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Vice president for academic affairs proposes reorganization of academic departments

11/5/2002
November 5, 2002

Dr. Bruce Speck has proposed to President Sherry Hoppe that five academic departments be reorganized to increase efficiency, reduce expenditures and improve academic quality.

Under the proposed reorganization, Agriculture and Geology/Geography would merge and form a School of GeoSciences and Agriculture within the College of Science and Mathematics.

Sociology and social work would merge and form the department of sociology and social work within the College of Professional Programs and Social Sciences.

Computer science and mathematics would be split, with mathematics continuing as the Department of Mathematics, located in the College of Science and Mathematics.

Computer Science would join with decision sciences and management information systems from the College of Business to create a department of computer science and information technology. The new department would be placed under the College of Professional Programs and Social Sciences.

The Developmental Studies Program (DSP) would be divested of remedial courses, and faculty who teach developmental courses would be reassigned to English, mathematics or education, while continuing as faculty members of DSP. DSP would become part of either the Center for Extended and Distance Education or Student Support Services, and the dean of the selected unit would direct the day-to-day programmatic activities such as scheduling labs, reporting to the TBR and budgeting. A lab coordinator would coordinate activities between the dean and chairs of the departments within the DSP faculty. The coordinator also would handle approval for exceptions.

The primary reason for the reorganization is to reduce expenditures, Speck said in an Oct. 21 memo outlining the proposed changes.

Speck noted that despite the legislature's last-minute approval of a sales tax increase that gave the University a continuation budget this fiscal year, Austin Peay still had to cut $900,000 from its 2001-2002 expenditures to cover new expenses the University would incur in 2002-2003, including $200,000 in increased utilities costs.

"Although the continuation budget has been compared to manna from heaven, I remain skeptical that budget issues have stabilized for the long term," he said. "We are holding our breaths until the gubernatorial elections provide us with a new governor and some policy statement about that governor's approach to funding higher education."

Given that both leading candidates have said they oppose a state income tax and will seek to reduce state expenditures, Speck says the University must find ways to reduce expenditures while maintaining quality. "Merging selected departments is one way to do that," he said.

Speck's proposed merger of agriculture and geology/geography was in part due to recommendations in a report from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission after its review of all agriculture programs in the state's universities.

The proposed merger of sociology and social work is reasonable because the two departments have "historically been allied," he said, and he believes the two departments could be strengthened by merging, adding new faculty members and hiring a chair.

Concerning the split of computer science and mathematics, Speck noted that reviewers of the computer science program strongly urged the University to create a separate department of computer science. Speck recommended that decision sciences and management information systems merge with computer science because "the function of all three units is similar, and we could strengthen our offering in all three areas by combining them."

Speck concluded the proposal by saying it would allow for reduced expenditures in secretarial costs and chair stipends, reduce the number of chairs in small departments (and thereby provide greater efficiency in administrative communication) and consolidate academic disciplines that have mutual subject matter interests.

He said he expects the proposal will meet with resistance from some departments. "I believe, however, that the legitimacy of certain disciplinary concerns does not outweigh the advantages of reorganization."

In the same memo, Speck recommended that a task force be appointed to study the feasibility of merging all or part of the Fort Campbell programs into main campus colleges or departments. The task force will be asked to deliver a report by March 2003, with any reorganization deemed feasible proposed for Fall 2003.

Speck also recommended that several enrichment programs be reorganized. He proposed that African American Studies, the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, the Honors Program, International Studies and Women's Studies be transferred to the College of Arts and Letters. The Center of Excellence for Field Biology would be transferred to the College of Science and Mathematics.