In February, the University publicly released the document it submitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as part of a reaccreditation process which takes place every 10 years. Written three years after the University's last strategic plan, the Quality Enhancement Plan's objective is to identify specific ways in which the University can improve the education it offers.
Even though producing the QEP is clearly a forced exercise, it does offer the University an opportunity for serious introspection on the state of its undergraduate experience. Instead, the group of 26 administrators, faculty and students that wrote the QEP used the occasion to formulate a plan that is merely an attractive bell and whistle marketing tool, not a comprehensive vision of how to improve the quality of the University's education.
When President Richard Brodhead arrived on campus, he expressed a desire to make the University a "global Duke." The QEP, titled "Global Duke: Enhancing Students' Capacity for World Citizenship," is an extensive articulation of this notion.
Unfortunately, the report consists of little more than a piecemeal and peripheral set of three programs (to be discussed in detail in Wednesday's editorial) and overlooks the importance of local and national issues.
The report begins by emphasizing the need for undergraduates to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes of "cross-cultural competence" that will allow them to be successful global citizens. This is a nice goal, but in what follows the QEP leaves everyday life at the University almost untouched.
It is symptomatic of the QEP's ad hoc approach that it speaks broadly of the need to bring global issues into the lives of undergraduates but has no comprehensive strategy to integrate existing institutions such as the Center for Civic Engagement, DukeEngage, the Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Trinity and Pratt into the larger mission of global citizenship.
What is perhaps more unsettling about the QEP, though, is that it seems to treat students as wide-eyed consumers. Instead of changing the University by working to improve the on-campus learning experience it offers, the QEP details flashy study abroad programs and vague buzzwords.
In other words, the QEP is emblematic of the University's pre-recession efforts to build its way into a reputation instead of making difficult decisions about what the University values above all else. And so instead of focusing on the core of the undergraduate liberal arts education, the report will add a couple of programs and advisers without any plan to enhance the quality of the everyday academic and social environment on campus.
What the QEP should have done, then, was to focus on what it was charged with focusing on: the education that the University offers each student who enrolls here, expanding on the strategic plan.
It should have proposed creative ways to attract the best professors to Duke. It should have suggested ways (on the model of the Durham Performing Arts Center) in which the University can invest in the local community and integrate Duke with Durham.
It should have proposed a restructuring of the pre-major advising system. It should have discussed ways to increase student-faculty interaction through independent studies, faculty-in-residence programs and research.
It should have at least mentioned efforts to make introductory classes in popular majors smaller. It should have considered an expansion of the FOCUS program. It should have touched on issues of campus culture that relate to the academic experience and "Students' Capacity for World Citizenship." A university that is constantly improving these essential elements of its experience is a university that attracts the best students and prepares each of them for what the QEP blithely calls "global society."