New Horizons Initiative collects faculty suggestions for changes

Jennifer Nacin

An open forum, sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Representative Assembly, left faculty and staff concerned about their jobs and the fate of the departments and programs in which they are involved.

The forum — the main goal of which was to explain the New Horizons Initiative and gather suggestions from faculty and staff on how to improve the conditions brought on by budget cuts — allowed more than 50 faculty and staff members to learn more about the initiative and voice their recommendations.

The New Horizons Initiative is a one-year study, assembled by the LAS Budget Advisory Group, that analyzes the $6 million budget cuts during the past four years and suggests ways to spend money respective to the needs of the students.

Faculty concerns stemmed from the recommendations to reallocate faculty lines, merge departments and majors, and the potential decrease of the faculty-to-student ratio.

Paul Lasley, professor and chairman of sociology and chairman of the group, said the advisory group recommended the college should combine such programs as anthropology and religious studies or areas in the English department in order to use available funding more effectively.

“Our conclusion is that the college has too many programs and too many majors to maintain excellence with current resources,” he said. “This is not a decision we came to lightly.”

Lasley said there must be compelling reasons to continue to offer each undergraduate major.

The decision to merge certain majors would be based on students’ numbers, clock hours and credit hours, he said.

Kevin Amidon, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures, said he and his colleagues think the idea to minimize departments would impede the college rather than assist it.

“We are concerned that the focus of small programs is distracting us from the real questions involved here,” he said.

Paul Griffiths, assistant professor of history, said he was concerned LAS dollars will be reallocated to the sciences rather than the humanities. He said a goal of the initiative, to maintain excellence, may eventually lead funding to flow more toward science programs. Griffiths said if this happened it would result in a weaker humanities department.

“It’s not deliberate, but inevitable,” he said.

Lasley said he appreciated all of the comments and ideas voiced during the forum.

“You could tell people’s comments were with passion,” he said. “Now we have to come together to examine this information and see where we can go from here.”

Faculty and staff suggestions will be collected until Feb. 15. Suggestions can be anonymously submitted via the New Horizons Responses Web site or by memo. The Budget Advisory Group plans to review recommendations beginning April 1.