ST. CATHERINE UNIVERSITY’S MLIS PROGRAM MOVING INTO SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AND LEADERSHIP

The news is finally out in the world that my MLIS program is being moved from the School of Professional Studies (where it’s been housed along with the Education and Social Work programs) to the School of Business and Leadership. I’d heard the news from a friend whose husband teaches in a different department on campus two weeks earlier (faculty and staff campuswide received an email about the move back in the end of June), but it wasn’t until this week that we students got an email from our program about the move. I have been greatly distressed about this move and hope that the university is willing to explain this decision more fully and to involve people in the affected programs (faculty, staff, and students) in plans to move forward with the new administrative structure.

Really, I would rather not be in a program that is affiliated so closely with a business program at all, but at least the dean of that school and higher administration at the university are saying that the MLIS program curriculum will not change because of this move. Still, I think the association of the MLIS program with a school of business is very troubling, and I am hoping that the administration is willing to deal with this issue in a productive manner if they cannot simply revert to the previous administrative structure. (They are planning to disband the School of Professional Studies completely, including eliminating the position of the dean of that school.)

My ideological problem with this decision is that libraries, particularly public libraries and academic libraries, have values associated strongly with free education and information, which are often diametrically opposed to business and corporate mentalities about proprietary information and the importance of profit. There is far too much to go into about how ill-suited librarianship is to the ethos of the corporate world, but suffice to say, it is mind-boggling how the university thought that such a decision to subsume the library science program in the School of Business and Leadership would be frictionless. (Worth noting is that the dean of the school sees the business, library science, and education programs as being equal partners within that school rather than being programs under the dominance or guidance of business. It remains to be seen how that works out in practice.)

I am talking to other students in my program who share my concerns with this decision. We are currently trying to gather more information about the situation before we can articulate some requests about what is happening. For one, we have been told very little about the decision-making process. Who made the decision? What were the deciding criteria? Why were faculty, staff, and students in the affected programs not consulted? Is there a shared governance problem here? And even if the university administration was in its rights to make such a unilateral decision, what was its reasoning? I was told that this administrative restructuring is mainly for the impending Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation visit in 2013, but why shift gears so suddenly without consulting people on campus? What can be gained from this restructuring for accreditation purposes and otherwise?

While the email we students received also noted that there will be no substantive or curricular changes to the MLIS program, I’m also led to wonder why this change was made at all if there are no real effects. From my experiences with university governance and the vogue of strategic planning, I know that there will be issues with goals and objectives, with the MLIS program having to realign its strategic planning with that of the School of Business and Leadership. What will that look like? What if some of us in the program have severe reservations about aligning librarianship education with business-oriented values and goals? Will our concerns be addressed? I also feel for the faculty in the MLIS program who worked so diligently in the last few years to receive ALA accreditation–no small feat!–only to face even more administrative work now to come up with a report about this move.

I hope that St. Kate’s administration is willing to re-evaluate this decision and to make sure that all steps taken from this point forward are transparent and informed by consultation with all interested stakeholders.

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