Worcester Polytechnic Institute

A Planning Program for Worcester Polytechnic Institute: The Future of Two Towers - Part One

I. Introduction.

A. Intent and Organization of Report.

The writers of this report would attempt by analysis and recommdation to help make our good college an excellent one. We have tried to summarize and evaluate the helpful written and oral contributions sent to President's Planning Group by many members of the faculty, administration alumni, and student body as we have assembled this first progress report.

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute is at a critical point in history, it is the unanimous conclusion of the Planning Group that the trustees, alumni, administration, faculty, and students of the College should at this time examine closely what WPI is now and what she might become.

The INTRODUCTION of this progress report contains: (A) Statement on Earlier Planning at WPI (B), The Role of the President's Planning Group in Promoting the Development of Planning Procedures at WPI (C), Some Possible Objectives for the College with Criteria for Evaluation and Criteria for Implementation and Quality Control (D), and A Planning Schedule for WPI (E).

The main body of the report contains: A PARTIAL ANALYSIS OF WPI AT PRESENT(II), showing some important strengths and weaknesses which have been too long overlooked; and summaries of SOME POSSIBLE OBJECTIVES FOR WPI (III), showing how objectives may be measured against criteria for evaluation and criteria for implementation and quality control.

B. A Statement on Earlier Planning at WPI.

Almost from its dichotomous beginnings there has been a certain reluctance toward planned operations at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute is clear that the statements of John Boynton concerning his desires for the school were less than definitive (1), while those of Mr. Washburn were more obvious. A reading of the document to which citizens of Worcester affixed their names in pledge of funds discloses no purpose other than the founding of a "Scientific School" (2 ). In spite of the apparent lack of definitive statement of objective, WPI emerged as a unique school and established a justified, but not very wide, reputation as a source of soundly-trained, practically-oriented engineers. The initial pattern remained unchanged for nearly ninety years during which time WPI's unique approach filled an educational need for the country.

By the end of World War II technological change in American industry (largely a consequence of advanced research in technical schools began to require changes in technical education, and it was clear that WPI had to change as well. With the arrival of Presidents Cormeny and Bronwell the Institute began to respond to the new demands. Generally speaking, its responses have been modelled on those originating from the leaders in American technical education, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology. WPI's uniqueness began to disappear. Instructions to President Storke (1962) were, "Keep things going."

The first published, Institute-wide planning efforts of which the writers are aware appear as the several drafts of "A Plan for WPI, 1965-75" of which the last (fourth) draft is dated 15 May, 1966. For the original version of this document most of the departments of the Institute contributed statements or discussions of what they judged to be key considerations. Subsequently, at the fall meeting of the Corporation, 26 October, 1968, a statement of "Future Educational Policy, General Plan for Action" was produced, listing nine areas in need of immediate attention. A subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the Facutly had earlier written a preliminary statement of goals for the Institute dated 10 November, 1967, but this document was neither published to the faculty generally nor developed further.

In spite of numerous planning efforts on the campus (the work of the Department Heads and committees, the Executive Committee of the Faculty and its sub-committee on goals, the local chapter of the AAUP, and the work of individual members of the faculty and administration), no long-range plan had evolved. Further, the predominant attitude of growth by consensus limited the singleness of purpose characteristic of good planning and dissipated limited resources. Lack of a unique program also limited the potential for obtaining new funds. On 11 December, 1968, the President appointed a group of six faculty and charged them with developing a comprehensive proposal of feasible educational directions the Institute should take.

C. The Role of the President's Planning Group in Promoting the Development of Planning Procedures.

For this college to function effectively, its educational goal or objective must be much more clearly defined than it is at present, and that goal or objective must be promoted and implemented consistently throughout the Institute. Without a definition of what we are attempting to do, our entire enterprise will weaken and splinter into divergent and competing functions.

There are several planning tasks which must be immediately undertaken, and the responsibility for their development and implementation cannot rest with a planning group alone.

(1) A firm commitment to _ specific and realistic goal for Worcester Polytechnic Institute at the earliest possible time. Such a commitment requires a set of alternatives from which to choose. Our current philosophy of "growth by consensus" accepted various changes in technical education without any clear evaluation of the educational role of WPI.

(2) Development of a structure appropriate to the chosen goal. It is clear that the structure of the college cannot be optimized until the objective is chosen. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that there will be faculty, administrative, and service units.

(3) Stimulation of planning at all levels. As disclosed by conferences with departments and individual faculty the planned operation is the exception rather than the rule at WPI. Each member of the staff who expressed an interest in the Planning Group's activities appeared to be searching for a plan which would immediately affect his own area of endeavour. A planning group cannot and should not dictate plans to the campus. There are several levels of planning required. While it is clear that the administrative structure which leads to the various levels cannot be optimized until an overall objective is chosen, levels are indicated below in terms of the college's present structure, their enumeration must not be taken as a recommendation that the present structure be maintained. There are currently about four levels: (a) The Institute as a whole (Trustees, President, Faculty, Planning Group) (b) The broad categories of Science, Engineering, Humanities and Social Studies, Library, Business, and Student Affairs (Deans, Business Office, etc.), (c) Departments and Divisions (including student and living groups), and (d) Individual staff and students.

(4) Provision for continual reassessment of the chosen goal, its premises, and the extent of its attainment. At each planning level there must be provision for cross-check of objectives with the levels on either side and with the overall objective of the school.

It is well to bear in mind the structure of the planning sequence:

(a) Preliminary selection and evaluation of possible roles WPI might serve.
(b) Selection of the best from (a) for further quantitative evaluation in terms of the critical factors for implementing and establishing quality controls.
(c) Selection of appropriate, tentative faculty sub-groupings and specific curricula and detailed cost estimation for each element in (b).
(d) Final selection of specific goal for the school.
(e) Implementation.

D. Some Possible Objectives for the College, with Criteria for Evaluation Criteria for Implementation and Quality Control.

As a preliminary step the President's Planning Group has selected some possible goals which are listed below. This is not intended as an exclusive list, for it is recognized that as the planning continues there will be additions, deletions, and condensations. The Group recommends, however, that before 30 June, 1970, WPI firmly commit itself to a single objective and establish effective quality control procedures in both the administrative decision-makinq process and in the faculty structure in order to ensure achievement of that objective.

Possible goals for preliminary evaluation are:

1. To provide high-quality pre-graduate education in engineering science .
2. To educate for leadership and decision-making in a technological society.
3. To provide a classical education in engineering and science in the Oxford-Cambridge manner.
4, To become a research-oriented graduate center in engineering and science.
5. To become a middle college.
6. To train students for a Bachelor of Science degree in Technology.
7. To specialize in educating the underprivileged.
8. To promote invention and entrepreneurship.
9. To transform ourselves into a general university.
10. To join the State University.
11, To maintain the status quo.
12. An appropriate combination of the above.

Of these twelve possibilities, four (1,2,4, and 6) have been given some study (see section III). The others have been given only initial appraisal.

Criteria for evaluation are:

1. Relevance to the needs of the student
2. Relevance to the needs of the society
3. Compatibility with WPI resources, present and possible.
4. Interaction with other colleges. It is clear that some of the criteria overlap. Careful appraisal of the possible goals in terms of these criteria will cull out the impractical, but should not limit attention to the relatively narrow possibilities as currently practiced by WPI and other technical schools. Finally, as a part of the evaluation of any objective, it is necessary to ask, "What kind of school will we have?" The following checklist of items for implementation and quality control should be considered:

1. The Two Tower Tradition: a general definition of WPI, its purpose and ideals, its size;
2. Organizational Structure and Decision-Making Throughout the Institute: Board of Trustees, alumni, administration, faculty, student body, and parents' groups;
3. The Alumnus: development of a permanent relationship;
4. The Public Image of WPI;
5. Development of Income;
6 The Faculty: recruitment, expectations, encouragement, campus life;
7. The Campus: development and maintainance of the campus and the college's resources;
8. The Student Applicant- recruitment of the undergraduate, graduate, and other students;
9. The Undergraduate Student: expectations, campus life;
10. The Graduate Student: expectations, campus life, subject matter, presentation, and standards;
11. The Graduate Curriculum and Research;
12. Relationships of WPI to the other Worcester Colleges; the Consortium;
13. Placement of the WPI Graduate;
14 Relationships of WPI with the Professional Engineering and Scientific Communities;
15. Relationships with the University in General;
16. Relationship of WPI to Society: service to society;
17. Specific Relationships with Local, State, and National Governments;
18. Specific Relationships with Industry.

E. A Planning Schedule for Worcester Polytechnic Institute 1969-70.

Although planning should be a continuing operation at any institution, there is the immediate problem of getting WPI on the "planning track". The adoption of the following schedule, designed to put WPI on a thoroughly planned operation by 30 June, 1970, is recommended:

11 December, 1968 to 1 March, 1969.

1. Decide on planning needs and formulate methods.
2. Make preliminary analyses of possible objectives and select and test evaluation criteria.
3. Begin gathering data and make a preliminary analysis of present status of the school.
4. Report to the President.

1 March, 1969 to 30 June, 1969.

1. Complete preliminary analyses of remaining possibilities.
2. Gather additional suggestions for evaluation.
3. Complete an analysis of present status of the Institute with evaluations of strengths and weaknesses and potential resources.
4. Report to the chief executive officer of the school.

30 June, 1969 to 1 September, 1969.

1. Request faculty to elect planning group to continue the work.
2. From the preliminary analyses-select those objectives or combinations of objectives which seem best.
3. Set up structure for detailed analyses of selected objectives and assign chairmen for full development of each.
4. Report to policy-making agencies of the school.

1 September, 1969 to 1 March, 1970.

1. Enlarge planning group to include students.
2. Complete detailed analyses of "best" objectives.
3. Prepare final reports for each objective.
4. Prepare proposal for continued planning.
5. Report to policy-making agencies of the school.

1 March, 1970 to 30 June, 1970.

1. Collect evaluations of alternative objectives from campus groups.
2. Reach final recommendation on objectives.
3. Request policy-making agencies of the school to select a specific objective. Unless some schedule closely approximating that proposed is adopted, WPI's time as a private operation is limited. Obviously, the number of people involved with planning will have to be increased markedly to insure the success of the proposed schedule.


(1) Tymeson, M.M., "Two Towers", p. 10, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester (1965).
(2) Tymeson, M.M., ibid, p. 22.

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Last modified: Fri Mar 5 15:28:11 EST 1999