American Studies at Temple?
By Miles Orvell and Philip Yannella
Note: Following the reorganization of interdisciplinary programs in Spring 2011 by CLA Dean Teresa Soufas, many of our colleagues have continued to ask about the situation with American Studies. The Program has continued to offer courses and to serve its remaining majors and minors. But in May, 2012, we proposed to the Dean that it be terminated. On October 1, 2012, we responded to the Dean's request that we write a formal termination memo (see below for a slightly redacted version of what we submitted). Since then, we were called once to meet with the Dean and the Chair and Undergraduate Chair of English to discuss alternatives to termination. Recently, the Dean's ad hoc committee examining the reorganization published its report (see elsewhere in this issue of the Faculty Herald – The Editor). That report also included recommendations.
BACKGROUND: Founded in the early 1970s with a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Studies at Temple was meant to be a small undergraduate major that stressed interdisciplinarity and the rigorous pursuit of knowledge. It has been noted for its commitment to the teaching of undergraduates, and three or its core instructors (Robert Weinberg, Philip R. Yannella, and Miles Orvell) received Temple Great Teacher Awards. Orvell and Yannella have been continuously involved with the Program, and each of them directed the Program for many years.
Many of the Program’s courses were cross-listed with the Honors Program. Many students who were not majors or minors took two or three American Studies courses as electives. The number of majors in American Studies ranged from a low of 11 to a high of about 40. There were 35 majors in Fall 2004, 34 in Fall 2005, 28 in Fall 2006, 24 in Fall 2007, 26 in Fall 2009, 24 in Fall 2010, and 18 in 2011. While the number of majors declined over these years, the number of credit hours generated by the Program increased, peaked, and then decreased. There were 2550 CHGs in 2004-05, 4279 in 2008-09, 3517 in 2010-11.
In recent years, the proportion of Program teaching done by Presidential Faculty declined significantly. More courses were taught by adjunct faculty, many more by NTT faculty, and fewer by Presidential faculty. Part of the cause of this trend was the increasing unwillingness of Departments to release faculty to American Studies. It also became more difficult – it had never been easy -- to attract Presidential faculty to take up the Program directorship.