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A&S restructure juggles conflicting goals

Published: January 14, 2005
Section: News

Dean of Arts & Sciences Adam Jaffe's recently articulated vision for the future of the Academy at Brandeis sparked a furor when introduced on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2004 at a special Faculty Meeting. A follow-up meeting on Dec. 16 included the release of Jaffe's complete 61 page proposal, created as part of the Integrated Planning process (see related story, page 1). This report was finally opened to student review on Dec. 29.

Professors and students alike immediately seized on Jaffe's plans for cuts to several current programs, including Physics and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, and the proposed elimination of the PhD program in Music Composition and the major and minor in Linguistics. Generally ignored were other aspects of the proposal having to do with adding new high-caliber tenure track faculty, improving PhD instructional training, increasing technical and administrative support in Creative Arts, and several other proposals.

Jaffe's vision of challenges and opportunities over the next seven years is currently under review by a faculty committee created by the Provost.

The “academic structural deficit”

Jaffe's report states that several programs currently being offered have an inadequate range of electives, offer no small classes, and/or have many core courses taught by adjunct faculty. “These 'undelivered promises' are concentrated in (but not exclusive to) the newer interdepartmental programs,” he writes. Calling these unmet needs an “academic structural deficit,” Jaffe claims that if the University is unwilling or unable to hire new core faculty to fill these gaps, “we must revisit the question of whether these programs are indeed important to the curriculum.”

Jaffe attempts to break down this perceived deficit by analyzing current trends in the Academy. He quickly admits, however, that data available is inadequate to the task and thus his analysis is bound to be at least partially flawed. He suggests that he used the available statistics as just one aspect in the decision-making process.

Jaffe divides Arts & Sciences into three organizational units: departments, interdepartmental (ID) programs, and centers and institutions (which do not grant degrees).

While over 40% of student enrollment is within the School of Social Sciences, only about 30% of Arts & Sciences teaching resources are employed in that school. The other three schools have enrollments within a few percentage points of their faculty allocations.

Of the core faculty, made up of tenured professors, tenure-track professors, and professors on long-term contracts, approximately 40% are women, but less than 10% identify as non-white. Of the $32 million yearly Arts & Sciences budget, a full $22 million goes directly to faculty salaries. The rest goes to staff salaries, PhD stipends, operations, and capital improvements.

Analysis of course enrollments reveals a, “dramatic over-enrollment” in Economics relative to the number of core faculty. Business and Philosophy are also over-enrolled, although to a lesser extent. In contrast, Greek, Music, and Education all have low enrollments compared to their faculty allocations. Jaffe cautions, however, that many of these measures of relative faculty strength may be misleading due to emphasis in different programs on different areas, such as additional needs for counseling students or for performing research rather then teaching.

The Office of the Arts, paid for in its first year through “seed” funding, will need to be funded by Arts & Sciences next year if no additional gifts can be found.

Areas of concern

Jaffe identifies several practices and circumstances that he believes merit attention.

He claims that many existing policies inhibit the development of faculty. Junior faculty are forced to carry heavy teaching loads for six years, making it difficult for them to establish solid scholarly credentials. Many non-tenured contract faculty have been at Brandeis for a decade or longer but cannot, under current policy, participate in any kind of paid research leave. Teaching loads are based on departmental affiliation, rather then on the extent or significance of non-teaching contributions. Professors who run large labs or are performing prestigious research may not be able to receive reduced teaching loads. Tenured faculty who are not actively performing research should logically be teaching additional courses.

Some of Jaffe's harshest criticism is reserved for existing PhD programs. “Along virtually every dimension, the PhD training enterprise in [Arts & Sciences] operates at the minimum level for a first-tier university. We have fewer programs, smaller programs, and fewer financial resources per student than virtually any of our peers.” He adds, “[w]e cannot afford PhD programs that do not have strong links to other programs within the university, or to undergraduate needs and interests.”

And yet, it is difficult to propose cuts without concrete performance data, something that has not been collected up to this point. Saying that making choices based on abstract notions of excellence and importance is extremely difficult, Jaffe reasserts his commitment to interdepartmental learning when he suggests that “it is both practical and appropriate to choose based on which programs have important synergies with other activities.”

He devotes space to analysis of the success of such interdisciplinary programs as Legal Studies, Journalism, International Global Studies, and Health: Science, Society, and Policy. In these programs, “students are given opportunities to apply what they learn in hands-on ways. For many students in the Humanities and Social Sciences, these opportunities are the analogue to laboratory research experience that provides hands-on learning in the sciences.” New area studies, such as East Asian Studies, are “key links to a global world.” And finally, areas like Neuroscience and Biophysics are “where the most exciting frontier research is occurring.” Jaffe wants to continue to expand and strengthen these programs, some of which he contends are under-supported.

He is also concerned that, due to the tenure process, faculty, who are tenured in a single department and cannot be tenured in an ID program, are not deeply committed to the interdisciplinary subjects in which they teach. He would like to modify the tenure process so that faculty can be tenured in interdisciplinary programs. Knowing that such a proposal would be highly controversial, Jaffe is instead pursuing other approaches, such as adding tenure-track faculty with specific commitments to specific programs. A recently hired sociology professor, for example, is contractually obligated to devote 25% of her time to teaching in Women's Studies.

Jaffe laments that tenure plus the abolishment of mandatory retirement greatly reduces his ability to make changes. Many of his proposals, he admits, must be tempered by reality. He believes that around 50 tenured faculty will retire within the next seven years, and he suggests that not all of them will be replaced.

Proposals for change

Jaffe puts forth ten specific proposals. In order to attract and retain the best faculty, he wants to increase faculty salaries to the level of Brandeis' peer institutions in the next two years. He proposes to increase PhD stipends to a competitive level over the next three years. Jaffe proposes to phase in paid leave programs for assistant professors and contract faculty. He plans to budget to cover existing gaps in the Environmental Studies and Music performance programs. He hopes to hire two or three full time technical staff members for the School of Creative Arts. Jaffe proposes to hire the equivalent of two full time support staff to increase support for departments and ID programs. He plans to add one full time position for support of internships and other experiential learning opportunities. He plans to budget for the continuance of the Office of the Arts. Jaffe also plans to launch an initiative to instruct PhD students on pedagogy and teaching, and finally, he hopes to hire 14 additional core faculty in programs ranging from Theater to Chinese to HSSP to Bioinformatics.

In addition to these specific recommendations, Jaffe hopes to look into creating an ID PhD program within the Social Sciences, possibly with a focus on multiculturalism or democratization. He believes that such a program might be eligible for grant funding from the National Science Foundation.

Jaffe also wants to find funding to continue a faculty seminar program for teaching innovation, which took place this year. He is also looking into adding Korean among the languages offered at Brandeis.

To fund Jaffe's many proposals, he suggests several avenues in addition to the proposed program cuts. Attrition in the professorship pool will allow for the hiring of professors in different departments and programs. New masters programs in English, Public Elementary Education, Bioinformatics and Computational Methods for Biology, and Computer Science Entrepreneurship, and the expansion of the Women's Studies joint MBA to additional departments, in addition to the creation of an ID masters in “Cultural Production” (incorporating the Anthropology, History, Fine Arts, and Theater departments and the Rose Art Museum) could all bring in additional revenues.

Elimination of the Music Composition PhD program, the phase out of Ancient Greek language and the Linguistics program, a narrowing of focus in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Physics, and a consolidation of Social Science PhD programs are all actions Jaffe plans to take to reallocate funds. He justifies these cuts by pointing to low enrollment numbers, disconnect with other University programs, and over-commitment to some areas at the expense of others. This, the most controversial portion of Jaffe's plan, purposefully does not take into account the prestige and achievements of the programs in question.

Jaffe closes his extensive review with a warning. “We are not currently in the midst of fiscal crisis. We are not compelled, in a dramatic and immediate way, to make changes. But muddling through with the status quo is a disservice to who we are, and it ultimately will threaten our ability to continue to achieve our multiple missions.” Now his task is to convince the faculty that he speaks truth.

The Faculty Review Committee, created by the Provost in consultation with the faculty senate to review Jaffes proposals will release its report on Feb. 15. It will be followed by a two week comment period before the Provost said she will act on the recommendations.