Discussions Continue on a Proposed College of Arts and Sciences

Provost Paul D’Anieri discusses the possibility of creating one large College of Arts and Sciences

Provost Paul D’Anieri at the Dec. 9 Town Hall with CHASS faculty. Photo by Bettye Miller

Provost Paul D’Anieri has spoken with UCR faculty about the possibility of creating one large College of Arts and Sciences on campus, in essence merging the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

The discussions have been robust and well-attended, with detailed questions from UCR faculty who by and large seem skeptical of the change.

“We won’t do this over the objections of a majority of the faculty,” D’Anieri said after a discussion on Tuesday, Dec. 2, with nearly 100 of the faculty from the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences who walked in the rain to the Student Services Building. A similar discussion was held Dec. 9 at the HUB with the faculty from the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

D’Anieri said the model of a larger college supports more interdisciplinary research, and it would also help UCR make more strategic decisions on undergraduate education.  “Key academic decisions should be made closer to the academic units, and by people with the budget authority to make them happen,” he said.

Some faculty members suggested that merging the two largest colleges on campus would dilute the power of any one department, and that it would be even harder to get resources from one remaining dean. “Do not submerge us in a College of Arts and Sciences,” said one faculty member in the CNAS meeting, to significant applause.

Jodie Holt, a divisional dean for CNAS, said agriculture is so significant to the campus reputation, and so thoroughly embedded within the sciences, that she would not want to see it get lost in a College of Arts and Sciences. “Most problems can be solved without this reorganization,” she said.

D’Anieri noted that there is already a great deal of diversity within the colleges, and that he is a political scientist making many important decisions related to the hard sciences, simply because of his role as the provost. “Good leadership can come from any of the disciplines,” he said.

Frances Sladek suggested a straw poll of the faculty about whether this merger would be a good idea for UCR.

Some of the approximately 50 faculty members attending the discussion for CHASS on Dec. 9 in the HUB voiced concerns about how the humanities would fare in a College of Arts and Sciences, particularly whether those disciplines would be regarded as a “service department” focused on providing courses to satisfy general education requirements or might become invisible unless they were associated with the arts.

The humanities ought to be considered on their own terms, and would hopefully become stronger in a College of Arts and Sciences, D’Anieri replied.

“The example I give is that somebody in biology somewhere is going to figure out how to clone a human being. They’re not going to be able to ask if they should. That will be the philosopher,” he said. “They won’t be able to write the laws (about human cloning). That will be the political scientist.”

David Funder, distinguished professor of psychology, said there are concerns about cultural differences between CHASS and CNAS.

“There are two big issues: differences in teaching loads, and expectations for funding,” he said. For example, neuroscience professors in CHASS have a much larger teaching load than do neuroscience professors in CNAS. And while the research of a majority of CHASS faculty is not eligible for large NSF or NIH grants, many faculty do earn prestigious fellowships that support their research in the humanities, arts and social sciences. Tenure decisions sometimes are based on the grants brought in; he asked if CHASS faculty would be disadvantaged in a college of arts and sciences.

“Cultural differences in teaching loads and the way research gets done are significant,” D’Anieri said. “In a college of arts and sciences those differences are front and center, and that’s healthy.”

Steven Brint, vice provost for undergraduate education and a professor of sociology, noted some advantages to the larger college in achieving broader campus goals.

“Graduating students in a timely way, fostering collaboration, and increasing diversity all can be accomplished better under the structure of arts and sciences,” he said.

D’Anieri promised that in addition to these informal discussions, he would be working through the Academic Senate to get a sense of the official faculty voice. He said if the decision is made to stay with the current structure, he is not afraid to continue making the decisions. He just wanted to have a robust discussion of what is best for UCR’s future. He said he was glad to be having the discussion, no matter which way it went.

He earned enthusiastic applause at the end of his presentations for the transparency of the process, and the chance for faculty to be heard.

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