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College shuffling questioned

Simon's proposed deadline too short for some officials

February 24, 2004

MSU Provost Lou Anna Simon gave MSU community members a March 5 deadline to respond to her reconstruction-filled proposal, but some say the limit is unfeasible.

Simon's report on improving MSU's liberal arts was unveiled Wednesday and includes suggestions to reorganize major university units, creating an integrative studies program and establishing more degree-oriented living arrangements. Simon said she invites questions and alternatives regarding the proposal before spring break, which begins March 8.

"The provost is giving us two weeks to respond to what she claims is a 50-year blueprint, and to me, that's unacceptable and it should be unacceptable to everyone on this campus," said Sheila Teahan, associate chairwoman for undergraduate studies in the Department of English.

In Simon's report, the College of Human Ecology, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the College of Arts & Letters would be fragmented and dispersed into different units of the university. No programs would be eliminated as a result of the proposal.

Simon's plan recommends forming a new college - the College of Communication, Arts, Languages and Media - that would combine all of the departments from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and some from the College of Arts & Letters.

The College of Human Ecology would no longer exist, but its programs would be distributed throughout MSU. The College of Social Science would receive a name change and some expansion to include the History, Religious Studies and Philosophy departments.

Certain programs within the College of Arts & Letters, such as the Department of Theatre and the School of Music, were not specifically changed in the proposal and will require "additional discussion and thought," the report said.

Simon gave the March 5 deadline to combine her ideas with community suggestions and to establish formal proposals to send through MSU's governance system, but she said she's flexible.

"If someone gave me an idea over the 7th, I would take it," she said, adding that the responses don't have to be concrete outlines of the proposals. "People aren't going to have to decide what it looks like tomorrow."

After she develops the proposals, Simon said people still can deliberate on individual issues before the ideas go through the university's voting system. And March 5, she said, is a realistic date.

"It's OK for what it is in the process," she said. "It wouldn't be OK if everything would be decided on March 15, but it's not."

Some faculty members said they're confused about why Simon is rushing through the process.

"There is a great deal of concern for the timeline set," said Jane Briggs-Bunting, director the School of Journalism, a department within the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

"I'm here and I'm concerned about the brevity of the time to discuss this, since, as the provost said, these are the most sweeping changes since the Hannah era and it's designed to position MSU for the next 50 years," she said, referring to former MSU president John Hannah, the university's longest-serving president.

"A change like that can be bold and innovative, but we just found out about it and we need the opportunity to look at it."

Marcellette Williams, facilitator of the focus groups that contributed to the final report, said the length of time she was given often gave way for rumors.

"Each focus group carried with it almost the rumor of the day," said Williams, a retired faculty member and secretary of the Board of Trustees Emeritus. "Because the process happened so quickly, (the focus group meetings) needed to happen over an abbreviated period of time."

The time frame also made it more difficult to reach everyone involved with the university to offer input, Williams said.

"We are a community of 55,000 people and everyone would want an opportunity at least to say, 'Well, no, I don't have anything to say,' and trying, in that short period of time, to come up with a way to have everyone have their say is hard," she said.

Briggs-Bunting said she's excited about Simon's ideas, but she wants a chance to weigh the issues.

"I'm aware that I'm not alone in these sentiments," she said. "People just want to take a deep breath to take time to absorb and think and we intend to start these as soon as possible."


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