by Sara Z
This afternoon, Paul and I met with Colleen Hegranes, Senior Vice President of St. Kate’s, and Paula King, Dean of the School of Business and Leadership. The inclusion of Dean King was a bit of a last-minute surprise, but she turned out to be invaluable to the success of our discussion. Getting the conversation going in a productive direction was somewhat slow, but we did eventually succeed in sharing and understanding our different perspectives on the issue. We are grateful to VP Hegranes and Dean King for taking the time to meet with us, especially given that our own Associate Dean, Deb Grealy, has been on leave.
Of the questions we put forth in our email, we did get an answer that VP Hegranes made the decision to reorganize the schools in consultation with the President and some faculty members, and that the announcement of the decision was followed by a meeting at which faculty could voice their opinions and concerns. One of the highlights of that meeting was that faculty from the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program (which is currently our school’s graduate “business” degree since we don’t yet have an MBA) expressed gratitude at sharing a school with Education and Library Science because they felt they could learn a lot from us. This was important to helping us understand that faculty see our program as having parity in the value of the knowledge we bring to the school.
They characterized the reorganization as purely administrative and pointed out that faculty members had requested combining our schools because of our small faculty populations, relative to other schools. VP Hegranes pointed out that not only does this give faculty better representation in university governance, but it also more closely reflects alliances made between programs when the schools were initially being formed in the transition from College to University a few years ago.
Both VP Hegranes and Dean King were sensitive to potentially inflammatory terms and positions they felt we were taking without necessarily understanding their position. For instance, they objected to the perception that the LIS program might be “subsumed” into SBL, or that anyone from outside the program should look at our positioning within SBL and see it as making a statement about how we might be oriented towards business. They also noted that the SBL’s vision of business is very different from traditional business schools and is squarely aligned with the university’s social justice orientation.
We were relieved to hear that the school leadership has never seen and does not see this as an ideological influence on our program of study, but we were careful to maintain that there is symbolic significance to the prominent positioning of the term “business” in the name of our school. We spent some time explaining that librarians as a whole feel pressure to incorporate business terms and models of thought into the profession, and so this reorganization taps into a larger issue for us. Furthermore, while St. Kate’s may see its orientation to business in a very different light than the mainstream business world, others outside the university will not necessary understand the difference. Both Dean King and VP Hegranes were adamant that having “business” in the name of the school was not as important as the overarching social justice mission that permeates all aspects of learning at St. Kate’s, and there does seem to be the potential to create a more fully representative and meaningful name for the school. In the meantime, we continue to believe and will continue to articulate that the name of the school matters and that it can impact perceptions of our program in the larger library community. We look forward to continuing conversations within the MLIS program and with various members of the administration about this reorganization to keep the lines of dialogue open.
Finally, we learned that students in the MAOL program may be allies for us. In addition to being the one graduate program other than ours that is evening/weekend, in-person, and enrolls many midcareer professionals, Dean King says most of their students come from the nonprofit and government sectors and are about as “anti-business” as students in a business-related program can be. She expressed full support for continuing in that vein when an MBA program is established. While we can’t be certain how that will play out, we would like to encourage our student groups to reach out to MAOL and see if we can learn more about each other.
Moving forward, we expect that we students who are concerned about the encroachment of business thought into our profession will have to continue to notice, point out, and as needed, criticize the use of business terminology and evaluation models in our classrooms and libraries. We also hope that the faculty and administration can work together to develop careful, productive language for the website and other promotional material to explain the unique perspectives of the programs in SBL. One possible positive result we hope might come from forging new relationships within SBL is that we can explore that level of critical thought with like-minded students and faculty. We will continue to stand for our beliefs and ask for open lines of communication within the school, so that we can grow together, which Dean King seems very willing to support. In that spirit, she is also willing to come to a Monday night LIS event, so we will begin working on making that happen.