus aims to transform the way they live and work. ”

Now, wait just a second. Giving over half a million people access to a “full-service, four-year university” isn’t what we’re reading in the rest of Marshall Goodman’s published statements.

I have nothing against Marshall Goodman. He was hired by USF to see this plan through. When he arrived in Lakeland, The idea didn’t spring like Athena from his head. Marshall Goodman has championed hands-on technical training since his time in Milwaukee, on through to San Jose.

Marshall Goodman was provost at San Jose State University for three years, and now he “envisions a 16,000-student north Lakeland campus that recruits would-be techies from all over.”

I don’t see a problem with recruiting “would-be techies from all over.” But, what about local students who aren’t techies?

“It won’t be a place for English majors.” wrote Townsend.

Why can’t we have both? I grew up an absolute math nut. In high school, I was state math champion. I took math tests for fun and taught myself BASIC. But when I got to college I needed more. I needed classes on philosophy. I learned from classes on history. Eventually I gave up engineering for journalism. I took all those classes at a single metropolitan university. If we depend on USF Tampa for those classes it means traveling 100 miles a day. Doesn’t that sound like USF Lakeland really is turning into a USF Mini-Me; a campus that’s merely a sliver of what is offered in Tampa?

I don’t believe Marshall Goodman is against Art and Music. When he took the position as Provost at San Jose State University it had schools of art & design, music & dance, and (egads) journalism.

Maybe this is just a case of the VP/CEO using the media to hard sell the “students as future employees” concept to business leaders? Goodman, while dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Letters and Science, expressed the belief that students need different perspectives.

“I strongly believe that one of the most critical elements of liberal arts education is its international perspective,” he says. “That comparative perspective is absolutely critical.”

As a professor, he strives to get others to understand the need to bridge gaps between American culture and the rest of the world. “In business, those who can successfully do that will have the greatest advantages by far,” Goodman said.

Well said.

I believe focus is important, but not to the detriment of diversity. We need well rounded students. We need students who understand the technical isn’t the be-all and end-all of our future. This was well understood by James Rhyne Killian:

“I have suggested, in summary, that an institute of technology must function as a university polarized around science, engineering, and social technology. It has an inherent obligation to be of service to industry, to government, and to society generally. Its base must be a strong undergraduate school, working in partnership with a powerful graduate school. It has a continuing obligation to maintain the endless frontier of engineering and science.
To meet the present needs of society it has an obligation to educate men of professional competence who also have a cultural reach beyond the techniques of their professions.”

If you don’t recognize the name, Killian was the 10th President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A school of technology that includes schools in Science, Engineering, Architecture and Planning, Management, and Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Focused, but welcoming diversity.

I believe, by following Killian’s example, USF Lakeland could someday be Florida’s “MIT.”

4 thoughts on “Wither thou, Lit Major?

  1. I liked your reference to MIT and I hope that’s the model USF will pursue. The local opportunities and needs within the transportation and communication industries are obvious. Of course, if they do follow the technology track, USF Lakeland would become the second institution in the state university system to emphasize technology – the first was Florida Technical Universiy founded in1963, which later changed its name to University of Central Florida when adminstrators realized that the hospitality and entertainment industries in their own back yard were greatly underserved.

  2. I liked your reference to MIT and I hope that’s the model USF will pursue. The local opportunities and needs within the transportation and communication industries are obvious. Of course, if they do follow the technology track, USF Lakeland would become the second institution in the state university system to emphasize technology – the first was Florida Technical Universiy founded in1963, which later changed its name to University of Central Florida when adminstrators realized that the hospitality and entertainment industries in their own back yard were greatly underserved.

  3. Thanks, Larry. I didn’t know about the history of UCF. It’s amazing how flexible a name like “University of Central Florida” could be. Why, a university with a name like that could be anything it wanted to be!

    The Tampa Tribune author of the article, Billy Townsend, mentioned this piece in his blog today. He had an important note:

    “One point of clarification for Chuck. My story did not have the space to make this clear, but there will be English taught at the new campus. It just will not be a point of emphasis. The same statewide curriculum requirements that apply everywhere else will apply here, according to Goodman. And the composition programs may skew toward more technical writing emphasis.”

    Thanks, Billy. This kind of give-and-take — “riffing” as it were — is exactly why the blog model outperforms the newspaper model.

    It’s good to know that technical writing classes will be present. My condolences to those instructors. I currently write software reviews and understand the great need for better technical writing. Still….

    Obviously, while I also hope USF Polytechnic at Lakeland could follow in the footsteps of MIT, I fail to see how English Majors in their midst will defocus the technical majors. The university I referenced above is the University of Louisville. On that one campus they have a fine Engineering School, a well-respected School of Law, and an outstanding Criminal Justice program. All while the campus is teeming with English majors, Lit majors, and even Music majors. I understand they even field basketball and football teams.

    Lakeland can afford to keep it’s creative and artistic students. We can’t afford not to.

  4. Thanks, Larry. I didn’t know about the history of UCF. It’s amazing how flexible a name like “University of Central Florida” could be. Why, a university with a name like that could be anything it wanted to be!

    The Tampa Tribune author of the article, Billy Townsend, mentioned this piece in his blog today. He had an important note:

    “One point of clarification for Chuck. My story did not have the space to make this clear, but there will be English taught at the new campus. It just will not be a point of emphasis. The same statewide curriculum requirements that apply everywhere else will apply here, according to Goodman. And the composition programs may skew toward more technical writing emphasis.”

    Thanks, Billy. This kind of give-and-take — “riffing” as it were — is exactly why the blog model outperforms the newspaper model.

    It’s good to know that technical writing classes will be present. My condolences to those instructors. I currently write software reviews and understand the great need for better technical writing. Still….

    Obviously, while I also hope USF Polytechnic at Lakeland could follow in the footsteps of MIT, I fail to see how English Majors in their midst will defocus the technical majors. The university I referenced above is the University of Louisville. On that one campus they have a fine Engineering School, a well-respected School of Law, and an outstanding Criminal Justice program. All while the campus is teeming with English majors, Lit majors, and even Music majors. I understand they even field basketball and football teams.

    Lakeland can afford to keep it’s creative and artistic students. We can’t afford not to.

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