I am writing this letter in support of the work of the Educational Technologies Committee and the many faculty across campus working to re-instate Mentor as a course management and institutional tools system at Fairfield.
In the department of communication, I count among our colleagues faculty who research, teach and are frequently called on as experts in matters of technology, distance education, policy and regulation relating to media and information systems, organizational structures and networks, the issue of open access and network policies. The removal of Mentor is not just a practical issue for us, it is also an academic one.
My department has received much feedback from faculty, as well as graduate and undergraduate students that Mentor is simply better in all respects to Blackboard. Given our central mission of educating students, this point should not be taken lightly.
As a practical matter, my department has relied heavily on Mentor and many of us believe that Mentor offers a vastly superior interface to the “industry standard” Blackboard option. The department has also relied on Mentor for award-winning assessment programs, program review activity, internship database management and administration of our M.A. program, and course management in online exclusive and hybrid courses.
As the Fairfield 2020 Plan asks faculty to reflect on how we meet the challenges of a changing higher education environment, we should reflect on how Mentor has allowed Fairfield to offer a unique and far superior option to the “industry standard” of Blackboard. Mentor offers Fairfield an edge in what administration acknowledges as a competitive and challenging marketplace. Why would we not want to encourage innovation from our own campus that makes a Fairfield education distinctive? Moreover, why would our university renounce to the benefits of having more than one provider of course management systems competing to better serve us, and rely instead on a sole provider that is gradually becoming a de facto monopolistic power in the market?
The faculty handbook is clear: Curricular matters fall within the purview of the faculty. The CIO may, in general, have broad discretion to determine software needs for the university. However, it is not within her discretion to circumvent the faculty governance bodies that have oversight of educational matters, as was done here. It is one thing to claim there is an emergency that makes it necessary to circumvent the faculty governance body in the short term. But there has now been an exhaustive inquiry by the ETC into the matter. They found that CIO Paige Francis provided no grounds for this decision. By contrast, they found that Dr. Curt Naser had provided extensive and credible evidence that the CIO’s claims were inaccurate. Now that it is clear there is not and never was a legitimate reason to terminate the use of Mentor, it should be reinstated immediately throughout the university in all of its functions.
Dr. David Gudelunas, Associate Professor of Communication and Chair