Academic restructuring proposals the focus of today's town hall meeting

CARS Committee Chair Adam Jaffe provides a preview of the forum, and what's next in the process

Adam Jaffe

In his role as Dean of Arts and Sciences, Adam Jaffe also serves as chair of the Curriculum and Academic Restructuring Steering (CARS) Committee. The committee will be holding a town hall forum on Wednesday, Feb. 25 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Hassenfeld’s Sherman Hall to discuss three academic restructuring proposals. BrandeisNOW talked with Jaffe about the proposals and what the next step in the process will be after the meeting. For more information about the committee and the academic restructuring process, visit the CARS Committee Web site.

BrandeisNOW: What will happen at the Feb. 25 CARS Committee town hall meeting?

Adam Jaffe: The main purpose of the meeting is to get feedback from the community on the three proposals that CARS is working on that would affect the undergraduate curriculum. The first proposal is the creation of what we’re tentatively calling “The Brandeis Semester,” or we might call it “The Justice Brandeis Semester.” There are different views on that. This would be a new degree requirement for all students entering in the fall of 2010, which would require all students before they graduate to take a semester of intensive activity either off campus in the spring or fall, or else on or off campus in the summer. Summer programs will include intensive, integrated programs in areas like environment, theater language, or science research. In the spring and fall the semester would be off campus experiential learning kinds of activities: internships or other kinds of community-engaged learning, or study abroad. It’s a way to recommit Brandeis to our students having a liberal arts education that is connected to the world, and that is really going to prepare them for being successful when they leave.

There are also two proposed majors that are going to be discussed. One is a business major, which would be created probably next fall, though we’re still trying to determine if we can get it running that quickly. This would be offered as a joint operation between the Brandeis International Business School and the College of Arts and Sciences. It would still be a liberal arts major, so unlike some schools where a business major really is a professional degree rather than a liberal arts degree, this would still be a liberal arts bachelor’s degree where the students would take the majority of their courses in arts and sciences.

The third proposal (which is not quite as worked out as the other two) would be a new major in communication, media and society, which would build on our existing minors in journalism and Internet studies, and would pull in historical and critical analysis of media and its role in society.

BrandeisNOW: How were these proposals developed?

AJ: They came from different places, from different members of the faculty, but they’ve all been discussed by the CARS Committee and its subcommittees, and are now being brought forward by that committee as recommendations for the faculty to consider.

BrandeisNOW: The Feb. 25 forum will not be the first public meeting you’ve had to discuss academic restructuring proposals. How did  previous forums go, and what do you expect from tomorrow’s meeting?

AJ: The previous meetings have been very lively and very helpful. For example, both the Brandeis Semester and business major have been discussed to some extent at previous town meetings that we’ve had. The previous ones, though, were more open ended in terms of just getting ideas and people’s thoughts, and now we have some concrete proposals that we’re looking to get reaction to.

BrandeisNOW: What’s next after tomorrow’s meeting?

AJ: All of the proposals have to be reviewed by the School Councils and by the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, and those reviews are occurring this week, possibly into next week, and then all three would require approval by the faculty at the faculty meeting on Thursday, March 5.

BrandeisNOW: Academic restructuring is obviously an intensive process, but is it exciting for you at the same time?

AJ: I think what’s exciting is that it gives us an opportunity to rethink and rededicate ourselves to having a clear vision of what we want Brandeis students to learn and achieve while they’re here, and to think about how we can best prepare them for what comes after Brandeis. I think all of these proposals in different ways will allow us to strengthen what it is we’re committed to in terms of what a Brandeis education is about, and make this an exciting place that prospective students will want to come to.

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