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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Forum fields opinion on Vision 2020

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Photo by Tim Lai Provost Karan Watson speaks at the Vision 2020 forum.  

The Office of the Provost, Faculty Senate and Council of Principal Investigators co-hosted the second of four scheduled forums Thursday discussing the university’s internal and external strengths and weaknesses.
The series, open to all faculty and staff, focuses on receiving input from all colleges and divisions in preparation for the university’s final push toward its lofty Vision 2020 goals. Thursday’s meeting consisted of university employees voicing their concerns to Provost and Executive Vice President Karan Watson.
To open the meeting, Watson addressed one of the major concerns — research expenditures and their impact on the general student body.
“We are a university. We are not a research institution,” Watson said. “When you look at the plans, you have to realize that we can’t stop being us. We are going to have to focus on where to use resources because we don’t have an infinite amount.”
That lack of infinite resources might not seem troubling to an institution that has an endowment of more than $850 million, but Watson said having a large amount of money at the disposal does not condone irresponsibility.
“We tend to have it in our minds that we are strategically throwing out everything on our wish list and getting done everything we possibly can,” Watson said. “That’s not strategic planning. Strategic planning is just as much about strategically deciding what we can’t do right now.”
Some in attendance, like Engineering Technology department head Jorge Alvarado, had their own issues to bring to light. Alvarado said that he hoped students choosing Texas A&M for their doctoral studies would not be neglected or overshadowed.
“I think what we need in the end is a comprehensive plan. We want good student to apply and come to A&M, and once they do, we want to make sure they have the resources to succeed,” Alvarado said.
Michael Arnold, associate department head of horticultural sciences, said officials should make an effort to hire and keep younger professors and staff in the prime of their careers.
“When I sit in faculty meetings I see a lot of people with gray hair like me,” Arnold said. “We haven’t hired as many professorial candidates in recent years, and I think if we’re going to reach some of these objectives, we’re going to have to do it on the backs of some rising stars. We need new, younger faculty in the ranks.”
Faculty retention has been a hot topic at recent meetings, and Watson addressed some of these concerns, saying that while some ideas look great in individual areas, they don’t always help the big picture of the university as a whole.
“What we don’t always discern well is there are always opportunities to hire new faculty, but is it netting us more than it was before?” Watson said. “We don’t want to put faculty members in the situation where they feel like they have to go get another offer, and we don’t want to play the game with those that are going to do it over and over again.”
The last two meetings will be held on March 13 and April 1 in Rudder 601.

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