By: Tatum Hunter
Xavier is the fourth best regional university in the Midwest, according to the U.S. News and World Report.
Top Xavier administrators, however, don’t want the university to be defined by the numbers, or at least not by that number.
While both University President, Fr. Michael Graham, S.J. and Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Scott Chadwick said they feel positive about the ranking, both also expressed disenchantment with U.S. News and World Report’s methods of measuring a university’s success.
“It’s not the best measure of what we do,” Chadwick said. “We’re more concerned with what students think.”
Graham echoed this sentiment. “Success is determined by the satisfaction of alumni. Satisfaction doesn’t mean making more money; we want to know how many alumni feel that the trajectory of their lives was changed by their time at Xavier.”
Graham and Chadwick said their goals extend beyond the quantifiable (alumni giving, reputation and student retention) to things like developing caring individuals who live in solidarity with their communities, a goal difficult to measure.
A focus on the numbers is exactly what has recently brought the Xavier administration under fire. An expanding campus, increased enrollment, heightened spending and the cancellation and outsourcing of Academic Service Learning Semesters (ASLS) are all factors that have led to criticism from the campus community.
Chadwick and Graham deny that a preoccupation with the numbers is threatening the university’s Jesuit identity and values.
“It’s just false,” Graham said. “The administration is searching for that sweet spot— the balance between identity and fiscal responsibility. Unless we can figure out how we’re going to do that going into the future, we’re dead. We can’t keep increasing tuition four percent every year. We’re looking for sustainability.”
Sustainable is something that ASLS programs were not, according to Graham. The same personnel could not keep running the programs every year, and student interest was dwindling. “You have 15 going out of a class of 1,100. Pardon me, but I’m not terribly impressed. The experience was too isolated. In this case, suspending and outsourcing programs is not a bad thing,” Graham said.
In response to the criticism of Xavier’s increased spending and expansion, Graham said an increase in quantity doesn’t have to negatively affect quality.
Quantity has indeed been a common denominator in many recent administrative decisions, from the addition of 19 new programs to the admission of Xavier’s largest first-year class to date.
However, there have been multiple quality-oriented initiatives such as the “Xavier Way,” a strategic approach to instilling Jesuit values.
Both administrators said such decisions are helping Xavier achieve its goal of forming men and women for others.
“I think things are going really well,” Chadwick said. “Students are learning, participation in the Center for Faith and Justice is up and our campus is engaged with the community around us. Now our greatest concern is the sustainability of what we have here.”
Chadwick said he feels the administration has done well in its responsibility to communicate goals, challenges and successes with students.
“Communication is a two-way street,” he said. “We are always open to more dialogue and discourse.”
Categories: Campus News