An open letter to the readers of the Appalachian History blog, from Cynthia Fife Coughlin, a student at Radford University:
I began reading the mission of Radford University as included in RU’s 7-17 Strategic Plan after my major, Anthropology, was eliminated from Radford’s curriculum two days into the semester.
It reads, “The vision and mission of this student-centered community of learners are driven by these core values:” one “being an active partner in the viability of our region.” Of course our region is our Appalachian region. Two other core values pertinent to this conversation are “diversity and the richness it adds to our University; and shared governance and participation at all levels within the University community.”
I believe the Radford University administration has not acted in accordance with its own stated values by failing to make transparent and public the University’s plans to recreate our school into something other than a liberal arts school. Furthermore, the decisions heretofore (eliminating the Anthropology department, giving departments only days to justify their programs) have clearly not been born of the collaborative, inclusive, and honest tenets of our country’s new president, Barack Obama. In his inauguration speech he said, “And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account-to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day-because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”
Appalachian Studies is being considered for elimination as are many of the diverse departments that, collaboratively, define the erudite liberal arts experience at Radford University. I would like to be considered for Radford University’s graduate school program in English and I would like to work for a certificate in Appalachian Studies. I would like to cultivate in Americans a heartfelt attachment to Appalachia which is the second most bio-diverse region in the world. In the event of the catastrophic climate changes predicted, it will be the seed and fruit of the Appalachian mountains that will revive the United States and maybe the world. The rate of development in the United States makes the Appalachian mountains to the nation what Central Park is to New York City. I would like to complete my studies at Radford University precisely because there is an Appalachian Studies component.
Ours is a simple request. Please practice fidelity to our stated core values and begin to practice shared governance and participation at all levels within the University community. Please make public all data used in making program decisions and allow the students, parents, and alumni input. Please agree to refrain from making decisions over the summer break, agreeing instead to move on the public forum immediately or wait until the return of students in the fall semester.
Trusting that President Penelope Kyle and Provost Wil Stanton welcome our input I invite you, dear Appalachian History readers, to share your concerns about their plans to reduce Radford’s Appalachian presence. President Kyle is from Galax, Virginia and will, no doubt, be relieved that so many of us are proud of our heritage. They receive correspondence at the following addresses:
President Penelope Kyle
Box 6890 Martin Hall
Radford, Virginia 24142
Wilbur Stanton -Provost
Box 6910 Martin Hall
Radford, Virginia 24142
Thank you for kindnesses and your support.
Cynthia Fife Coughlin
Radford University Senior
March 13, 2009
Ms. Coughlin kindly requests that you cc: her if you email Ms. Kyle or Mr. Stanton