Aoun speaks to faculty senate

Correction: A previous version of this story contained incorrect specifics about a grant awarded to Northeastern from the National Science Foundation.

Northeastern President Joseph Aoun expressed his love for both co-op and collaboration throughout the university when he spoke at last week’s Faculty Senate meeting.

President Aoun answered questions about topics including co-op, the structure of the College of Arts and Sciences and employee tuition benefits.

Biology professor Phyllis Strauss asked about the university consideration to divide the College of Arts and Sciences into units. She said she is concerned that the “goals of the different disciplines cannot be served any longer” if the college stays together. Aoun resommended the provost and the college’s dean to review this matter.

Despite this, he said he is “heartened” by the connection between the arts and science departments in the college.

Aoun said one example of how the unity of those departments is useful is a $1.4 million grant Northeastern received in September 2006 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for an interdisciplinary program on “the social and political implications” of nanotechnology.

“Here we are, we are the powerhouse in terms of nanotechnology, and we are the powerhouse in terms of policy issues and societal issues, and those issues have not been worked on yet by academia, by society,” Aoun said. “There is something very positive going on, and it is the fact that our faculty, our deans, are working across disciplines, across schools, and this should be nurtured.”

Another topic the president discussed with the faculty senate was co-op.

Stephen Kane, an associate professor of cooperative education and engineering, asked Aoun how the decentralization of co-op will affect students. Decentralization refers to administrative changes involving who evaluates co-op coordinators, who makes budget decisions regarding co-op and who reports co-op related concerns to the provost.

“We need to integrate co-op into the curriculum and vice-versa” at the school level, Aoun said.

Nevertheless, Aoun said he is “very enamored” with co-op, because it distinguishes Northeastern from other universities.

“Co-op is a differentiator,” Aoun said. “Ninety-nine percent of the literature coming out of the propaganda from other universities, they say they are different, but they’re not different. We are different.”

English professor Stuart Peterfreund asked the president if he is willing to consider improving employee tuition benefits in the context of the benefits available at Aoun’s former institution, the University of Southern California (USC). Peterfreund said the Faculty Senate encountered resistance to this in the past from former President Richard Freeland.

Aoun said he has asked the provost to look into the issue, but told the senate that Northeastern’s tuition benefits are better than those available at USC.

“My former [institution’s policy] is either use undergraduate or graduate tuition benefits, not both,” Aoun said. “Here we use both. That’s what I’ve been told.”

Leave a Reply