Read this and come back. “Long-term academic changes proposed”

The administration and the Faculty Senate Council have suggested a major overhaul of the undergraduate academic curriculum to account for a sustained $10 million gap in the University’s budget beyond fiscal year 2010, according to a Jan. 14 faculty e-mail sent by Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe and Faculty Senate Chair Prof. William Flesch (ENG).

The proposal calls for replacing the current 43 majors and 47 minors offered to undergraduates with a much smaller number of interdisciplinary meta-majors, increasing the size of the undergraduate student body by 12 percent, requiring a summer semester to be completed before junior year and decreasing the number of Arts and Sciences faculty by 10 percent. The curriculum changes will begin with the students entering in the fall of 2010.

How come the students at large learned about this from The Justice instead of firsthand? And least we’re being informed of proposed changes, unlike in the boneheaded decision to shaft students on Study Abroad without so much as an apology. Again – why did the student body at large learn about all this through a leaked email?

Seriously? What else is going on that they aren’t telling us? Are they planning on abolishing all majors next? Oh, wait.

The new curriculum would need to be described in general by this spring so that the Admissions staff could begin marketing it to current high school juniors, Jaffe said.

The administration, in the light of a short-term fiscal crisis, is trying to make by long-term administrative and academic changes. This will probably not end well. Deliberation, due deligence, rational thought – all is being sacrificed on the altar of printing brochures by April. There is simply not enough time to conceptualize and study any such radical change, much less decide to implement a raft of them.

There was a 20% drop in applications last year. For the class of 2014 (the ones that are high school juniors now, and to which all proposals are targeted), Brandeis wants to increase enrollment. So –
– Decreasing Size of Applicant Pool
– Increasing Enrollment
– Cutting faculty
This is not a good sign for the academic pillar at Brandeis.

There’s a saying, “You never want to let a good crisis go to waste.” Let’s make sure that we’re not using this crisis to push through ill-thought out, hasty plans, simply because some administrator says we should. A draft PATRIOT Act was sitting in an FBI file cabinet for years and years before the crisis of 9/11 gave the government the opportunity of enough fear and confusion to pass it. Let’s make sure a similar thing – approving confusing plans without time to study due to fear and confusion- doesn’t happen here.

11 comments on “Major changes in store for Brandeis – but let’s not tell the students”

  1. Loki Says:

    Though we as students should certainly be more involved in these decisions and there should be more transparency in the discussion, I don’t agree that this is an excuse to push through ill-thought out plans that had been in the works for a while. By all counts, cutting faculty and lowering admissions standards are a bad thing for the University, and I doubt any administrator was itching to do so.

    The fact is, we really do have a very serious budgetary problem, and major cuts will have to be made. To me, the problem is not that such crazy cuts are being discussed and will likely be implemented, but that they are only revealed when almost finalized and other, different, equally radical alternatives are not talked about. This may well end up as the best solution to Brandeis’ budgetary crisis. But we need to know its the best solution.

    As for the decision to add a Summer semester, I find this interesting, and friends at Dartmouth say they like the Summer semester.

  2. Doug Says:

    Scary stuff, they are pretty much changing everything academically that drove me to come here. Sayonara academic freedom!

    The other thing that’s really fucking scary is this summer semester. I’m not sure of the full reasoning for it (obviously staffing is one thing, fewer courses during the year), but it obviously appears that they are looking for us to foot the bill for it and making this place cost even more.

  3. Victoria Says:

    Uh, meta-majors?? Is Brandeis suddenly Reed or Eugene Lang? I’d much rather have them cut unpopular programs and keep big ones (English, History, Biology, etc). I hope this doesn’t imply cutting grad programs in traditional subjects, considering they really enrich the undergraduate experience (atleast, for me).

    I sent this to my twin sister, who goes to Dartmouth, and she totally LOL’ed. This was her response: Her response: “the general consensus there is that the d-plan is obnoxious; sophomore summer might “work” at dartmouth, but only because students are also required to take off another term during the school year, which tends to cause a lot of problems with scheduling under the guise of a “rich internship experience.” Many dartmouth students do multiple study abroad programs because of the term system, but the combination of study abroad and “off-terms” means that, at any given time, all your friends might be off campus and you may not see some of them for over a year because of incompatible d-plans. Sophomore summer is a joke anyway – they say it’s a time for “bonding with your class,” but none of the courses offered are academically rigorous for the most part, and
    it deprives you of some awesome classes you could be taking in the school year, but can’t because you have to take an “off-term.” the d-plan is great for some people, but for others it’s a bitch – and Dartmouth’s so strict about it that students who want the “normal” college experience (such as myself) have an incredibly difficult time justifying to the registrar why they shouldn’t be on sophomore summer. these things sound great at first, but they’re really not.”

    When it comes down to it, Dartmouth is on terms and offers the ability to study abroad multiple times and take an off-term whenever. All other problems aside, you won’t be on campus for a full year. At Brandeis, however, if you take your junior fall off, your on campus September-August.

  4. Victoria Says:

    Also, I really hate the interdisciplinary idea. Obviously this won’t effect me (hopefully), but if my plan is to go to graduate school in English literature, this system is potentially problematic. Grad programs want you to have a broad yet seasoned knowledge in different periods and styles; it’d be easier to schedule your courses by periods (say, English Renaissance, 19th C American Poetry, Post-colonial, Victorian novel, etc) when it’s NOT interdisciplinary, and you’d also get more in depth (instead of, hey, I want to take a class on the American modern novel, what is Proust doing in here?).

    Sorry if that description is a big confusing, but as an English major, I think in those terms! I can’t imagine you’d get anything more than a survey in any discipline with this interdisciplinary major.

  5. Alex N Says:

    First of all Brandeis is above all an academic institution, designed to give the best education possible. This should be the primary concern of the University, and the idea of sacrificing any academics to save money is troubling to say the least. At the same time, the University must be able to sustain itself in the real world, amid declining donations and higher costs. Obviously something must be done.

    The debate then becomes about what must be done. Except there has been no debate, at least not in the open. It is this that seems to incite the most anger, and for good reason. The university has assumed that we, the students, do not have a vested interest in the future of Brandeis. It’s true that we will not be bearing the brunt of these changes: that will be saved for those high school juniors who will be reading about “metamajors” in a few months. But what the administrators and the Faculty Senate have failed to take into account is that we care about Brandeis, even when changes won’t affect our own academics. We want this school to succeed and are experts not only at what causes a high school student to pick one college out of the hundreds vying for attention, but what causes a college student to take pride in the institution they attend. We have remained an untapped resource.

    As for the increased attendance…what kind of intellectual snobs are we to decry the lowering of the median SAT score? I see no reason why Brandeis shouldn’t admit more people with a desire to learn. To pretend that this will significantly affect academics is to overestimate the difference between those who got in and those who did not. Changes like that are not necessarily bad. Students at Brandeis have proven themselves quite amenable to change in many forms. But change without discussion is characteristic of desperate decision-making. Now is not the time for that breed of leadership.

  6. Why not trust us? | Innermost Parts Says:

    […] changes, for real. The entire academic structure of the University may well be turned on its head – see Sahar’s last post. But we need to make sure that the changes which are made – however shattering they may be – are […]

  7. hbk2369 Says:

    You know, this school could save money by selling Jehuda’s house and buying him a smaller one, perhaps cutting the internet services at Jehuda’s house. I don’t know what his home is worth, but it has to be significant.
    Or what about lowering the temperature in all buildings to maybe 64-66 deg instead of the blistering heat we feel in Ziv well over 72 degrees. They keep sending us emails about not keeping windows open, maybe they should realize it’s too hot in the buildings and the controls they put in our rooms don’t do anything. Hundreds of thousands of dollars can be saved on heating costs alone.
    The next thing would be to cut the staff that goes around giving us tickets. I can’t imagine they generate enough money to pay the salaries of the people that are paid just to walk around and write parking tickets, let alone also covering their benefits.
    These proposed changes at Brandeis may all but discredit our degrees from this University 20 years from now. I mean that from a perception stand point. The school is 31st in U.S. rankings among Universities, that is because of its reputation in the world of academia, if we’re the only ones to change academics so that majors aren’t the same as everywhere else, our education isn’t as good, now is it? A computer science degree here isn’t the same as one from MIT right now, but can we afford to have the discrepancy get larger? People applying to this school will definitely take this into consideration. The school is going to see lower numbers of enrollment to begin with, and they’re going to add to it because we have a bunch of.. dare i say IDIOTS running the place. This is completely absurd.
    I am sick and tired of this damn school out for our money all the time. Every damn thing they do is about penny pinching. Every damn thing. Isn’t this supposed to be about education? I guess it doesn’t matter when the bottom line is a negative dollar amount as a result of years of ill-advised spending and improper management.
    If we’re cutting majors and minors — what the hell were they thinking adding Film Studies? Film Studies from this school is taking us nowhere and it is an utter waste of resources.
    What about those water bottles they gave to everyone? That had to cost a pretty penny. That’s the fault of the environmentalists, just making noise and not allowing people to make their own decisions. If I want to buy a plastic bottle that’s up to me, not the activists who just want to be upset about something new this week.

  8. hbk2369 Says:

    Oh, one thing about summer terms, I think the University also knows that most of our scholarships don’t cover that. Thieving mother-truckers.

  9. Dev Says:

    This makes me wonder what other schools are doing… how are they saving money, and could Brandeis do something similar?

  10. Melanie Says:

    What really confuses me is to why athletic cuts aren’t being made. It would make sense to cut the p.e. requirement to only one semester and offer less classes and to cut some of the athletic offerings. Our pillars are academics, non-sectarianism, social action and Jewish sponsorship – not sports.

    Also it feels as if the university is working to make it so a Brandeis education is less of an accomplishment, something that no doubt will be noticed by our future employers…

    Some of the changes made and proposed seem to make financial sense – but we have to balance that with our values – if we can’t keep up the level of academics or any of our other pillars – what’s the point?

  11. staffmember Says:

    Interesting blog, which I didn’t discover until this morning.

    The faculty absolutely want student input. The challenge is to keep the institution financially sound while maintaining the quality of the education. There is an huge amount of public and private discussion going on about exactly how to do this, encompassing a huge variety of ideas (much broader than the memo from the story in The Justice)

    I would prescribe a very small dose of patience. There will be a faculty meeting this afternoon to discuss it all and decide on the next steps (how to come up with a concrete plan). You should expect (and demand) that there be a much more open process of soliciting student input after that.