volume 43, number 2
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

Report of the CLA Ad Hoc Interdisciplinary Studies Committee

By CLA AHISC

   This Report of the CLA Ad Hoc Interdisciplinary Studies Committee assesses the impact of changes made in the status of five separate programs after one full year: American Studies, Asian Studies, Jewish Studies, Latin American Studies, and Women’s Studies/LGBT Studies. It was submitted to the Dean of CLA and the CLA Executive Committee in April 2012. In October 2012, the Executive Committee included the report for discussion at the Collegial Assembly, when it was made available to all CLA Faculty. The Report is reproduced here in full.

Report of the Ad Hoc Interdisciplinary Studies Committee College of Liberal Arts Temple University


21 April 2012
Committee Members:

Rebecca Alpert, Religion
Julia Ericksen, Sociology
Robin Kolodny, Political Science
Peter Logan, English (Chair)
Charles Weitz, Anthropology
Gabe Wettach, English

 

1. Introduction
a. On April 7, 2011, the College of Liberal Arts announced its decision to integrate five independent interdisciplinary studies programs into existing departments: American Studies merged into English, Latin American Studies into History, Jewish Studies into Religion, Asian Studies into Critical Languages, and Women's and LGBT Studies into Sociology. Directors for all of the programs lost the release time and/or stipends associated with those positions. Two full-time staff positions charged with administering the curricular and other needs for the programs were retained. In response, one program director immediately quit, some undergraduate students staged protests, an unflattering article appeared nationally in Inside Higher Education, and members of the faculty objected at the following Collegial Assembly.

b. To address this situation, Dean Soufas and the CLA Executive Committee formed the Ad Hoc Committee to advise the Dean on the reorganization and to assess its academic impact on the five programs and the departments with which they were matched. The members of the Committee agreed to serve at the request of the Dean and appointed Prof. Logan as chair. The Committee began meeting in April 2011 and continued to meet over the next twelve months.


c. In August, the Committee met with the Dean to discuss her planned statement detailing the formal relationship between each program and its new receiving department. This was a productive meeting leading to a consensus with one exception: the Committee believed that program directors needed release time to manage their responsibilities, while the Dean believed they did not.


d. To evaluate the effect of the changes, the Committee reviewed data on all five programs. In Fall 2011, we interviewed the past directors for all five programs, the current directors for four out of five programs, the chairs of the five receiving departments, and other people. On December 9, 2011, the Committee met with Dean Soufas to discuss our questions. On February 8, 2012, the Committee gave a report on its progress to the Dean and the CLA Executive Committee.

e. In the following report, the Committee provides basic information characterizing the individual programs. It summarizes its findings on the effects of the changes on the five programs. And it makes general recommendations for the future.


f. This report concludes the work of the Ad Hoc Interdisciplinary Studies Committee. We want to thank Dean Soufas for her time in meeting with us, and to thank the many members of the staff in the Dean’s office for their complete cooperation in providing us with the information we needed for this investigation.

2. The Five Programs
a. American Studies. The American Studies program at Temple has 15 majors and 3 minors. The number of majors has decreased 20% from last year (18 vs. 15), and enrollments are down 16% (3517 vs. 3045 CHG). The directorship of the program is divided between two faculty members in the English department, Miles Orvell and Phil Yanella, who alternate semesters running the program. The directors have asked to close the program, claiming it is no longer viable. The steering committee has not met on a regular basis and has not offered significant support to the directors (though they have not been asked to do so). One long-standing NTT in the department has resigned and it is unclear who will replace her teaching contributions to the program. There is currently one tenure-track faculty member, Seth Bruggeman, who holds a joint appointment in American Studies and History.

b. Asian Studies. With 40 majors and 12 minors, Asian Studies is the largest of the five programs but has the smallest budget. It continues to grow, up from 37 majors last year. Enrollments are up from last year by 35% (2290 vs. 3081 CHG). The program is run by the program director. Its steering committee rarely met or worked with the director before the transition and this pattern continues under the new system. Asian Studies has approximately 25 affiliated faculty; there are two joint appointment tenure-track faculty members (Roselyn Hsueh, Political Science, and Marcus Bingenheimer, Religion), as well as NTTs with joint appointments.


c. Jewish Studies. Jewish Studies has six majors and is the smallest of the five programs. Course enrollments this year dropped 20% from the year preceding the change (663 vs. 525 CHG). The director, Mark Leuchter, has a productive relationship with an active steering committee. The program has one tenure-track joint appointment shared with History, Lila Berman. It also has one full-time NTT, a position partially funded by a three-year grant.

d. Latin American Studies. Latin American Studies has 22 majors, the same number as last year. Course enrollments have increased 14% this year over last (2564 vs. 2913 CHG). The program is now affiliated with the History Department. Jon Wells, the chair of history, hired adjuncts and finished building the schedule for the current and coming years with the help of undergraduate History advisor Jay Lockenour. Neither has knowledge of Latin American Studies curricular issues or needs. Wells met regularly with Colleen Knapp to go over the budget, and Lockenour handled the advising along with Ron Webb (NTT/former director of LAS). There is no LAS steering committee or director. The Dean asked Hiram Aldarondo (Associate Chair of Spanish and Portuguese, who has one course release) to oversee the LAS Spring Semester Program (LASS) for this year. Aldarondo did this and is also planning the LASS program for 2013 which requires a fair amount of advance planning. The Dean has informed the former members of the Latin American Studies steering committee that if they do not reconstitute and appoint a tenured faculty member as director the program will be closed. There is one assistant professor with a joint appointment in History: Mónica Ricketts.

e. Women's Studies. The number of Women’s Studies majors has declined one-third from last year (24 vs. 15), but course enrollment has remained almost level, at 96% of last year (2482 vs. 2381 CHG). The program has two tenure-track assistant professors on joint appointments with WS (Judith Levine and Patricia Meltzer), and one non-tenure-track assistant professor appointed to the program (Siobhan King). Margaux Cowden, an NTT with a joint appointment in American Studies and LGBT Studies, has left, and her position in LGBT Studies has been eliminated. King will add advising responsibilities for the LGBT minor to her existing duties. Her teaching load, however, will not be increased, as is the case for most NTTs in CLA. The director, Joyce Joyce, notes that, while “the position of steering committee chair is a lot of work, it is possible to do the work” because of the efforts of the Administrator and Coordinator for the five programs. The director states that the faculty members have stopped participating in the WS steering committee. In 2010-11, that committee included seven faculty members, in addition to those with dedicated positions in WS. This year, that number dropped to one. The current director is the only candidate for chair of the English Department next year, and it is unclear who might take over WS if that were needed.


f. LGBT Studies. LGBT Studies is closely tied to Women's Studies but is in fact a distinct minor program, with five minors. Its courses this year are typically full and enrollments have increased by 50% (177 vs. 264) this year. One NTT held a joint appointment in the program last year, but that position has been eliminated.

3. Summary of Findings
a. Prior to the transitions, none of the five programs were in good condition. They operated predominantly as degree programs for undergraduates without a connected program promoting research in the field by faculty and interested doctoral students, a significant weakness. There is no question that their staffing and funding were, at best, minimal; external reviews for some programs characterized their support as inadequate and called the programs "unsustainable." Other problems were the use of NTT faculty as program directors, the dependence on other departments for basic curricular offerings, and the instability caused by a dependence on adjunct faculty to offer core courses for the programs. The relationship between directors and steering committees was sometimes unproductive, and as a result steering committees often did not meet. Faculty in the College had a sympathetic but frequently negative view of the programs. The relationship with undergraduates differed among the programs. Larger ones, such as Asian Studies, were popular with undergraduates and their courses well-enrolled. Smaller programs, such as Jewish Studies, had difficulty attracting enough majors to make course offerings viable.

b. Without exception, both program directors and their receiving department chairs reported favorably on the cooperation between the programs and their new homes. Because of the staff support provided by the Administrator and Coordinator for the programs, the receiving departments did not feel unduly burdened by their new responsibilities. Most chairs expressed discomfort with being responsible for an academic program outside their discipline.


c. The Committee believes that the Dean’s goals have been largely misunderstood as an attempt to eliminate the five programs. The goal of the new administrative structure was to preserve them intact in the face of budgetary retrenchment, rather than eliminating any one of them, and in a financial sense it has succeeded. The elimination of release time and stipends for program directors and the reduction of staff support have both reduced the administrative costs for the continuing programs. Some NTT positions have been eliminated, resulting in further cost savings.If the new administrative structure was meant to strengthen the programs academically, it has not succeeded in its current form. Following the transition, all of the old problems persist, and new problems have now emerged. As a result, all five programs are in a weaker state today than they were one year ago. Four of the five are in such a precarious state of existence that their continuation is itself in question. The problems creating this situation fall under three headings: program administration, curriculum, and joint appointments.

4. Program Administration
a. The most dramatic difficulty is in finding any individuals willing to direct the programs under the new structure.
      i. Latin American Studies has been without a director for the entire year and the program is being kept alive by the receiving department's administrators.
      ii. Women’s Studies went without a director for much of the Fall semester, and finding someone willing to take on the responsibility under the new structure required direct intervention by the Dean.
     iii. No one was willing to direct American Studies after the transition; instead, two former directors agreed to split the position as a short-term solution and have since requested that the program be closed.

b. The marked difficulty of finding voluntary directors for any of these three programs demonstrates their precariousness. No replacements are in evidence should any of the current directors step down. While the situation in Latin American Studies this year is worse in this regard than in the others, it also demonstrates a critical problem in the current administrative structure that all programs are experiencing. In that respect Latin American Studies is not so much exceptional as representative of an underlying problem in the new administrative system. This weakness has been temporarily masked by the effort of one person in other programs, but with no replacements readily apparent, all face the current predicament illustrated in Latin American Studies. In this light, the Dean’s 10 April 2012 communication to faculty affiliated with the program illustrates the fate all five programs are currently facing: “If by October 1, 2012, the Steering Committee is not formed with its members performing the appropriate service for the students, teachers, and curriculum, then the major will be discontinued.” The ability of any of the programs to survive the next three years under the current system is questionable.

c. The idea behind the reorganization rests on a reasonable premise. As the Dean explained to the Committee in August 2011, “My expectation is that the responsibilities will be shared among several committee colleagues instead of being the purview of one individual alone as has been the case.” The course reduction for the director would no longer be necessary under these truncated responsibilities. In practice, several critical problems emerged in this first year of the new policy. These were unforeseeable, in our view, because the practice has never been tried before, and our observations are a case of 20/20 hindsight. We offer them with that understanding in mind and in the spirit of articulating the lessons of this year’s experience with the new administrative structure.

d. First, many faculty members in previous years sat on steering committees because the position was advisory and did not carry significant service duties. These faculty members have normal service responsibilities in their own departments, and so far as we can tell, none of them had a corresponding reduction in service elsewhere. Thus the new structure rested on the willingness of faculty to take on an absolute increase in their existing service loads, and practice has shown that few people are able to do so. The problem is so widespread that it cannot be blamed on individuals or interpreted as a sign of their lack of commitment to the program; if that were the case, then the only conclusion one can draw is that no more than one or two faculty are committed to any of these programs, a conclusion that is contradicted by the history of the programs themselves. In addition, some of the most active members of steering committees previously, including former directors, were alienated by the implementation of the new structure and have stopped participating, leaving the programs without one of their most valuable resources. By and large, the active steering committees have become inactive, and inactive committees have not been reinvigorated. Instead, that burden continues to fall on the program director, as before, with additional responsibilities taken on by the (now half-time) Administrator and Coordinator for the programs, as well as by the receiving departments. Faculty who might normally be expected to take over responsibility for directing these programs are well aware of the new burden, making it difficult or impossible to find anyone willing to make the sacrifices the position now requires. This is a pragmatic response to a real crisis for the programs, and the four individuals who are working to keep them alive deserve all of our thanks. But it is unsustainable, in our view, and a different solution needs to be found if the programs are to continue.


e. An additional factor contributing to current problems is the decrease in staff support. The full-time administrator for all five programs was assigned substantial new responsibilities in November 2011, reducing time for work on the interdisciplinary programs by approximately 50%. Simultaneously, the directors of the continuing programs have needed greater assistance than previously; some directors were new to the position, and those returning had less time to administer the programs than previously because of the elimination of release time.

5. Curricular Issues
a. While they have been exacerbated by recent administrative changes, the curricular problems faced by all five of the Interdisciplinary Programs are long-standing, and are similar to those faced by small departments. The following are the most outstanding issues:


      i. Attracting majors to the interdisciplinary programs has always been a problem. Novel solutions to this problem demand faculty involvement. But, such involvement has seldom been available, and is now almost totally absent.
       ii. Under the new administrative structure, mounting the curriculum is problematic because of a disconnect between faculty in the program who understand the field(s) and administrators in departments who are tasked with assembling the schedules.
       iii. Good advising is essential to help students deal with unforeseen difficulties, such as course cancellations, and to guide them through the bewildering variety of courses that can be used to satisfy major requirements. In addition, since individual students take different paths through the major, advising requires considerable time. In the transition, this service seems to be vulnerable because it falls to the same person who is also managing program administration. To the extent that this diminishes attention to individual students, retention and recruitment of majors is likely to suffer.

6. Joint Appointments
a. Faculty members in several programs were hired to teach half time in a home department and half time in one of the programs. Because the appointments involve considerations of tenure and promotion, problems in this area need to be quickly addressed and corrected. When one of its faculty members comes up for review or tenure, the interdisciplinary program is required to send a letter of evaluation to the home department about the merits of the candidate. While there was an administrative structure with time release for the program director, this system worked well. But several problems emerged this year, under the new administrative structure. One joint appointment received a letter written by the program director without steering committee consultation. In another instance, the program had no director, so the chair of the department with administrative responsibility polled the steering committee and wrote the letter for the faculty member. The chair rightly noted that they had no academic expertise on the topic, but this is a weakness in the recommendation process that can compromise a candidate for promotion or tenure.

7. Recommendations
a. The Committee agrees that something needed to be done to improve the programs if they were to continue. The Dean decided that all five would continue, but the changes implemented have weakened the programs further. If financial issues are the only concern, and no additional funding is available, then we recommend reconsidering the decision to continue all five programs and recommend instead focusing existing resources more effectively to sustain fewer programs. The current structure is clearly leading to a de facto decrease in the number of interdisciplinary programs, but it is being done without considering the actual needs of the College itself. The Committee was not asked to determine which programs CLA should support, but we do recommend that the question be studied--taking into consideration research faculty strength, student interest, the goals of the College, and the state of the interdisciplinary field nationally--and that a decision be made in the best interests of the College before any of the current programs are eliminated. The selected program(s) needs to have a director with the necessary release time to enable them to reshape the program, bringing it in line with current practices and integrating it with an active research component. It needs to be constituted as a free-standing interdisciplinary unit, either as a program or as a department.


b. The Committee further recommends that the study outlined above be a comprehensive assessment of all existing interdisciplinary programs in CLA, not just the five affected by the restructuring. At a minimum, this would include the Master of Liberal Arts program, Neuroscience Program, and Environmental Studies, and the proposed new Global Studies Program.


c. If the College nonetheless decides to continue all five programs without any additional resources and without release time for their directors, then we recommend they be converted into minors within compatible departments and managed by the departments directly, as the only sustainable course, short of eliminating them entirely. Appendix A outlines several options for this route.


d. The Committee also considered the idea of centralizing the operation of multiple interdisciplinary programs within a single umbrella organization, for example, as a new “Department of Interdisciplinary Studies.” The value of this option is, first, the establishment of a physical location for majors and minors to go to when they enroll or need routine advising, which would be an improvement over the current situation. Second, while it would not eliminate the need for directors of the individual programs, it could reduce the duties attached to the position if the new department itself had a Chair overseeing the management of all programs while relying on the program directors for disciplinary expertise and program direction. Third, the centralization could encourage interplay among the programs on the methodology of interdisciplinary work itself, if it were properly nurtured. And fourth, the Department could be charged with promoting research agendas for the programs, something that has been underemphasized previously. The current Coordinator and Administrator for the five programs would continue as staff for the new department. Large issues would need to be addressed by the Dean, particularly if and when to tenure to the new department. This option would not be budget neutral, but it would be a reasonable way for the Dean to minimize release time for program directors without eliminating the programs, as the current administrative structure threatens to do.


e. We recommend that the College eliminate joint appointments to the programs because of the precariousness of the programs and because of the problems it is creating for tenure and promotion candidates. Tenure for the faculty still in line needs to be removed from the interdisciplinary program and placed solely in the department.

 

Appendix A
Minor Option for Interdisciplinary Programs


1. Creation of six-course minors


2. Certificates would be administered by departments, whose responsibility would be to manage course offerings. In order to satisfy certificate requirements, it will be necessary to make sure that an appropriate number of courses are offered each semester. In order to reduce the work of departments in this regard, a streamlined list of courses could be developed by the current steering committees; and a two or three-semester sequence could be modeled.


3. CLA Academic Advising would be responsible for monitoring students’ progress toward degree completion, using DARS.


4. There would be no general Asian Studies minor. Instead, several Asian Studies minors would be administered by Critical Languages. At least two minors could be created immediately: “Japanese Language and Culture,” and “Chinese Language and Culture” – with a possible third: “Vietnamese Language and Culture.” Each minor would require one year of language in addition to four other courses. A single Latin-American Studies minor would be administered by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. The nature of minor requirements (language requirement, advanced courses, topical course options, etc) would be determined by the current steering committee. Alternatively, the minor could be offered to students who complete a year of either Spanish or Portuguese and the Latin-American Studies Semester.


5. A single Jewish Studies minor would be administered by Religion; but remain an inter-disciplinary program. This minor might include a year of language and 4 other courses to be determined by the current steering committee.


6. One or two minors in American Studies could be created. The first would consist of a set of English courses administered by the English Department; however, the directors of this program have asked that it be closed, and that would need to be considered. A second minor might include courses in the humanities and the social sciences that would build on CLA’s existing work in comparative American Studies. If the second option is to be realized, interested faculty in the humanities and social sciences would have to determine the nature of requirements (introductory courses, advanced courses, topical course options, etc) for such a minor, and a departmental home would have to be found.


7. Similarly, Women’s Studies and LGBT Studies have no obvious, single departmental home, since it has affinities with English, History, Sociology, and others. However, without release time for a director, it is difficult to see how the program can continue as anything other than a minor or combination of minors with different emphases. We recommend that past and present steering committee members be consulted to determine the best possible course for the program. •