The CARS recommendations are out! Read it here! Post your reactions here!

The executive summary of recommendations appears below.

Executive Summary
The Provost and the Faculty Senate formed the Curriculum and Academic Restructuring Steering Committee (CARS) after a January 22nd, 2009 Special Faculty Meeting. The committee is chaired bythe Dean of Arts and Sciences (Adam B. Jaffe) and consists of 8 faculty (Steven Burg, Susan Dibble, Timothy Hickey, Sarah Lamb, Robin Feuer Miller, Sacha Nelson, Ilan Troen, Sabine von Mering), 2 students (undergraduate Jason Gray and graduate student Jane Harries), and 1 administrator (Michaele Whelan, Vice-Provost). In addition to extensive research and analysis of institutional resources andactivities, substantive proposals and advisory reports were generated by 5 subcommittees: Admissionsand Recruiting; Business; GSAS Program Review/Special Faculty Advisory Committee; Summer Semester/Experiential Learning; University Degree Requirements and Advising.

Each subcommittee included additional faculty, students, and administrators in their work. In total, about 43 faculty, 12 students, and 12 administrators participated directly in the work of CARS. Private consultations with departments and programs, as well as an online survey to which 107 faculty responded, and a series of open, university-wide “town meetings,” provided the Committee with important information, ideas, and perspectives that in turn shaped its proposals and recommendations.

The Committee was charged with recommending changes to the General Education requirements within the School of Arts and Sciences; changes to the curriculum in Arts and Sciences leading to greater synergies and flexibility and enabling the faculty budget to be reduced; the curriculum to be offered during a “third semester” occurring in the summer; reductions and changes in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ programs; and changes in the administrative and/or departmental structures of the Academy that will improve efficiency and/or result in financial savings or facilitate the needed reduction in faculty. With the President’s principles as important guidelines (https://secureweb.brandeis.edu/transformation/principles.html), the Committee developed 8 criteria that informed its review and recommendations: contribution to our multiple missions; contribution to undergraduate experience; excellence; intrinsic essentiality; distinctiveness; synergies; and appropriateness of organizational structure.

Curricular Innovation
CARS has recommended a number of curricular innovations intended to respond to the interests of current and prospective students, and the faculty. These include recommendations now approved by the faculty and the Board of Trustees, such as the new undergraduate major in Business and an innovative program emphasizing intensive opportunities for experiential learning in the classroom, laboratory, and beyond, called the Justice Brandeis Semester. These follow upon the earlier adoption this year of a new major in Film Studies, and may be followed by other changes, such as the introduction of greater flexibility for students in the completion of major, minor, and general education requirements. The Committee also recommends implementation of an innovative new option for completion of the General Education Requirements for undergraduates, called the Independent General Education requirement (“IGER”). (To see more detail on all proposals, go to https://secureweb.brandeis.edu/transformation/proposals/index.html)

Considered as a whole, the Committee’s recommendations reflect the faculty’s dedication to preserving and strengthening the university’s core educational mission: providing a high-quality undergraduate liberal arts education, supported and reinforced by its close connection to graduate research and training that prepares our students for productive, engaged lives as global citizens.

Increasing Flexibility and Collaboration

At several faculty meetings, the faculty conveyed that they would prefer a streamlining and pruning of our existing commitments, rather than a wholesale restructuring of the curriculum and the faculty. After much analysis and discussion, the Committee concluded that most possible cuts to existing degree programs either save no money or do too much harm. As a result, we are not recommending the termination of any undergraduate major or graduate program. Instead, the Committee focused on the following changes in policy, practice and organization that will make it easier to deliver the existing curriculum. (Specific action items directed toward the general recommendation are indicated in parentheses.)

  • Elimination of barriers that prevent similar or related courses in another department or program from covering a curricular need in a given department, allowing deletion of similar or overlapping courses from the curriculum (Allow a given course to have multiple course designations from different departments; make wider use of joint appointments across departments.)

  • Mandatory consultation and cooperation among programs and departments, so that needs of each program are met in the way that is best for the university (Consider modifying the Faculty Handbook to change or supplement the School Council structure with more effective multidisciplinary curriculum committees.)

  • Recalibration of the balance between individual faculty’s interest in teaching particular topics and the university’s interest in having particular topics taught by specific faculty.

  • Increased flexibility in the fulfillment of programmatic requirements, so that the total number of courses that must be offered each year in order to mount a given major can be reduced, and/or the courses that do fulfill a specific requirement may vary year-to-year (Establishment of UCC guidelines for the structure of major requirements.)

  • Reduction in the number of low-enrollment courses taught each semester (Enforcement of the minimum course size, requiring that courses that routinely under-enroll either be dropped from the curriculum or be taught as uncompensated overloads.)

  • An increase in the number of different courses that each faculty member teaches in rotation, so that the number of distinct courses taught by the faculty as a whole over a three-year curriculum cycle can be maintained even as the total number of courses taught each year declines (Establish departmental standards for the minimum number of distinct courses taught by each faculty member in a 3-year cycle.)

  • Explicit planning to identify curricular needs that can be supported or provided by Centers and Institutes (Create a faculty committee to study ways for C&I to work with A&S, and procedures for planning, transparency and reporting.)

Reorganization and Rescaling

We have identified three existing departments that we recommend be converted into interdepartmental programs: African and Afro-American Studies, American Studies, and Classical Studies. The changes outlined above to reduce barriers to effective use of resources are intended to ensure that interdepartmental programs will have the same access to the resources necessary to mount their curriculum as departments, and departments will not have the discretion arbitrarily to reserve resources at the expense of programs. Our rationale for this recommendation is as follows.

Organizing an inherently interdisciplinary subject area as a department limits the contributions of faculty outside that department to the subject, and, conversely, limits the contributions that the members of the interdisciplinary department can make to the study and teaching of the disciplines in which they are trained. This means that both the interdisciplinary subject area and the disciplinary departments are weaker than they could be. In our newly resource-constrained world, we simply cannot afford such limitations on the fullest use of the faculty resources we have. The reassignment of faculty from existing interdisciplinary departments to other departments will strengthen both the interdisciplinary majors in which they will still participate, and the disciplinary majors to which they will now also be assigned. This will make it easier for both to support their programs with the reduced overall faculty numbers that we all face.

Moreover, tenure-track faculty are better served by a discipline-based departmental home that provides multiple mentors and models for professional development. From that disciplinary base, association with an interdisciplinary program can then enrich and broaden a new scholar’s development. Very small departments also inherently use faculty resources less effectively. Important administrative functions such as searches, mentoring and promotions occur infrequently or in limited ways, making it hard for organizational wisdom and experience on these crucial functions to develop within the unit.

We are not making recommendations about the appropriate homes for the faculty currently assigned to these departments. Under the Faculty Handbook, the reassignment of a faculty member to a new department occurs after consultation among the Dean, the affected faculty member, and the members of the potential new departmental homes. In the unlikely event that there is difficulty in finding a mutually satisfactory new home, the faculty member still retains tenure, whether in or outside an established disciplinary department.

CARS reviewed every department and program in A&S and has made recommendations regarding the allocation of targeted reductions in the number of faculty that will allow for a 10 percent reduction in the total number of faculty over the next five years. Because our first priority is to preserve the strength of the educational mission, our strategy calls for decisions to replace or not replace specific departing faculty to be made on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, with respect to tenure cases, CARS recommends that the university not use the ‘institutional need’ condition in the Faculty Handbook as a means for reducing the faculty. As is true now, each case should be evaluated on individual merits and the traditional standards for tenure should be maintained.

The Graduate School of Arts and Science

One of Brandeis’ fundamental challenges is that we are a major research university operating at a scale below that of any other institution that shares that aspiration. At any research university, graduate education and the research enterprise are expensive undertakings that rest on a broad base of revenue and other resources associated with undergraduates. For Brandeis, that resource and revenue base is too narrow to sustain the current level of support for graduate education.

In the last five years, we have significantly increased the level and duration of support for PhD students and some MFA students, moving the stipend levels closer to those of peer institutions, and increasing the number of years of funding in the humanities and social sciences from four to five. As a result of these increases, the deficit in GSAS has increased, even as tuition revenue has increased.

In order to improve this balance, the Committee considered seriously the possibility of closing one or more PhD programs. After careful analysis, we concluded that any such closure would (1) seriously endanger our undergraduate teaching mission because of the enormous role played by PhD students in undergraduate teaching, and (2) seriously weaken our scholarship mission and our reputation as a major research university. For these reasons, we have settled on recommendations that would continue the existing programs, subject to some further analyses of success, cost and undergraduate teaching contributions. We do recommend, however, reducing the size of most programs and explicitly linking PhD program size to generation of Master’s tuition revenue. Our analysis suggests that these recommendations can reduce the “deficit” in GSAS by about $1.8 million by FY 2014.

Brandeis should be strategic in allocating its scarce resources to the programs that attract the best students. Therefore, we recommend institution of a new program that will achieve this result on a yearly basis: a pool of special fellowships that would be awarded each year, by an interdepartmental committee chaired by the Dean of GSAS, to applicants who are exceptionally qualified, would diversify the student body, or both.

Two final recommendations are that PhD stipend funding after the third year should be conditional on successful completion of the comprehensive examination, and that the Dean of GSAS convene a committee to review teaching loads, establish school-wide policy and create guidelines for the assignment of Teaching Fellows to courses.

Other Recommendations

The Committee made a number of other miscellaneous recommendations on such subjects as adjustments to faculty workloads to maintain equity, elimination of 4-year BA/MA programs, and programmatic changes with respect to particular majors.

Conclusion

The last few months have witnessed an extraordinary outpouring of interest and effort by the Brandeis community, all aimed at strengthening this institution that we love while at the same time improving its budgetary situation. Many innovative and exciting ideas have come forward, and we have already made real progress towards implementing some of those ideas. Much hard work remains, and many of the changes that we recommend will be painful and difficult to implement. Taken together, though, we believe that our recommendations create a platform for recruiting, stimulating, educating and graduating future students, maintaining our scholarly and creative endeavors, continuing to contribute to our social justice mission, and improving our fiscal balance.

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