Winter 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 4 // To The Point // 4TP3

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The Truth Is...Extension Has Multiple Truths


Maria Maiorana Russell
Associate Professor and Specialist
Cooperative Extension System
University of Connecticut-Storrs

Norland's quest for THE truth about Extension's mission within the land-grant university system is important. We're indebted to her for bringing up the subject. My primary reflection is that Extension has multiple truths because we're a federation of states, each with its own truths, and as such have multiple truths beyond Title 7 of the United States code.

The truth as I see it is that, like it or not, Extension does attach to the public service mission of the land-grant trilogy of teaching, research, and public service. Extension was created to serve the public - the noncredit, voluntary audiences of the university. The mission of Extension is to fulfill the public service mission of the land-grant university. We do that through the work roles of teaching and applied research.

Work roles are variously defined in land-grant universities. Some faculty are hired with "joint appointments," as is the case with many who have "specialist" titles. They may be in a position to carefully balance workloads to represent "the totality of the land-grant mission," but Extension field faculty don't assume university work roles, and most of us on campuses don't teach credit courses. (At my institution, it's not allowed.) Most of us are confined to program evaluation for our applied research. The truth is that we can equate Extension's mission with the university's public service mission, but we can't equate mission areas with work roles that are defined differently at different universities.

Beyond an Agricultural Mission

The truth is, when we define the term "Extension" according to Title 7, paragraph 3103, we're limiting ourselves to cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those in Extension who have encouraged the new issues-based programming model are saying that issues drive our programs, not just agricultural/rural audiences and discipline-centered program content that happen to reflect past and current work assignments. Issues programming will draw a variety of faculty expertise from all schools and colleges. How are we going to engage non-Extension faculty to help us implement issues-based programs? How can they be rewarded for the teaching and applied research that our programs are? Will they be rewarded for "service"?

Although public service is part of the land-grant mission, the truth here is that even though faculty in many colleges do some public service, often their attitude is to seek extra salary through paid consulting rather than serve the public as part of their work roles.1

Reality and Truth

The reality is that until the institution is prepared to say that every faculty member has an obligation to do some public service, and is willing to reward it, it appears this part of the mission is abandoned. An accreditation report by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in May 1987 criticized the University of Connecticut for neglecting policy and programs in the "public" service mission area.

Although public service is a declared mission area, public service doesn't even show up on the promotion and tenure documentation at my institution, leaving the self-serving governance functions and professional organization work as the "service" faculty understand is rewarded.2 When land-grants do this, they leave departments such as Cooperative Extension isolated in the public service mission area. That, as much as anything, has created the equation that Cooperative Extension is the service component of the land-grant, as our institutional budget appears to state.3 To the extent that institutions abandon the public service mission, they de-value Extension programs as well. That seems to me educationally, institutionally, and politically myopic. But, it's reality.

These are some of my truths. Yours may be different.


1. Maria Maiorana Russell, The University of Connecticut Public Service Matrix (Storrs: University of Connecticut, Office of the Vice-President for Academic Affairs and the Institute for Social Inquiry, 1985).

2. University of Connecticut Promotion, Tenure and Reappointment Form, revised July 1, 1986.

3. University of Connecticut Faculty Senate Budget Committee documents.