Faculty Union Rips U. of Delaware President’s Column Endorsing ‘Learner-Centric’ Education

The faculty union at the University of Delaware has assailed the president over a column he wrote suggesting that professors give up some of their autonomy in course design, among other things, The News Journal reports.

The union called the ideas presented in Patrick T. Harker’s February 5 column in The Philadelphia Inquirer “an affront to the mission of university education and to core values of academic life.”

In the column, Mr. Harker argues that universities nationwide must embrace a more “learner-centric” philosophy, adopting a common core that would “free professors in most departments to do the kind of work they most prefer, teaching advanced seminars and mentoring students one on one.” He also touts the example of the Minerva Project, a for-profit start-up company, as a “learner-centric” educator. He sits on Minerva’s advisory board.

“At a time when the University of Delaware is engaged in recruiting students and planning a capital campaign, it is puzzling why President Harker would write, ‘Smart students are seeking innovative and less expensive degree paths,’” said the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Mr. Harker told the newspaper that he didn’t feel his opinions should have come as a shock. “I’ve long been concerned about the issues facing higher education,” he said, “especially the effect of rising costs on our students and their families, and have written and spoken about these challenges many times over the past year, at UD and elsewhere.”

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