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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Arts and Sciences? Really?

Given the responses to the last post, there seems to be some interest in trying to revive (or not) the old Arts and Sciences College.  Anyone who was around knows that our previous president broke up the college because he was mad that anyone would question his decision to name an unqualified dean and did not like the fact that so many faculty actually got together and discussed stuff.  But, the real issue is, "Did he do the right thing for all the wrong reasons?"  or "Did he do the wrong thing for all the wrong reasons?"  It has always been my belief, often stated here, that almost any structure works if you have the right people and almost no structure works if you have the wrong ones.  So to help get the ball rolling let me throw the first log on the fire.  I am not in favor of returning to an Arts and Sciences College.  As a member of a primarily undergraduate program I often felt as if we got the short end of the goodies if we got any at all.  We are now in a much smaller college where we have common interests with the other departments and access to the dean.  Okay folks, have at it. Should we reconstitute the A and S College or not.  Please explain your answer.


Anonymous said...

Dave. You have stated here and elsewhere on this blog that T/TT faculty in the Arts & Sciences College had a demonstrated-to-be powerful agency toward ensuring continued shared governance at the University of Toledo. For that reason alone you should want the A&S College restored as quickly as possible. Otherwise Jacobs Inc. and the BOT succeeded to pull a fast one and got away with it. Look ahead: dissolving Faculty Senate in favor of University Council (to eliminate redundancy) is next on the Neoliberal agenda of a "Jacobs 2" administration. Then comes decertification of the faculty union. Wake up UT-AAUP!

Anonymous said...

We had access to the dean before the breakup, we just didn't have a good dean!

Now we have 3 deans each of whom has associate deans! How wasteful is that?

Instead of a coherent college structure, we now have MORE siloes! It's harder to be interdisciplinary across colleges. What Arts and Sciences did as a college was emphasis the connection among all its disciplines. It encouraged students to study a variety of disciplines rather than limit themselves to a small cluster of courses. Because there are now 3 colleges competing for students, the small colleges are even more dependent on enrollment and it is vital to keep those credit hours in "my" college.

How has the tri-college model helped enrollment? The College of Visual and Performing Arts had to siphon off the Dept. of Communication to get its numbers up.

So, can we please at least admit that the breakup of Arts and Sciences was not about promoting programs? All this has done is promote administrative bloat.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dave, the former A&S was a large college with 20+ departments/programs that ranged considerably in terms of majors, faculty, support staff, budgets, programs, grad or no grad programs, degree requirements, spaces and facilities, that resulted in many excellent smaller departments/programs getting ignored all too often. If UT was a larger state institution with 40,000+ undergraduates and more majors within typical A&S departments, perhaps the college would be more equitable in terms of size and allocation of resources, but UT is not large enough to have larger and closer to equal A&S departments/programs. As to the ability of students to secure double majors, even post A&S such degrees are possible and exist, however admittedly advising for such is not as easy. I am not so sure that the few advantages of putting A&S back together warrants the return to unequal distribution of resources and opportunities for smaller departments, who are also now more closely aligned with the new college structures then was possible before in former A&S.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Arts and Science was broken up for all the wrong reasons, but I truly believe that returning to that structure would not serve anyone today.

Were the good old days really that good? Who was the last effective Dean of Arts and Sciences? One could easily argue that that you have to go back to Scott McNall from about 1989 to 1994 (give or take a year). Why did we suffer through so many mediocre to awful Deans? Yes part of it was due to poor appointments, but I submit to you that asking one person to lead a college as large as Arts and Science was asking for trouble.

Finding one person with an interest, passion, and fundamental understanding for such a diverse array of disciplines is not easy. Keeping up with the issues (good and bad) of roughly twenty departments/programs and numerous centers and other affiliated areas is not a reasonable expectations. As such there were always departments that “won” and others that “lost”.

Since the break-up, I have had more contact with my Dean in the last 2 or 3 years than in the previous decade. The flow of information is infinitely better. The college office is much more responsive than ever before.

Yes we have more Deans and with them more Associate Deans and more office staff. I believe that is a good thing. They are more accessible to faculty, students, and staff than ever before. They are free to attend to more departmental functions than ever before. They have a better opportunity to get to know the people they are leading. These are all good things.

I keep hearing (on the blog) people lamenting the fact that we didn’t have national searches for the new Deans. Perhaps that is a valid point, but I’ll submit to you that a healthy institutions needs to balance leadership with both internal and external appointments. External hires bring a new vision, a new way of looking at thing, and new ideas. Internal hires bring institutional memory, connections and relationships, and continuity. Both are needed.

Right now we need stability not more disruptive re-organizations

Anonymous said...

It is my opinion that UT needs a "College of Arts" and perhaps, "and Letters." Access to the Dean is important for every faculty and that really did not exist in the old A&S. Also, the campus was not balanced with the old A&S. Smaller colleges often had a harder time making their voice heard with the old structure.

some alum from back in the day said...

One thing I liked about A&S that I'm not sure exists anymore was the college-wide focus on undergraduate research. For those of us who were in, say, the natural sciences but were aiming for positions at small colleges, it was instructive to be able to interact with undergraduate researchers in history or economics. I got a deeper experience of the meaning of "scholarship" as opposed to a narrow focus on "data crunching" through those interactions.

Now undergrad research seems to be handled mainly at the department level. (It doesn't help that a former Best Buy employee appears to be running Honors.)

Anonymous said...

I do not recall any coordinated effort across former A&S regarding undergraduate research, which certainly has been and continues to be supported by the Office of Research. Of course if you had A&S students in your A&S class and had them involved in research that was great, but then again the same opportunities still exist as many students from all the former A&S departments are still in those classes along with those from other colleges. I simply do not see how the break up of A&S has impacted the ability of students from all different types of programs to be involved with undergraduate research in former A&S departments and courses.