Thursday, November 10, 2011

PLU 2020 focuses on socioeconomics

By Amelia Heath, Copy Editor

The writing team in charge of Pacific Lutheran University’s plan for the next nine years experienced light attendance at its last two forums.

Only seven faculty and staff members attended the PLU 2020 forum last Tuesday and at least one member of the writing team was also absent. The forum was adjourned after approximately 10 minutes.

Six faculty and staff members attended the Wednesday forum, but because the three writing team members assigned to lead the forum – Provost Steve Starkovich, Professor of Religion Samuel Torvend and Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Laura Majovski – were present, the forum went ahead as scheduled.

Torvend said the workload on faculty during the weeks after midterm could have made it difficult for them to attend. Torvend also said that with the process of contributing ideas to the document comes closer to an end fewer people attend forums.

The faculty and staff who did attend said they were satisfied with the changes that had been made between the second and third draft. Specifically, the writing team took critique from the more heavily attended October forums after the second draft of PLU 2020 concerning the university’s themes of diversity, justice and sustainability. Starkovich said the long-range planning committee agreed that “the language in draft two did not do justice to what we had done in those areas” and that, in the third draft, these concepts are described as values rather than projects.

Starkovich also said that after reading the second draft of the document, the Board of Regents gave feedback similar to those who attended the October forums.

Since the October forums, the writing team added more active language to the PLU 2020 document and shortened the introduction.

Some faculty members expressed concern about the length of the document in comparison with previous long-range plans: the PLU 2000 and 2010 documents were only 12,912 and 15,265 words long, respectively, while the PLU 2020 document is 20,115 words long. Majovski said shortening the document was difficult because of how many faculty and staff members have come to PLU since 2010 and who are unfamiliar with the contents of the previous plans.

Participants discussed socioeconomic background at Wednesday’s forum. Starkovich said that because future students will come from a much wider variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, not every student will be able to do student-faculty research or take advantage of the study away program, a huge draw for new students. Torvend suggested that PLU may currently be “catering to the middle-upper class.”

“I think we’ve done decent work on gender, race and ethnicity,” Torvend said, “but socioeconomic background needs work.”

Starkovich said suggestions submitted through the PLU 2020 Web page were “very helpful for the writing team” because suggestions can be “very specific to the chapter, to the section of the document.”

To read the latest version of the PLU 2020 and make suggestions, go to plu.edu/PLU2020/third-draft/home.php. There is a form at the bottom of each section of the online version where readers can make suggestions.

The fourth draft of the document will be sent to the long-range planning committee Friday. The long-range planning committee will meet Dec. 2 and 9, at which time the document should be finished and ready to present to the Board of Regents. A bound document will be ready in the spring.