Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Scarborough: Technology serves the humanities, too

Technology  has become such a schoolyard word  at  the University of  Akron that it led me to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, a usually reliable resource, to check out my long  indifference to what it means.  Being a humanities kind of guy, I had never  before looked up the meaning, figuring that I wouldn't understand it anyway.  But since I went  to the trouble, here's what I can report from Mirriam-W:
"The use of science, engineering, etc. to invent useful things or to solve problems. (2)A machine, piece of equipment, method, etc., that is created by  technology."
My stiffly postured Victorian novel Professor Secord, who precisely timed every session with a pocket watch, doubtless would have  been offended to be called a technocrat (except for that damned watch!)   But that's where they're headed these days at UA., which historically has largely appeared as a passive community in deference to   the more refined society that  dined at Portage Country Club.

The school's new president, Scott  Scarborough, made a valiant effort in his Cleveland City Club speech to defend his plan to send off the school in a new direction by affixing the idea of a polytechnic institute  to the formal name.   He referred to it as "respositioning",  a rebranded  public university to meet  its modern challenges.  And challenges they will be as the new CEO on the block attempts to prepare for whatever was left undone by the old CEO.

Think: $487 million debt,  declining enrollment, a surging Architectural Age  plan since the early 2,000s that sprang up 24 new buildings  to re-face the campus.  And sagging faculty morale in the neighborhood of the humanities.    Add to all of this the  state-of-mind of  cost-cutting legislators,  many  of whom are overfed hacks and dead-enders.  Gov.Kasich issued the order of the day: Cut the fat, which serves more as another  terse budgetary threat from Columbus than  a serious problem solver.

Yes, Scarborogh's presence has already met with the approval of the establishment as well as the Beacon Journal, who always kindly welcomes a new prez in UA's revolving door.("The name won't' change, but much will," the hometown paper advised us on the editorial page. The paper itself has already repositioned its type face for headlines, a cosmetic facial to attract more readers.  But that's another story.)

It would be a labor of love to parse Scarborough explanation of the symbiotic   relationship between  technology and the humanities.  My hunch is there won't be many people on Main Street who don't think that ..um...polytechnic refers solely to UA's strength in polymer research.

Meantime, the loneliest faculty members will be waiting for more shoes to drop in the humanities classrooms  no matter what the new fellow tells us.  Departments have already  been depleted or abandoned and its costly new football stadium to lure fans and well-paid celebrity coaches still  has the look of a ghost-grid.

But that, too, is another story.

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