On Dec. 4, the University Times published an article entitled “Outlier arrangement with Pitt–Johnstown raises concerns.” Pursuant to that article, the University Times received a response from Pitt–Johnstown President Dr. Jem Spectar. Both documents present two misperceptions. Firstly, both present the Pitt–Johnstown faculty as largely satisfied and complacent with the Outlier contract, and secondly, they present the faculty as having worked closely with Pitt–Johnstown administration in developing and in bringing the contract to UPJ.
As to the first point, significant numbers of faculty are dissatisfied with the contract for largely the same reasons as the Oakland faculty. In our case, there is also concern for the long-term and short-term effects on faculty teaching Gen Ed courses. Moreover, how much rigor can there be in for-profit instruction when students receive their money back if they fail the course?
A for-profit institution will obviously want to avoid returning money to “customers.” Yet, upon being accepted to study at UPJ, (some of) these credits can be transferred in allowing students to opt-out of the equivalent course on campus.
As to the second point, it is false that faculty worked closely with the administration in developing and bringing the Outlier program to our campus. Faculty were presented with the program in two Faculty Senate meetings that were informational and where faculty could ask questions of the administration. But that’s as far as consultation with the faculty went. As one colleague who attended both meetings put it to me, “They told us the contract is in place and there is nothing we can do about it.” Thus, it was dropped on us as a fait accompli.
Martin A. Rice Jr.
Associate professor of Philosophy, Pitt–Johnstown