Update on School of Languages and Global Studies proposal

I”m posting this with a new tag, “financial exigency”, as there will surely be a series of proposals of this sort coming. Rumor has it that the Law School and CoD are the next candidates, with Law being the biggest money pit by far.

These sorts of changes are core academic matters to be approved by the UO Senate, which goes unmentioned in tonight’s email from CAS Dean Blonigen, below.

Here are some numbers, from Brad Shelton’s “Operational Metrics”, followed by the letter from Dean Blonigen. As you can see, Romance Languages (the largest of the departments involved in this potential reorganization) has costs per student credit hour that are far lower than, say, Law and Cod.

Law School: $637 per Student Credit Hour – a number which apparently ignores the ~$6M subsidy regular UO undergrads contribute to fee remissions for law school students:

College of Design: $307 per SCH:

Romance Languages: $202 per SCH:

Letter:

From: Bruce Blonigen <bruceb@uoregon.edu>

Date: Monday, May 25, 2020 at 5:30 PM
To: [lots of faculty]
Cc: Karen Ford <fordk@uoregon.edu>, CAS DD Social Sciences <adsocialsci@uoregon.edu>, DD Humanities <ddhumanities@uoregon.edu>, Lisa Mick Shimizu <lisa@uoregon.edu>

Subject: Update on the Proposal Development for a School of Languages and Global Studies

Dear faculty and staff in our language and literature departments and the Department of Global Studies,

In the past couple weeks, I have introduced a preliminary proposal for a School of Languages and Global Studies (attached) to you and visited many of the departments that would be affected by the creation of such a school.  Many of the ideas in this draft proposal came out of conversations we have had over the past couple years with department heads and program directors in these areas, as well as our initial conversations with a steering committee we began this past January.

Such a reorganization would have significant effects for all of you and understandably causes anxiety. We are also pursuing a short timeline which is not ideal and can further heighten that anxiety.  Initially, this short timeline was because we wanted to provide a compelling proposal that would convince the Provost to allow us to renovate Friendly Hall for the new School, rather than allocate the space to others.  More recently, I believe that we must move expeditiously because I am very concerned about the financial uncertainties we face and the hard decisions that may lie ahead in the near future.

A recent letter signed by many of you indicates that the process has been too top-down and has not allowed the faculty to lead the development of the proposal.  I have been leading the initiative because of the short timeline and the need to move it forward after years of conversation.  But input from faculty has also been a focus. The steering committee was formed to have representative faculty be the key drivers of the proposal development.  We also had a town hall in February and had another planned for March until the COVID crisis hit to get all of your feedback.  The short timeline has been for the reasons I indicate above, not because we wanted to quickly expedite a fait accompli.

However, in response to your letter, I am now turning over leadership of the proposal development to the steering committee.  In doing so, I have given a charge to the committee that outlines principles that the School will need to have in order to receive my approval and that of the President and Provost.  The overriding principle is that the School has to imagine and (ultimately) build curriculum that will be centered on undergraduate students who pay our bills and who increasingly pursue only those academic programs that provide clear career/professional pathways. The School also has to have a governance structure that allows its leadership to make nimble, flexible, and coordinated decisions. It cannot be a mere confederation of separate departments.

I’m posting the current membership of the steering committee below.  Some have suggested that it doesn’t have appropriate representation. I am open to suggestions for a few other members to address these concerns.  Please send those to me in the coming days at bruceb@uoregon.eduwith not only a name or two, but an explanation for how you think your nominees would help the steering committee be more representative of our faculty.

The steering committee will be working through the summer in order to get a completed proposal by the fall. Obviously, all details for such a School cannot be hammered out during this short time period – nor would that even be ideal.  The proposal will have to provide the key principles that the School will have, measurable goals and benchmarks for the School, the proposed actions/changes that will be implemented, and a timeline for the changes.  I will certainly encourage the steering committee to continue to seek input from all faculty, staff,  and other constituents as they develop the proposal further.

I know this is a difficult task during stressful times.  But the coming years are going to challenge institutions of higher education to transform quickly like no other time we have seen in our lifetime.  We will best survive, and ultimately thrive, by working quickly to turn our challenges into opportunities.  And I think the opportunities in front of us are exciting and promising, from reimagining and building curriculum together in an interdisciplinary fashion to fostering new research partnerships to aggressively seeking external support from donors.

Best,

Bruce
Tykeson Dean, CAS

Current steering committee members

Mokaya Bosire (LING)
Robert Davis (RL)
Rachel DiNitto (EALL)
Ian McNeely (GER/SCAN)
Jennifer O’Neal (IRES)
Eileen Otis (SOC)
Craig Parsons (PS)
Melissa Redford (LING)
Lynn Stephen (ANTH)
David Wacks (RL)
Kristin Yarris (GLBL)
Philip Scher (CAS – ex officio, non-voting)
Harry Wonham (CAS – ex officio, non-voting)

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6 Responses to Update on School of Languages and Global Studies proposal

  1. Jack Straw Man says:

    Thanks to UO Matters for posting this. I think the whole university community needs to see this, because it shows how uninclined the administration is to actually engage in the shared governance the Admin-Senate/not-Senate Task Force promises. Bruce Blonigen is still intent on pushing this forward entirely apart from the Task Force. Which means the Task Force is a distraction and a cover for things the admin is going to do regardless. Right?
    .
    Incidentally, as someone who has been following this fairly closely I’d add the following context:
    .
    He mentions all the discussions held and feedback collected over the past few years. Indeed this is true – the SLGS is (as Bruce has admitted elsewhere) a zombie repackaging of part of the rejected CAS reorganization plan. What he neglects to mention is that the discussions and feedback from the faculty most affected were overwhelmingly negative: they haven’t wanted this, because they don’t see the need for it. CAS hasn’t made the case for its necessity, and if you look at the kind of budget numbers UOM has been posting it’s clear they can’t make such a case. This reorganization is being driven by other imperatives. What are those? Friendly Hall 1F? Really?
    .
    Bruce writes: “The School also has to have a governance structure that allows its leadership to make nimble, flexible, and coordinated decisions. It cannot be a mere confederation of separate departments.” In the draft proposal he circulated previously it was clear that his envisioned structure involved dissolving language departments and reconsituting them as programs (i.e. much less autonomy) answering to Social Sciences leadership. Dozens of humanities faculty would no longer be represented by leadership that understands or cares about humanities. Despite now saying he’s letting the faculty lead the process, this language strongly suggests he means for the process to end in a dissolution of language departments. Rumor has it that he’s threatened to defund them if they don’t go along. Does this letter sound like that threat has been rescinded?
    .
    Bruce repeatedly emphasizes clear career pathways as a necessity of the resulting SLGS. This sounds very practical and tough-minded, until you stop to consider that nobody, especially in this new Depression, actually knows what will result in a career. We can all remember when law school seemed to guarantee six figures for life – and then it didn’t. The big STEM push seemed to be the ticket, but now studies are showing that STEM grads get jobs up front and then lose them to the next generation of STEM grads whose skills are up to date. If the language departments go down this route, maybe it works, or maybe it sets them up for a failure that will give Bruce the excuse he’s looking for to eliminate them altogether.
    .
    And that’s why everybody should pay attention to this. It’s language departments now. It could be you next.

    • Dog says:

      As I have said here and else where (indeed in the 2008 Big Ideas thingie), Universities that start t dissolve departments and merge them with other in programmatic areas that are relevant to the
      current world, are those Universities that will likely survivie.

      If the only rubric the admin cares about is Dollars per SCH per Major, well, that is not a University in which all avenues and
      values of knowledge are equally important.

      • Observer says:

        Languages not relevant to the current world?? What are you smoking, dude? Are we in a situation where there’s no use for Chinese, for instance? Or need to communicate with the 450 million Spanish speakers in the world? If you reply with that old canard about “Oh well, they all speak English anyway” — first of all, that’s far from true; and second, in my extensive dealings with speakers of a certain other language, I’ve noticed that they politely talk to English-speakers in English; but they keep the inside track and the favors for the people who’ve bothered to learn their language. Boy, the idea that languages are irrelevant to the university and the modern world — I have to hold my head in my hands at the ignorance.

        • Dog says:

          never said anything about languagues being not relevant
          I agree that they are

        • Publius says:

          I have heard they want to abolish the English department too, so students won’t know how to speak/write English either. The only jobs they will be able to get will be writing messages/emails for the U of O administration.

          • uomatters says:

            This rumor is Fake News! Actually, the proposal is to reorganize all of CAS into six schools, each focused on one of the UO Brand’s tone words:
            Alive
            Extraordinary
            Inclusive
            Irreverent
            Natural
            Progressive

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