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Sunday Nov. 20, 2005

Academics, faculty must be key parts of MU plan

Stephen J. Kopp, president of Marshall University, unveiled a plan this past Thursday to bring Marshall employees, students and alumni into the process for preparing the school's seven-year strategic plan. The community is invited, too, thanks to an Internet-based methods of collecting comments and suggestions.

Strategic plans come and go as administrations change, but this plan will give an idea of what Kopp and the school's Board of Governors see as its primary goals for the next three to seven years.

Kopp provided four main areas in which Marshall is seeking advice on developing its long-term plan:

  • Intellectual capital, emphasizing educational innovations.

  • Community and service, focusing on providing students with knowledge and commitment to be socially responsible citizens in a diverse world.

  • Economic development, with the goal of training students to think critically and be ready to solve problems that are only now developing.

  • Discovery and innovation.

People can comment on the Marshall Web site at But this is not an Internet bulletin board where people will flame one another. Comments are limited to 255 typed characters. That may be about 40 words to describe what goals Marshall should pursue.

While some goals may be far-fetched and some may be obvious, there are some that Marshall cannot avoid addressing.

The entire faculty pay system needs to be re-evaluated and restructured. Marshall cannot recruit the best professors available at the pay it now offers. On top of that, professors complain that for recruitment purposes, some new, young faculty are paid more than older, more experienced, more accomplished faculty.

Programs need the most up-to-date equipment available. Hospitals brag about the machines they have for treating patients. Marshall rarely brags about what it has on campus that similar schools don't.

Marshall needs to attract more out-of-state students. To do that, it must offer excellence at reasonable prices.

Perhaps the Marshall administrations of years past, and legislators, too, have grown complacent in that many of Marshall's students come from West Virginia and border areas. It hasn't had to compete that hard for students. Administrators and legislators have talked a good talk of making Marshall competitive, but they have fallen behind as other schools have grown faster and smarter.

Without academic excellence, nothing else matters. How many patents the faculty earn, how many top-name performers the Artist Series bring to town, how many parking spaces are within a block of campus, how many games the basketball team wins are all insignificant when compared to Marshall's need to provide students with the best faculty, the best equipment and the best resources in the best facilities possible.

That's it, in 91 typed characters.