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Faculty Panel Pans Bain's Vision For UNT-Dallas

Last month UNT-Dallas made the rather unexpected announcement that founding President John Ellis Price was stepping down effective August 2013, leaving him in office long enough to launch the so-called New University Model. Details about the model were left up to Bain & Company (the consulting affiliate of Mitt Romney's eponymous venture capital firm) and a who's-who of business leaders and a few academics known as the 21st Century Commission.

On the side, Price also set up an advisory panel of faculty and administrators to review proposals for the New University Model. They've released a report that the Morning News had a bit of trouble getting, responding to some of Bain's initial recommendations that were presented to the committee but, as far as I know, haven't been released. You can read the panel's report here.

The panel has some good things to say, but mostly not. Bain, they say in the report, goes too far in advocating for the abandonment of the traditional university model, in essence "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." The recommendations focus too much on "winning," by increasing enrollment rather than improving quality; the data Bain uses is incomplete or is skewed to amp up the benefits of "disruptive innovation."

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What it ultimately boils down to is a philosophical difference about higher education. The advisory panel members seem to be on board with the notion that UNT-Dallas, being an urban campus with a high number of transfer and nontraditional students, needs to be both more pragmatic and more innovative than a typical liberal arts institution. The university, they say, should focus on "providing access to success" -- e.g. jobs -- "at an affordable cost."

The panel simply thinks Bain goes too far and advocates "across-the-board changes for change's sake." Instead, UNT-Dallas should "continue to emphasize educational quality rather than efficiency and profit."

The panel members I called declined to talk or referred me elsewhere. Greg Tomlin, a panel member and the executive director of marketing and communication, referred me to an outside public relations firm. I'm waiting to hear back. Meanwhile, the 21st Century Commission is scheduled to release its report next month.

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