Six-college structure to take effect this summer

After nearly a year and a half of controversial closed-door meetings and tense open-door forums, President Robert A. Corrigan announced Friday that the University will implement a six-college structure to take effect July 1.  The approval follows the faculty’s two-thirds approval of the latest proposal in a new referendum two weeks ago.

The six-college structure includes: the College of Arts and Humanities (which will also house the school of arts), the College of Business, the Graduate School of Education, the College of Ethnic Studies, the College of Health and Human Services, and the College of Science and Engineering.

This proposal still contained parts of original plans, such as the dissolution of the College of Behavioral Sciences. The College of Health and Human Services was created in response to concerns from faculty of affected departments.

“At San Francisco State, we did not want to make the mistake of acting too rashly in response to fiscal crisis, especially since doing so might have long term consequence for our students and our academic programs,” said Shawn Whalen, president of the Academic Senate. “Following UPAC’s recommendation to transition to a six-college structure, President Corrigan and Provost Rosser continued to consult affected departments so that the proposals that would be considered in referenda (referendum?) reflected the best understanding of the implications of academic reorganization possible.”

The University Planning Advisory Council was established in November 2009 and released three recommendations that faculty voted on in February. Alternative two was the only proposal passed with a slim margin with a vote of 266.41-251.85.

This now-approved alternative left the College of Ethnic Studies and the College of Education untouched instead of merging them.

Faculty passed the new referendum with 66 percent approval, though some believe there was still a lack of faculty involvement in the procedure.

“I didn’t appreciate that Corrigan and UPAC kept stirring the pot,” said anthropology professor James Quesada. “It was demoralizing that we were all left wondering. I have not seen too much justification for all the unsettledness.”

Anthropology will now be in the College of Arts and Humanities, which will become the largest college housing 25 departments, including the School of Arts.

The merger is expected to save the University $1 million annually.

“(The savings are) not the point,” said Frank Bayliss, biology professor and member of UPAC. “When you’re trying to save for something, the first dollar is as important as the last dollar. Over the long term, the savings will add up.”

The entire process took 17 months, leaving some faculty members feeling strung along. The administrators said the appropriate amount of time was taken considering the issue at hand.

“The campus took the necessary time to consider the implications of reorganization so that we could realize the cost savings while doing our best to ensure the quality of the academic experience,” Whalen said.

According to Whalen, the students will not feel a significant impact of the merger, but they will have to get used to the new structure should they need assistance from a new dean or college office.

Students, however, are concerned about the amount of classes that will be cut if a new dean does not protect their department.

“It’s hard enough for me to get classes as it is and I keep hearing they’re going to cut more,” said Cristina Lerma, a biology major who is trying to declare a minor in dance. “I really want to minor in dance, but if I can’t get in I don’t know what to do. I hope the new dean doesn’t do anything too drastic to our classes.”

Faculty concerns include different expectations when joining a new college, the ability to hire new faculty, issues regarding promotions and if the new dean will understand the needs of their department.

“It’s a new beginning, and new beginnings are always kind of exciting,” Quesada said. “Right now we have to rethink our mission and what our new path will be. I have faith that this dean will respect the autonomy of our department.”

The administration and deans are currently working with faculty in order to establish a smooth transition.

Leaders from different parts of the campus are contributing ideas for the University should consider while transitioning and Whalen expects transition teams to help guide the transition process.

“Conversations between those faculty and the new deans are taking place now, and establishing those relationships will be an important part of completing the transition process,” Whalen said.

While the majority of the transition is expected to take place by July 1, it is anticipated that some components will carry on until the fall and spring of next year.

Although a conclusion was finally reached, one hindrance to the merger’s completion is that the University has yet to receive its budget. For the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the University is facing a $32 million deficit if the budget is approved. According to University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin, if a new budget scenario is approved, this deficit could increase.

“This isn’t the end,” Bayliss said. “Everyone recognizes that this is stressful. No one is trying to take advantage of anyone. When we see that budget, that’s where it really begins. One million dollars may not seem like a lot, but that saves 150 classes for students.”

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