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Vice President for Academic Affairs proposes reorganization of academic colleges

10/8/2001
October 9, 2001

A proposal by Dr. Bruce Speck to reorganize the University's academic colleges met with both praise and criticism by faculty.

Speck's proposal, submitted to Dr. Sherry Hoppe on Sept. 17, calls for numerous changes. Among them is the reassignment of Development Studies Program faculty to individual colleges.

The proposed reorganization also would disperse some of the 15 programs now under the College of Arts and Sciences to other colleges. Biology and chemistry, for example, would be part of the newly named College of Science and Mathematics. Art would fall under the newly created College of Arts and Letters.

Other colleges also would be affected. Under the new proposal, the colleges would be organized as follows:

College of Arts and Letters - Art, Communication and Theatre, History and Philosophy, Languages and Literature, Music,

College of Science and Mathematics - Biology, Chemistry and Physics, Geology/Geography and Agriculture, Mathematics

College of Business - Accounting, Business Law, Economics, Decision Sciences, General Business, Finance, Management, Marketing and Computer Science

College of Education and Human Services - Education, Health and Human Performance, Military Science, Political Science, Sociology, Social Work
Psychology, School of Nursing

The proposal calls for the creation of a new AVP position. That individual would oversee graduate studies, grants and sponsored programs, institutional planning and analysis and institutional research.

That point of the proposal, which eliminates the College of Graduate Studies dean, has proven to be controversial. At a specially called meeting between Speck and concerned faculty on Friday, Sept. 28, Dr. David O'Drobinak, professor of biology, likened the move to "chopping the head off" the graduate program. Dr. Allen Henderson, chair of the music department, noted that the proposal "seems like a dilution…a lowering of the significance of graduate study on campus."

Speck denies that, but admits the proposal does call for scrutiny of current recruitment strategies.

"We've been recruiting across a geographically diverse area, including Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama. But the bulk of our students come from a subscribed geographical area," he says.

Out-of-state tuition costs and the University's non-competitive graduate stipends often doom such recruitment efforts to failure, he adds. "How much time should we spend recruiting in places where we're disadvantaged?"

Because the proposed reorganization would reduce the number of department chairs (who receive stipends and released time for their service), it also will save the University money, according to Speck.

"Under the proposed plan we'd save $70,000. That's $70,000 a year. In 10 years, that would be $700,000. That's something we can't afford to just sniff at. And $70,000 a year would restore some things that have fallen off the agenda-like faculty development."

But the economic gains that could be realized through chair stipends and released time are not the primary reason for the reorganization, according to Speck. The driving factor was the uneven distribution of responsibilities under the current arrangement.

" We have one college with one department: education. And one with 15: the College of Arts and Sciences. That's a huge management problem and one of the reasons there has been no stability in that college. The sheer magnitude of the [dean's] job is overwhelming. We need more balance."

Dr. Dewey Browder, professor and chair of the department of history and philosophy, agrees. "The division of the College of Arts and Sciences into two colleges of comparable size will make management easier for the deans," he says.

Addressing complaints that the administration has tried to "push" the proposal through, Speck says," We hope to provide TBR the proposal for approval in December. That would allow us to begin in spring and get people in place by fall."

He emphasizes, however, the timeframe for review can be extended if necessary. He also emphasizes that this is just a proposal. "The deans and chairs already are looking at how it can be revised. We hope to have revisions."

The chairs of the College of Arts and Sciences discussed the proposed reorganization at great length last week. Browder expressed confidence that faculty concerns would be addressed. "I believe Dr. Speck is willing to work with us," he said. "I don't think anybody should interpret this as an either-or situation."

In addition to review by individual faculty members, the proposal must undergo scrutiny by academic deans, the Academic Council and the Faculty Senate. Speck says that though the review time may not be lengthy, it is adequate.

"Education already has provided a counterproposal with a rational," Speck says. "That's what we want to see."

The ultimate goal is to improve the University's bottom line. "If we're the lowest paid of all sister institutions, there's a reason," Speck says. "There are inefficiencies. And if we can inch forward toward creating more efficiency at more levels, we can change our economic situation."

Speck will meet with members of the Academic Council Wednesday, Oct. 10 to continue discussions on the proposal. If approved by the TBR and THEC in December, changes could be implemented in May 2002.