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Faculty endorses English department move to SBS

Stephanie Casanova
Stephanie Casanova / The Daily Wildcat Lynn Nadel, the UA chair of the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, and UA Provost Andrew Comrie answer Faculty Senate members’ questions about the proposal to move the Department of English to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The senate approved the proposal during its meeting on Monday.

The Department of English could move to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences this summer.

Faculty Senate approved a proposal from the department to move from the College of Humanities to SBS on Monday, with six senate members choosing to abstain. The department now has to wait for approval from UA President Ann Weaver Hart. If Hart approves the proposal, it will move to the Arizona Board of Regents for consideration.

While the university’s most recent guidelines for reorganizations and mergers of academic units states that a proposal to reorganize should go through a 30-day consultation process, the department expedited the process in order for the proposal to be on the agenda for the last Faculty Senate meeting of the semester .

The proposal was brought to the senate early because the guidelines define the Department of English as the only affected unit and a majority of the department approved the proposal, UA provost Andrew Comrie said.

“The timeline is purely procedural at this point,” Comrie said, “and if we did wait it would be four and a half months.”

The guidelines also specify that no important decisions regarding mergers and reorganizations are to be made during the summer and winter breaks. The senate first approved the department’s decision to present the proposal before the 30-day period, then approved the proposal itself.

If the regents pass the proposal, it will go into effect July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, to avoid confusion in budgeting for the two colleges, said Lee Medovoi, head of the Department of English.

Comrie said the proposal isn’t about adding or subtracting units, but rather about moving the department’s reporting line from Humanities to SBS, along with the department’s budget and resources. The provost will look at the department’s budget so the move doesn’t harm the colleges of SBS or Humanities or the Department of English, he added.

“There are thousands of transactions coming in at one time,” Comrie said. “Reasonable people will differ on some of the minor transactions, I guarantee it. But on all the big numbers, we will try to make sure that we get everything absolutely straight.”

Kim Jones, associate dean of the College of Humanities, was one of the first to address the senate when the conversation turned to the English department’s proposal. Jones read a statement written by Mary Wildner-Bassett, dean of the College of Humanities, and herself.

The statement said while the timeline for reorganization wasn’t followed, the fact that more than 75 percent of the department voted in favor of the proposal made the department’s decision clear.

“We wish them [the department] well with their new college,” Jones read from the statement. “The College of Humanities looks forward to continuing to maintain cross-campus collaborations and innovative disciplinary and interdisciplinary initiatives that will further strengthen the many ways in which we hope to continue supporting University of Arizona’s strategic direction as spelled out in Never Settle.”

Medovoi said one collaboration the Department of English is working on is team-teaching with professors from other departments in SBS for the first few years in order to build relationships between departments and find common points between teaching and research.

The department will have to make changes to its procedures and criteria regarding professors who are up for a promotion, Medovoi said. The guidelines in SBS require that faculty at or above the rank a professor is being considered for promotion have a chance to comment on the promotion.

While many departments in SBS allow faculty at or above the rank to vote, Medovoi said the English department needs to come up with a way to allow for input from that faculty. Despite these structural changes, Medovoi said the immediate changes won’t be significant or noticeable.

“In many ways, nothing will change at all,” Medovoi said. “If you’re an English major, you’ll never notice the difference.”

UA community members expressed concerns about the proposal during a community forum on April 23. Medovoi said while the department revised the proposal based on the concerns about the execution of the plan, some concerns about the change couldn’t be addressed.

“There’s obviously anxiety because it’s a change,” Medovoi said. “I think you can’t address uncertainty, but we’ve addressed everything that we can and I think we’re very hopeful that it will be a good move for the university.”

—Follow news reporter Stephanie Casanova on Twitter @_scasanova_

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