Restructuring the five programs will save CLA $5,000 per director.
After hearing five of the College of Liberal Arts’ interdisciplinary programs will be collapsed into existing departments, students and faculty are concerned with how the restructuring will affect students and the future of other majors.
“I think the main problem is the fact that, I don’t know how long they spent going over the issue, but [it seems like Temple] pretty much made the decision overnight, and it’s going effective July 1 this year,” Anat Schwartz, a sophomore Asian studies major and the president of the East-West club, said. “There isn’t much time to implement it [and] to make sure that it’s being handled properly. That’s not a very good way of showing that you care about the programs.”
Each interdisciplinary program will be re-situated into existing departments, said Teresa Scott Soufas, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
Soufas said the only money saved from this administrative change will be the stipend that the directors earn for managing the program. The directors will now also have one more class to teach.
“Now, [the directors] will be back in the classroom,” Soufas said. “It’s not so much a budget cutting maneuver as it is to strengthen the programs and their curriculum.”
Laura Levitt, the director of the women’s studies program, said each director currently receives a $5,000 stipend, and that by restructuring the programs, the university will save $5,000 per director.
American studies will fall into the department of English, Asian studies will merge into the department of critical languages, Jewish studies will go into the department of religion, Latin American Studies into the department of history, and women’s studies will be in the department of sociology.
Soufas said all the majors, minors and the women’s studies graduate certificate will stay the same. All information about a student’s major will be listed the same on their diplomas, transcripts and notations in the registrar’s office. The same faculty and advisers will be working with the programs, Soufas added.
Soufas said the only difference will be that there will no longer be directors for the interdisciplinary programs.
“One of the reasons for that is the programs themselves are very small with regard to their majors [and] the numbers of majors,” Soufas said. “What I want to do is to build them so that they can be more sustainable and have growth opportunities within the departments they will be anchored in.”
Since the announcement, students and faculty have expressed concern about the change.
Levitt explained that each interdisciplinary program had to go through a chain of command in order to be approved as an interdisciplinary program.
“The LBGT minor, the secular Jewish studies certificate and each of the programs in and of themselves, they all had to go through this very cumbersome, very long, bureaucratic process,” Levitt said. “It’s very important that there be someone who is in these fields of study, preferably a tenured faculty member with some stature who can be the person, can be the liaison person.”
“I think to make such a big decision without transparency is sort of discrediting,” Schwartz said. “The efforts [to communicate] so far by the faculty and by the students, and not properly communicating is disrespecting to these majors and makes them seem insignificant.”
“The move to consolidate them into interdisciplinary programs is already pretty recent, so consolidating them further now into departments throughout the entire college says to me that they don’t care,” Schwartz added.
Samantha Ray, a sophomore Asian studies major, said she was worried when she first heard the news of a program change.
“I was worried because I wasn’t sure what that would mean for me,” Ray said. “I still am not sure. You just feel unsure. You’re like, ‘They’re messing with my future. What am I going to do?’”
Kathy Uno, the director of Asian studies was concerned about what the change will mean for her department.
“I am very concerned about what will happen to the students in the Asian-related degree program if there are no provisions for a faculty director to do advising, scheduling of courses and organizing of extracurricular activities like the orientation to the major, guest lectures and other special events,” Uno said in an email. “With the Asian studies courses scattered in many departments … good advising is very important for students’ timely completion of the major and getting the maximum benefit from the many Asian courses Temple offers.”
“Already for well over a decade, Asian studies’ resources have been very limited, less than the other interdisciplinary programs with undergraduate majors, but if they become zero, there may be serious consequences for students,” Uno said.
Dwain Joseph, a senior Latin American studies major, attended a meeting with Soufas to address some student concerns.
Joseph said he asked about the future of the Latin American studies study abroad programs and summer grants.
Soufas said that there would be no change to students.
“I don’t understand – how does that stay the same if you don’t have someone in charge of making all these programs?” Joseph said. “It doesn’t make sense. You need someone in charge of the programs.”
Joseph added he was concerned about merging the Latin American studies program with history.
“It is so ridiculous to put Latin American studies in history. Clearly, it’s a thing of the past in your mind if you put it in history,” Joseph said. “I don’t understand though, how you could put American studies into English and Asian studies into critical languages when there’s one cross-listed course, and that’s Japanese.”
Not all of the directors were opposed to the change.
“In some ways, I think this will actually wind up bringing more students to Jewish studies, because when you cross-list it with religion, students that are looking for courses in religion will suddenly see courses that are cross-listed with Jewish studies that might peak more interest they wouldn’t have otherwise noticed,” said Mark Leuchter, the director of Jewish studies.
Still, some students are concerned over the future of their departments.
“You’re basically taking away the people that are spearheading these programs, and you’re putting them into programs. Except for one program, which is Asian studies, that is going into a smaller program than what it is, all the programs are going into a huge departments,” Schwartz said. “Even if the department heads do have an interest in the field … they don’t necessarily know how to do it. They don’t necessarily know how to spearhead and make sure that these programs are developed accordingly and that they are growing.”
Lily Fronden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.