Withholding of Blue Sky report explained, LAS to gather additional information

Thane Himes

The Blue Sky Taskforce report available now is exactly what the taskforce turned in to him Dec. 1, Michael Whiteford, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, confirmed Thursday.

“Before the break, there were two meetings. At the first meeting, Dr. Chitra Rajan, chair of the Blue Sky Taskforce [and associate vice president for research and economic development], discussed the report with the chair[persons] of the social science, humanities and communications areas of the college, along with my three associate deans and my fiscal officer. We looked at the report as a working document, and we discussed requesting the taskforce consider making some changes,” Whiteford said. “In the end, we felt we should accept the report as it was to be the final version.”

Currently, LAS is still in the data gathering and feedback process that is expected to be the case until “around February.” As announced earlier this week, open forums are to be held to discuss the Blue Sky report, as well as other drafts of ideas and proposals released this week.

“The Blue Sky report was to get people thinking,” Whiteford said. “We are looking for additional ideas and input from faculty and students. From there, we develop some proposals that we would carry to the faculty senate and the representative assembly.”

One of the most prominent recommendations from both the Blue Sky report and the other proposals was to increase interdisciplinary work for graduate studies, doctoral programs and research projects.

While it may seem like a daunting task to conduct a broader spectrum of study and research, Whiteford believes it may be the right direction to take.

“Interdisciplinary collaboration is what it takes to acquire those big grants,” Whiteford said. “In most cases, no single researcher is going to get them by themselves.”

The drafts and proposals currently open to the public focus a great deal of attention to the social science aspects of LAS. One of the drafts specifically focuses on the idea of re-merging the departments of political science, anthropology and sociology into one intertwined department.

“I think there can be some really exciting synergies around themes the three departments have in common,” Whiteford said.

But Whiteford stressed that nothing is definite yet.

“No policy decisions have been made,” Whiteford said. “We are still collecting suggestions. We want to weigh all our options.”

Once feedback and additional information have been gathered, the next step of the process is for a specific and official proposal to be made. The current goal is to have such a proposal out by spring break.