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Oregon Tech President’s Talking Points at ASOIT Meeting Did Not Address Faculty Retention - Erin Miller - 3/08/2023
At a time when students are looking for a resolution to the on-going faculty retention crisis, Oregon Tech President Naganathan failed to deliver reassurances at the February 20th ASOIT general meeting. His expounding of Oregon Tech’s historical and educational significance did not address a primary student concern—faculty retention.
In the fancily decorated Crater Lake Complex conference room--no doubt meant to match the Winter Wings fanfare around campus-- Naganathan’s talk seemed to be aimed more towards a donor audience than to the majority student audience seated before him as indicated from his talking points:
Throughout his presentation, Dr. Naganathan championed the need for Oregon Tech to publicly promote itself because “it is amazing now how many people don’t realize we are a four-year university,” he said.
He urged that “everybody is an ambassador for Oregon Tech.”
Complementing this view, ASOIT Chief of Students Diana Escamilla announced later that ASOIT is looking for student advocates to travel to Salem while the current Oregon State Legislature is in session.
After Dr. Naganathan finished, the quiet applause from students seemed to indicate that something had been left unsaid. The colloquial elephant in the room stood out during the student question-and-answer portion.
Students from the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering programs asked the President to address the loss of “hands-on” learning and program faculty.
A member of the Blacksmithing Club noted that Oregon Tech’s welding shop is gone. The shop provided direct hands-on experience for engineering students. Naganathan responded that the welding program was provided in partnership with Klamath Community College, but the program is no longer active.
The President also indicated that the “curriculum has changed over time” and what constitutes “hands-on” has been redefined. “We don’t want to take hours and hours to graduate [students]” so opportunities for hands-on learning have now shifted to industry.
An Electrical Engineering student stated that his program “lost four faculty members” which caused issues within the program. Naganathan addressed faculty hiring by stating, “We are actively working” to replace the lost faculty but added that hiring “has to be owned by the departments.”
Student Graeme Wiltrout, asked, “What are we doing to prevent faculty from leaving?”
Naganathan stated that “we need to create ways” to innovate so faculty become invested in the programs and want to come here. New faculty members bring their innovation with them when they join Oregon Tech.