Chancellor Kent Syverud hosts town hall meeting to introduce Fast Forward Syracuse initiative

Syverud used the meeting to answer questions about the initiative, which has three parts: a strategic plan, a campus master plan and an operational excellence program.

Members of the SU community participated in a Q+A session Monday in Hendricks Chapel regarding Fast Forward Syracuse, a new initiative under Chancellor Kent Syverud.

Fast Forward Syracuse is Syverud’s initiative to keep Syracuse University relevant, modern and competitive. According to the Fast Forward website, the intiative has three parts: the “strategic plan” identifies the university’s strengths and priorities and makes investments according to them; the “campus master plan” focuses on SU’s physical environment by addressing issues regarding architecture, mobility and sustainability; and the “operational excellence program” works to set the ideas behind the strategic and campus master plans in motion.

Sixteen members of the various Fast Foward Syracuse committees sat at the front of the chapel for nearly two hours during the meeting. Eric Spina, vice president and provost; Jeff Kaplan, senior advisor to the chancellor and president; and the chancellor himself were among those present.

LaVonda Reed, a professor at the College of Law, opened up the town hall-style event: “The purpose of today’s event is to engage in valuable dialogue about the initiative to provide a key strategic direction and framework for propelling this university forward.” She added that the committee was working to foster academic and operational excellence while addressing challenges inhibiting the university’s success.

Syverud spoke next, thanking the audience for their presence and his staff for coordinating the event. He opened by discussing his love for SU and the need for flexibility and adjustment.

“I think the focus of Fast Forward Syracuse and change is to seize on that culture that we’re all part of, to do things better and smarter than our peers,” Syverud said.

Spina then fielded questions from the audience about the project’s timeline, the three parts of Fast Forward and community input. He directed each question to the appropriate committee member.

The lack of students in the Advisory Group was one of the issues raised at the meeting. Many audience members were concerned with the lack of students working directly on the project and with the absence of students mentioned in the initiative’s descriptions. The only student currently in the group is Eddie Zaremba, a graduate student in the School of Education.

Samuel Gorovitz, philosophy professor and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, asked questions he said he believed others were thinking but were too timid to ask.

“If this is primarily to change the academic path, how come it is so heavily populated by people who are not themselves academic people?” Gorovitz asked, then immediately added, “The second question that I hear a lot is this: If we are working really hard to solve some of the problems that we have, why is so much of the effort in the hands of so many of the people who themselves were involved in creating those problems in the first place?”

Deborah Dohne, associate professor in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, also participated in Monday’s event. A new chancellor can bring new changes, she said in an interview, and she hoped to get some answers from the event regarding faculty and teachers.

“I would like to see a real integration of scholarship and teaching together,” Dohne said, recalling the university’s past trend of hiring teachers who were also involved in their own research.

“I feel like teaching has sort of taken a back seat, honestly,” she said. She added that she hopes to see greater emphasis on one-on-one interactions and a lower student-to-teacher ratio.

More details as to a specific plan will follow in the coming months, Syverud said, with a final draft to be released in May 2015.

“Each time when there’s a new chancellor, I feel like there’s a chance to get some stuff going,” Dohne said. “So I think it’s really important what that chancellor’s vision is.”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.