Liberal Arts and the New University President

March 1, 2018

Questioner: Anonymous

Posed to: Radha Pyati, President Faculty Association

Directed to Radha Pyati in her capacity as Faculty Association representative on the Board of Trustees.

First, as you observed in last week’s Board of Trustees meeting at which the new president was selected, there was significant concern expressed by faculty during the campus interviews regarding Dr. Szymanski’s appreciation of the role of the liberal arts in public universities and at UNF in particular. One trustee seemed to dismiss that concern, asserting that faculty, or at least some, don’t understand the difference between a liberal arts institution and a state university. Is it your view that this is indeed the view of our trustees?

Second, some trustees did express discomfort in acknowledging the gap between the views of Szymanski and those of some faculty members. They also advanced the view that Dr. Szymanski would be charged to fix the concerns. What is the standard or metric that faculty and the trustees might employ to verify that Dr. Szymanski has indeed fixed the concerns?

Responses from FA President Pyati on the floor:
I will answer from the floor. It is not my view that the view of our trustees is that faculty don’t understand the difference between a liberal arts institution and a state university.

Regarding Dr. Szymanski, we are all facing a new situation with excitement and some trepidation. I believe that meeting with Dr. Szymanski enables faculty to express to him the importance of the liberal arts at UNF. I think that the metric to verify Dr. Szymanski’s fixing these problems are his actions here at UNF. I would suggest that Dr. Szymanski show with his actions the following:


  • A demonstrated commitment to the liberal arts – in terms of scholarship, teaching, and community engagement
  • An understanding that in addition to being a different way of thinking, the liberal arts are
    • An essential part of UNF’s contribution to the cultural and intellectual life of the region. The position description approved by the Trustees states that continuing UNF’s commitment to the arts is a characteristic of the new President.
    • A nexus of UNF’s scholarly excellence on an international scale
    • A central building block of UNF’s public regional comprehensive identity, offering a full range of academic fields of study to our students, many of whom are place-bound
  • Broad support of the work done for students by faculty in all our disciplines and colleges.