Dept. Restructuring Not Planned
Last Friday, a Wesleying entry titled “A Veiled Announcement?” posted under the username 2big2fail proposed that President Michael Roth’s Jan. 31 update on his blog, Roth on Wesleyan, is a subtle indicator that not only does Roth “[like] the idea of the dissolving departments,” but also that he “might be laying the groundwork for… something perhaps involving more direct administrative control over academic life.”
However, according to Director of Media Relations David Pesci who said he spoke for Roth’s office, the suggestion was a reach.
“I have not heard anything like that from President Roth,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Argus.
In the Roth on Wesleyan post, titled “Liberal Learning and the University of the Future,” Roth discusses ideas proposed in the 2010 book “Crisis on Campus” by Wesleyan graduate Marc C. Taylor ’68. Taylor promotes the development of a new postmodern university that moves away from academic specialization and eliminates tenure among other institutional changes.
Roth is highly critical of the idea of abolishing tenure, but writes that he agrees with Taylor’s argument against long-term trends towards specialization in universities.
“At many schools this has led to a fragmentation of intellectual life, with powerful departments defending their own interests without regard to the welfare of the institution as a whole,” Roth wrote in the post.
The Wesleying blogger cited Roth’s discussion of Taylor’s ideas as a subtle endorsement on the president’s part.
“Dissolving departments and replacing them with administratively managed ‘Emerging Zones’ is unlikely to be the administration’s course of action….But it doesn’t seem too conspiratorial to believe President Roth might be laying the groundwork for something big, something controversial, and something perhaps involving more direct administrative control over academic life,” the Wesleying blogger wrote.
However, Pesci categorized the assertion as incongruous with Roth’s post.
“I think [Roth] was simply discussing in abstract a book that has received a bit of notice in higher education circles,” Pesci wrote. “It sounds like this blogger was engaged in pure, unsourced speculation.”
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rob Rosenthal echoed Pesci’s assertion that he also had not heard any information about departmental restructuring.
“I’m not sure I can really speak to a process, since I don’t believe I’ve ever seen departmental restructuring in my 23 years here,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “I’ve seen or known about new things being added—the CoE, American Studies, etc.—but I don’t remember departments being merged or eliminated.”
However, Rosenthal also said that a process exists if the University wanted to consider any form of restructuring.
“For example, there’s a faculty committee now looking at how language departments can best meet their tasks at Wesleyan, and I assume (I’m not on the committee myself) that one of the many alternatives they’re looking at is merged departments; there’s a committee of faculty, librarians, students, and staff looking at the relation of ITS and the library that—again I assume—will look at some form of merger as one alternative,” he wrote.
In order to consider this alternative, however, there would need to be consultation with faculty, students, and staff and a compelling reason to do so.
“There are no plans for the destruction or reconstruction of departments generally,” he wrote.