To: Dr. Nina McClelland, Dr. William McMillen, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs
From: Arts and Sciences Council Ad Hoc Committee (L. Rouillard, M.Caruso, E. Johanson)
Re: Summary of Arts and Sciences Council Meeting, Friday, July 16, 2010
Date: Friday, July 23, 2010
With nearly seventy faculty members, students, alums and emeriti in attendance, Arts and Sciences Council discussed the restructuring proposal made by the Committee of Strategic Organization (CSO) and the proposal made by Arts and Sciences Chairs. During this two-hour discussion, participants generally expressed opposition to the CSO plan, primarily because of the extensive addition of administrators, particularly in the face of the often predicted budget crisis looming in 2012. Lack of documented need or even a precipitating problem requiring restructuring has left many faculty puzzled about the charge given to the CSO. Since the only college restructuring substantially addressed by the CSO plan is for the College of Arts and Sciences, and since there was only one tenure-track faculty from Arts and Sciences on that committee and one tenured full professor who is in an administrative position, faculty are concerned about the lack of representation from the College of Arts and Sciences. The students present also questioned the need for such sweeping changes of the college, changes they perceive as having no positive effect on their education.
Indeed, it is not clear how the CSO plan will address the goal of being a student-centered institution; nor is it clear in either plan how restructuring will improve teaching or help us to strive for excellence. The CSO plan was described as emphasizing research interests at the expense of classroom instruction and students' academic needs. Dedication to providing a strong liberal arts education is part of the University's mission and features prominently in UT's advertising campaigns. It was pointed out that one of the hallmarks of such programs is the presence of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, something UT has been unable to attain. Fragmentation of the College of Arts and Sciences will only make achieving this distinction less likely even as institutions such as Ohio State University re-unite their previously divided College of Arts and Sciences.
Departments such as Math, English, and Foreign Languages already are forced to rely heavily on part-time instructors and visiting assistant professors, which has serious consequences for students in introductory courses and composition courses, and indeed serious negative consequences for student retention, as current research shows. While part-time instructors and visiting assistant professors are chosen because of their experience and qualifications to teach, the constraints under which they work do not leave them enough time to spend with students outside of class, to mentor students interested in research, or to actively participate in the life of the university community. Faculty and students are understandably concerned about adding administrators when there is such a great need for full-time tenure-track faculty.
It was pointed out that the Faculty Senate was not consulted about the composition of the CSO, a direct violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Ironically, the College of Arts and Sciences would be dismantled in the hopes of creating more collaboration, yet the concept of shared governance, by its nature a collaborative endeavor, is undermined by this proposal in particular, and by this current administrative culture in general.
Participants noted that trans-disciplinary initiatives already exist, such as Writing across the Curriculum, and yet this particular initiative has of late been less than adequately funded. If we cannot fund the interdisciplinary programs we already have, how will we fund the sweeping new initiatives proposed by CSO? The appendix to the Arts and Sciences Chairs' proposal contains a brief listing of extensive collaborative and creative work already being done by this faculty. Can we do more? Yes, but only with the needed resources: more tenure-track faculty, not more administrators.
The structure proposed by CSO impressed the faculty as being exceptionally vague: there is no explanation of how schools differ from colleges, how institutes differ from schools or how directors will carry out the discipline-based responsibilities that Chairs currently perform. Since the CSO has officially disbanded, there are no answers to such major questions. While the collaborative cohorts are depicted as suggestions, fragmenting the College of Arts and Sciences into three colleges only threatens more isolation and the creation of more "silos." There are also serious unintended consequences. For instance, the Department of Physics and Astronomy will be divided; yet that department already does much collaborative work with Engineering, Chemistry, the Medical College, to cite only a few examples. Should this department be divided, one of its Ph.D. programs with a concentration in astronomy will effectively come to an end since the State of Ohio will not permit universities in its system to grant Ph.D.s in astronomy alone.
On the other hand, the Arts and Sciences Chairs' proposal features associate deans who would work across the current college structure to facilitate and coordinate collaboration by allocating the resources needed for team-teaching, cross-disciplinary research and creative work in the arts. Groupings into schools or institutes would arise naturally over a period of two to three years, and faculty and students would establish their own creative, collaborative teams and initiatives. In the discussion of the Chairs' proposal, several people commented favorably on the creation of these positions of associate deans described as "activist agents responsible for improving the 'cross-pollination' in all areas."
Neither plan was collectively endorsed, though we note that there were more positive responses to the restructuring proposed by the Chairs. The leadership changes outlined in that proposal were perceived as potentially having more connection to the students. There was a call for a vote of no-confidence in this administration, but no action was taken at this time. It remains to be seen whether faculty and students will be allowed to collaborate in shaping the future of the College of Arts and Sciences.