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The Point: Academic (Dis)Organization

11/21/2022

Greetings, Colleagues,

Subject: The Provost’s Proposal to Move Three Academic Departments Out of CLA

Action: Attend College of Liberal Arts (CLA) meeting today if you are faculty in CLA; otherwise, consider how to join the larger conversation around shared governance this plan demands

Let’s start with the main action item. There is a special meeting scheduled for 2 p.m today that was called by the CLA Senate and that is open to all CLA faculty—tenure stream and non-tenure track, full-time and part-time.  The core agenda item for the meeting is to consider the provost’s proposed academic reorganization, which partitions the College of Liberal Arts and moves Economics, Political Science, and Sociology to a new unit in a merger with the existing McCormack Graduate School (minus Gerontology).

The meeting will not simply be an update or discussion but might include the possibility of a vote on recommendations to the Dean of CLA; as such a quorum of 40% of eligible faculty is required.  (contact FSU or Caroline Coscia for Zoom information).

The utter lack of transparency surrounding this possible move makes it hard to get a handle on.  But the short version is that the provost has in the past week or so presented this plan to the three academic departments from CLA—Political Science, Economics, and Sociology—as a more-or-less done deal and hasn’t (last we heard) consulted at all with faculty or staff colleagues or graduate students from MGS. More recent communications between the provost and affected CLA departments suggests that he does plan to consult with faculty before making any such momentous decisions.

The FSU is constituted by colleagues from across campus.  While we are particularly concerned for those of us most directly affected by this ill-conceived proposal (faculty in those three CLA departments and MGS) we want to note that the profound repercussions will be felt as well by a broad range of community members—from undergraduates, to graduate students/workers, staff across campus, and so on.  There is so much to worry about (and fight back against) here: there are the direct and meaningful concerns of our members, but also the deep and lasting ways this plan for reorganization—which parses as “disorganization” in this case—will warp the central mission of the university.

The FSU Executive Committee recently discussed the provost’s misbegotten plan in some detail and will communicate to the administration that much of what is under discussion in this reorganization plan will necessarily be the object of impact bargaining—as happened recently with the incorporation of the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development into the College of Education and Human Development.  Matters surrounding workload, personnel decisions, governance structure, and so on, will all have to be worked out before any part of this plan could possibly be operationalized.

We are left wondering why the provost would drop this news at the busiest part of the semester, with hints that its implementation would begin almost immediately.  This proposed timeline represents not creative disruption, but careless destruction.  Additionally, it is hard to see how this plan embodies the oft-repeated goals of transforming UMB into an antiracist and health-promoting institution.

All three of the targeted departments have made it clear to the provost that they are strongly opposed to this move—at least without much more transparent deliberation and without a detailed plan and budget projection.  Even a perfunctory review of the concerns raised by colleagues in the affected departments reveals that there are huge unanswered questions having to do with pedagogical and scholarly rationale, governance, basic “fit,” personnel matters, and much, much more.  Additionally, the CLA Senate unanimously adopted a set of resolutions calling for a halt to this reorganization and expressly opposing the current plan; it should be noted that the Dean of CLA has also publicly announced his opposition to the proposal as currently constituted.

The FSU Executive Committee will continue to monitor these developments and will keep focused on any issues that must be addressed in impact bargaining.

For now, we urge you to attend today’s meeting if you are a faculty member of the College of Liberal Arts.  If you are not, we hope you will continue to pay close attention to the situation.

This is your union! Please let us know at fsu@umb.edu if you have questions or comments regarding this proposed reorganization at UMB.

Sincerely,

The Communications Committee:

Lynne Benson, Senior Lecturer, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Jessica Holden, Librarian III, Healey Library

Linda Liu, Lecturer, Sociology

Jeff Melnick, Professor, American Studies

For information on the FSU, links to our contract and bargaining updates, and a calendar of events, see the FSU webpage