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Bringing down the 'firewall': Fry updates Queen Lane employees on changes at town hall

November 20, 2013

President Fry Speaking to a Group

With the removal of the operational “firewall” separating Drexel’s College of Medicine from the rest of the University looming next year, the effort to create “One University” was at the center of President John Fry’s town hall meeting at Queen Lane Campus on Monday.

“Through the removal of the firewall,” Fry told a room full of faculty and staff, “we want to bring this College of Medicine, which is one of the greatest assets that Drexel has, into the center of the University.”

Fry updated attendees on developments related to the University’s strategic plan, and many of them had to do with the melding of the College of Medicine and the rest of Drexel. Those changes range from a greater financial investment in the college to the eventual goal — though no plans are yet in place — of consolidating the college onto one campus in Center City.

Since his arrival, Fry said, Drexel has increased its annual transfer of funds to the College of Medicine from about $13 million to $25.5 million. That’s still about $20 million short of the ultimate goal, he said, but it’s already gone a long way toward supporting parts of the college that had been underfunded.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Fry said, “and in many cases it’s overdue.”

One thing the elimination of the firewall is not about, Fry said, is saving money by eliminating jobs. In response to one question asking if the merger would result in layoffs, Fry said the move wasn’t about financial efficiency but rather improving communication and creating a more integrated institution.

“We don’t foresee any reduction in jobs,” Fry said. “That’s not what any of this is about.”

Several attendees asked about efforts to save money elsewhere in the University, with one question asking how the University was paying for new building projects on the University City Campus and another asking about efficiency measures.

Fry noted that Drexel’s new residential buildings — the newly opened Chestnut Square, and the coming development at Lancaster Avenue and 34th Street — have been financed entirely by a third party, American Campus Communities. And new academic buildings have been funded increasingly by outside fundraising and less by institutional dollars from Drexel. Central to Drexel’s efficiency effort, Fry said, is the shift to a “student lifecycle management” focus with an emphasis on retention.

One potential move that may help make the College of Medicine more efficient, Fry said, is a hoped-for consolidation onto one campus. The University continues to look for a buyer for the facilities at the Queen Lane Campus, allowing for those there to move to Center City to join the rest of the College of Medicine and the College of Nursing and Health Professions. No deal is in the works yet, but Fry said he wanted the potential move to be no secret.

“In this day and age, having two separate campuses for a College of Medicine — it just doesn’t make any sense,” Fry said. For that reason, he said in response to another question, no new building projects are likely at the Queen Lane Campus, though Drexel will make sure its quality is maintained.

Fry said he was eager to incorporate the College of Medicine in a number of research and educational activities taking place on the University City Campus, as well.

One attendee asked about one way that the College of Medicine does remain different from other parts of Drexel: its use of a semester-based calendar. Asked if the decision to keep other units on a quarter system meant that the College of Medicine might be pressured to use quarters as well, Fry said that would be nothing to worry about. “We would never try to compel any change” in the calendar, Fry said.

Monday’s Queen Lane event was the second of four presidential town halls scheduled for November and December, each focusing on progress in implementing the University’s strategic plan.

The remaining meetings will be:

• 4 to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 2 in Behrakis Grand Hall, for University City Campus faculty and all Sacramento employees (a remote for Sacramento will be set up at One Capitol Mall, Suite 260)

• 4 to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Center City Campus (Geary B) for medical and health sciences faculty and professional staff

Academy of Natural Sciences employees are encouraged to attend whichever town hall is most convenient for them.

To RSVP for one of the remaining town halls, visit Drexel.edu/strategicplan.