The Blue Sky report: A starting point to the future of LAS

Thane Himes

Earlier this week, Michael Whiteford, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, released the Blue Sky Taskforce’s report to the public.

Blue Sky looked at the possible reorganization and/or consolidation of each of LAS’s 11 departments, specifically their size, missions and scholarly culture.

The taskforce was charged to use this data to make recommendations that included the consolidation of degrees, eliminating duplicate courses, development of new interdisciplinary programs, the removal of unneeded administrative layers and the distribution of resources and staff support across the departments.

The taskforce’s biggest recommendation was the restructuring of all departments and programs, with sub-tracks to maintain flexibility in prominent areas of interest.

The report included four models depicting different methods as to how this could be achieved. Each model recommends that the departments of LAS would re-organize into two to three large departments, with six sub-tracks among them, including psychology and behavioral sciences, social sciences, journalism and communication, humanities, creative arts and literature and languages. From there, the more specific departments, programs and disciplines would fall into one of those six departments, promoting an intellectual synergy among the merged programs.

The taskforce also recommended that graduate programs be reviewed during the 2011-2012 school year. Also, further decisions of whether various programs should continue to be supported, enhanced, downsized, merged with other programs or simply eliminated will be discussed following those reviews.

Blue Sky advised that financial resources “follow the students,” meaning that each department will receive money and other resources based on the revenue those departments generate for the university.

Along with the taskforce’s report, three additional proposals were released this week.

The second proposal, a draft entitled “Planning the Future of the Social Sciences of LAS,” states that there are a number of options for the reorganization of the social sciences. One would be a full merger of the departments of sociology, anthropology and political science into “something along the lines of [the] Department of Social Changes and Development, or Department of Change and Globalization.”

A similar option would be to integrate the administrative structure of the three departments, but maintain that each department would remain autonomous in curricular decisions.

The proposal also includes elements from the Blue Sky report with another option being the creation of a School of Social Sciences, again merging administrations but preserving disciplinary tracks.

The final option included would be to create a single department that also integrates related graduate programs, allowing for disciplinary specializations.

The draft also expressed that other options not yet thought of are a possibility.

The other two proposals consider the creation of an interdisciplinary doctorate program involving elements from the social sciences proposal.

In his letter to the LAS college earlier this week, Whiteford was sure to emphasize that the ideas and proposals from all four documents are nothing more than that: ideas and proposals.

Currently, no decisions have been made regarding the future of LAS.

But with the Blue Sky report and the other documents now accessible on the LAS website, students, faculty and administrators will have an idea of the direction things may be headed.