CAHS talks consolidation, considers proposals to reorganize

English and women and gender studies professor Lucinda Cole objected to the proposed reorganization plan based on several points, including contract considerations and the subject of peer review.
Kirsten Sylvain
English and women and gender studies professor Lucinda Cole objected to the proposed reorganization plan based on several points, including contract considerations and the subject of peer review.

Posted on April 07, 2014 in News
By Sidney Dritz

Retrenchment and program cuts aren’t the only changes in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. On March 28, the CAHS faculty debated a proposed reorganization of the college.

On March 26, Provost Michael Stevenson sent out a letter to the deans of all of the colleges at USM, asking them to discuss ways to reduce the number of administrative personnel at the university.

“I would like you to invite your colleges to yet one more conversation about organizational efficiencies with the goal of reducing the number of college administrators,” Stevenson’s letter told the deans.

Kuzma distributed copies of the letter to the assembled faculty of the CAHS. “We were going to reorganize whether we got the mandate or not,” Kuzma said

The draft of a reorganization plan that the volunteer ad hoc reorganization committee presented has been in progress since early this fall.

“Everyone who was a part of the committee unanimously supported this model,” Kuzma said. However, she stressed, it is only a draft. There will be two college meetings after April vacation where the college faculty can give their feedback and propose changes, and ultimately, the faculty can choose not to use this plan at all.

“If we don’t get where we want to be, I guess we’ll see what the provost will do,” Kuzma said.

“If this has to be done, it’s better for us to do it for ourselves than to have it done for us,” said committee member and English Professor Shelton Waldrep.

The draft of the plan, which was distributed to the college, divides the 14 existing departments within the college into five administrative groups, called “schools.”

One of the most notable and controversial changes the proposed reorganization made was the division of the communication and media studies programs into two different schools. Associate professor of communication and media studies Matt Killmeier noted that no one in communication and media studies had been asked whether they wanted to be broken into two programs.

David Pierson, communication and media studies chair, said that, since being integrated into one department in 2005, communication and media studies has developed in an intertwined, interdisciplinary direction. “We want to stay together,” Pierson said.

Other points of contention included whether the reorganization would change the process for peer review and how changing the titles associated with certain responsibilities might change the protections and stipulations of the union contract.

Waldrep said that the only departments where peer review would be affected were those that were too small to currently have effective peer review systems, but English Professor Lucinda Cole remained concerned.

“I’m concerned about the complete lack of attention to peer review, and what it means for our standards of scholarship,” Cole said.

Cole also raised the question of whether there would be contractual implications if the proposed plan were put into place, since the contract details protections and regulations based on specific job titles and departmental setups, and reorganization would alter those titles and structures.

Killmeier, who is also the vice-president of the USM chapter of the faculty union, responded. “If they do break up departments, there are contractual implications,” Killmeier said. He also noted that in order to do so, the college would have to get the reorganization approved by the Faculty Senate.

Stevenson’s letter requests reorganization plans from the colleges by June 15.