Jones School committee should focus on education, teaching faculty.

If the external review of the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Administration is any indication, the steering committee currently examining the Jones School has a huge task ahead of it.

The Jones School faces a high turnover rate among its junior faculty, a lack of vision and leadership problems. It is not accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, and the school is generally deprecated by the larger Rice community.

This is not to say that the Jones School should shut its doors. The two-decade-old school has a number of strong points, especially its executive education program, its relationship with Houston businesses and its affiliation with a world-class teaching university.

It is this last strength that the steering committee should particularly draw on in preparing recommendations for improving the Jones School.

Rice has rightfully made a name for itself in undergraduate education. The Jones School has the opportunity to make a niche for itself by expanding its course offerings to undergraduates. While most business schools also have difficulty with this task, the Jones School might succeed where others have failed by drawing from other departments with strong teachers, such as Economics and Statistics, to offer multidisciplinary courses.

The process of developing these courses may also be constructive in improving the school's relationship with the rest of the Rice community.

Unfortunately, while a revitalized undergraduate education program may prove to be the Jones School's salvation, the steering committee has only a single current student and no undergraduates among its members -- a very disappointing first step.

When the Jones School opened 20 years ago, its faculty included the likes of George Bush. Today, many adjunct faculty are still prominent leaders (many are top Houston business executives). This is good. However, the school's track record for keeping junior faculty -- especially popular teaching faculty like former Assistant Professor Graeme Rankine -- is abysmal.

The school needs to make a bottom-up review of how it hires and recommends firings and promotions. Yes, research is important, but the Jones School must know that it will fail to attract attract either students or money to support this research if it cannot bring its teaching skills up to par.

There is some disagreement about whether the Jones School's tenure track and hiring standards are different from those of the university's at large: The Jones School defends its practices as consistent with the university's policies. If this is true, then maybe those decisions should be made differently at the school.

This item appeared in the Opinion section of the September 13, 1996 issue.

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