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New mission statement for College of Charleston

From our News Partners at WCBD-TV:

After the college's Board of Trustees meeting went into executive session Wednesday, the new president of the College of Charleston, Glenn McConnell, sent an email to the alumni of the school, outlining changes to the way the college will approach education.  The mission statement for the school was revised, as the Board and McConnell set the direction for the College.

McConnell says he wants to shift the college from a "comprehensive" university to a research institution by introducing doctoral degrees.

McConnell warns any changes would be slow, making sure that any new degree programs would not financially drain the existing undergraduate programs.

Any changes must be approved by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.

In his email, McConnell also took a stance on the possibility of a merger-- adamantly saying that the school would not consider a merger with anyone.

McConnell reiterated that he wants to preserve the undergraduate culture at the College of Charleston.  The new doctoral programs, under the name of the "University of Charleston," would just be one "component" of the school.

His full email is below:

Dear College of Charleston Alumni:


In recent months there has been much discussion about the interest of political and business leaders in expanded opportunities for graduate education, including doctoral education, at the College of Charleston.  Legislation has been considered by the South Carolina General Assembly that would have designated the University of Charleston, South Carolina, as the fourth research university in our state.  While that legislation was not adopted, a similar bill likely will be proposed in the upcoming legislative session.



Our senior faculty and staff will remember that many conversations about research university status have taken place over the years, resulting in the approval in 1992 of legislation creating the University of Charleston, South Carolina (USCS).  For most of the 1990s, the mission statements of the College indicated that the College would soon offer a limited number of doctoral degrees, should location and need warrant.  Ultimately, most of these aims for expanded graduate degrees did not come to pass, as College administrators and faculty did not pursue such opportunities.  Today, however, we are experiencing new calls to provide new graduate degree opportunities while simultaneously preserving our excellence in undergraduate teaching. 



Since last March, I have consistently maintained that the College of Charleston must remain an undergraduate-centered institution, with its name and liberal-arts identity to be forever preserved.  Simultaneously, it is clear to me and to many other members of the College leadership that the best way to end the talk of institutional mergers and to address the requests of our regional business community is to seek state approval for UCSC to offer doctoral degrees. The most direct way to seek this approval is to ask the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) to approve a new mission statement, which would allow the faculty to develop doctoral program proposals as needed. 



Earlier today, the College of Charleston Board of Trustees met and approved a new and revised mission statement for the College.  A copy of the new mission statement appears at the bottom of this message.  If you compare our former mission statement with the new statement, you will see the Board has made relatively few changes.  It’s also important to note that the new mission statement cannot take effect until it is approved by CHE. 


I’d like to provide some important information about the new mission statement:


•        The new statement would shift the College of Charleston from its current state designation as a “comprehensive” university to a new designation as a research institution.  In South Carolina, a research designation does not require an increase in funded research, or changes in faculty teaching loads, or new research requirements for faculty tenure.  By law, if the College becomes the fourth public research university in the state, the only change for the College is that we would be allowed to offer doctoral degrees -- if and only if those degree programs are approved by the faculty, the Board of Trustees, CHE, and our regional accreditor.


•        The new mission statement does not mean that we will be offering doctoral degrees in the near future.  We will only approve and offer such degrees if there is a demonstrated need and if the new degree programs are approved by the faculty, the Board, CHE, and our regional accreditor.  Further, no doctoral degree programs should be approved unless new funds are made available for the sole purpose of supporting these relatively expensive programs.  I pledge to you that I will never support a doctoral program unless I am entirely confident that the program will not take money away from our undergraduate mission.  If we ever offer doctoral degrees, I believe we will provide only a few targeted programs, as we have no aspirations to become a comprehensive research university.  I also am confident that offering a few targeted doctoral programs will not jeopardize any of our current research funding. 


•        The new mission statement does not change our undergraduate name or mission.  “College of Charleston” will forever be the name for our undergraduate degree programs and the name on our undergraduate diplomas.  “College of Charleston” will also be the name for our administrative offices and our athletic teams.  Our new mission statement has exactly the same language describing our undergraduate mission as was the case in 2006.


•        The new mission statement restores the proper relationship between the College of Charleston and its component, the University of Charleston, South Carolina (UCSC).  Over 20 years ago, the South Carolina General Assembly and the Board of Trustees established UCSC, which allows us to protect the College of Charleston’s history and identity while meeting graduate education and research needs through the University.  The College has drifted away from use of the UCSC name in recent years, but, today, our Board has acted to ensure that the College complies with state law and respects our wonderful and unique arrangement for graduate education and research activity, as championed by former College of Charleston President Harry Lightsey. 


•        The new mission statement will end all talk of merger.  Like the majority of College of Charleston faculty, and consistent with the wishes of many staff and alumni, I oppose any merger between the College of Charleston and any other university.  However, the only way to address community concerns about expanded graduate programming is to acquire research status for the College, without a merger being forced on us.


I understand that the phrase “research university” will cause some in our community to worry that we wish to imitate USC-Columbia or Clemson.  Nothing could be further from the truth, though I do expect that collaboration with other universities will be increasingly important in the coming years. I believe that the Board and I share a vision of a College of Charleston devoted to individualized student attention, where we will remain passionate about the liberal arts and sciences and about undergraduate instruction.  The University of Charleston, South Carolina, will adapt to and meet community needs in the graduate and research sectors, with the authority to offer any graduate degree required in the future. 


Our new mission statement is designed not to change who we are, but to preserve what so many of us love about the College.  This new mission statement will simply remove any impediment to the College being able to shape its future, rather than being shaped by it.  


Finally, I want to thank the faculty, staff, students, and alumni with whom I have consulted about UCSC and the new mission statement.  I deeply appreciate the advice and counsel they have given me.


I look forward to answering any questions you might have about our mission statement.  Thank you for all that you do for the College.


Sincerely,

Glenn F. McConnell '69

 

Photo Credit: VanDyke Photography Shutterstock

 

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