CARBONDALE — Bucking the chancellor’s directive to eliminate all departments, two groups of Southern Illinois University Carbondale faculty are working on proposals to establish colleges that would retain the traditional university structure.
Jennifer Smith, associate professor of Spanish and interim chair of the Department of Languages, Cultures and International Trade, said she plans to present the proposal for the College of Social Sciences and Humanities to the SIU Board of Trustees on Wednesday and that the plan has already been submitted to the university’s associate provost for academic affairs.
The faculty-led initiative parallels an effort to establish a creative college that is currently being called the College of Communication, Design and the Arts. That proposal is currently in its second round of drafts, according to Jay Needham, professor of radio, television and digital media.
Smith said she and her colleagues believe that in the humanities and social sciences, the departmental structure means something: It suggests an institution’s investment in those programs. Graduate students in English or philosophy are more likely to pursue a Ph.D. program that has its own department, she said.
“Many people have said (the elimination of departments) doesn’t matter, that this is being blown out of proportion, but I think it’s different in different fields,” Smith said. “And particularly I think many of us in the humanities feel threatened by this because we’ve seen sort of a national trend to eliminate humanities programs on campus or merge them into one unit that houses several and essentially downgrade them into an equivalent of what’s offered at a junior college — we offer a little bit of humanities in the core, and that’s it. They’re not legitimate fields in their own right.”
The social sciences and humanities college would include the following departments: Africana Studies; Anthropology; Economics; English; History; Languages, Cultures and International Trade; Linguistics; Philosophy; Political Science; Sociology; and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
The creative college would include the School of Art and Design, School of Architecture, School of Music, Department of Cinema and Photography, Department of Communication Studies, School of Journalism, Department of Theater, and the Department of Radio, Television and Digital Media.
SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno has said that his campus overhaul will increase “synergy” and collaboration among programs.
Smith said she and her colleagues included the creation of interdisciplinary centers in their proposal to address that concern. The interdisciplinary centers would be run by faculty from existing units — who would “be compensated with a course release where needed and feasible,” according to the proposal — and would not incur any major costs.
The proposal also seeks to establish a Council of Social Sciences and Humanities made up of elected student and faculty representatives.
“People who have criticized those of us who don’t want the chancellor’s proposal have often said we aren’t offering any alternatives, but what we’re offering is something that does everything his proposal does, except it retains departments,” Smith said.