Brandeis 2020 Committee releases academic restructuring proposals

The Brandeis 2020 Committee today released its proposals for reducing academic commitments in the Arts and Sciences, saying it wrestled with "very tough choices" before offering changes to the structure, organization and curriculum that it feels will make the university "stronger and more flexible in the long run."
The 18 proposals are spread across the academy, with most of the savings achieved through faculty attrition and a reduction in the number of university-sponsored Ph.D. students.

Under this plan, all current undergraduate and graduate students and students entering next fall's class will be able to participate in and complete existing academic programs before any of the proposed changes take place. An estimated 35 of the approximately 1,000 students who graduate from Arts and Sciences annually are in programs proposed for eventual elimination or reduction, according to Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe, who served as chairman of the committee.

An estimated seven full-time and six part-time faculty and staff jobs will be eliminated over time, Jaffe said. No jobs will be eliminated before July 2011, and there are no proposed cuts in administrative support staff, he added.
In addition to the proposed reductions, the report recommends major reorganizations and integrations in several areas, including the sciences, theater, American studies, and literature and cultural offerings, according to the report by the 23-member committee of faculty, staff and students.
"The committee has tried hard to approach its task from the perspective of what choices are best for Brandeis as a whole in the long run,” the report said. “While these proposals represent diminution of some important aspects of our mission, these changes will, in the aggregate, make us more financially viable, better able to deliver the curriculum we remain committed to and more flexible in responding to new demands and opportunities."

The impact of the proposed reductions on undergraduate programs is minimal, according to the report.

The proposals are part of a process that began last month at a faculty retreat at which Meyer Koplow, chairman of the Board of Trustees' Committee on Budget and Finance, outlined the need to correct the historical imbalance between the university's resources and its commitments. Koplow called on the faculty to develop proposals to address that gap before the full Board of Trustees meeting on March 24, when the annual budget is set. Faculty participants at the retreat agreed to form the Brandeis 2020 Committee to undertake that task.
"Brandeis is an excellent and exciting place to teach and learn, but we have always struggled to align our aspirations and commitments with our resources,” the report said. “As the youngest and smallest major research university in the country, our striving to be both a fine liberal arts college and an elite research university leaves us spread too thin and vulnerable to external shocks."
Committee members said that while they would have preferred more time to formulate a plan, “these choices would be difficult no matter how much time was available.” 
"Every faculty member, every undergraduate program and every graduate program contributes to the mission of this university,” the report said. “There is no 'low-hanging fruit' waiting to be plucked to produce resource savings without loss of accomplishment. We wish that the financial picture were better and that we didn't have to make these proposals to cut back. We have wrestled with what these proposals will mean to our colleagues and future students."
The Brandeis 2020 Committee’s proposals come on top of last year's recommendations by the Curricular and Academic Restructuring Steering (CARS) committee to increase undergraduate enrollment by 400 students while trimming 35 positions from the arts and sciences faculty. If adopted, the total long-term savings proposed by both committees would be approximately $3.8 million annually.
President Jehuda Reinharz called the committee's efforts historic. "As far as I know, this kind of process by members of the faculty has never happened before. We've had strategic plans in the past, but the thorough analysis and imaginative proposals in this report exceeds those efforts. It is very hard for faculty members to suggest restructuring or eliminating programs of other faculty members. Every college and university in the country is facing financial challenges, but I don't know of any institution which has gone about addressing its problems in quite the way Brandeis has. All of us owe the members of the Brandeis 2020 Committee our profound thanks." 

Specifically, the committee is proposing:

  • New admissions to the Ph.D. program in anthropology should be suspended indefinitely, effective immediately, except for currently enrolled students in the master’s program (for whom the possibility of admission to the Ph.D. program was part of the reason for enrolling in the master’s program).
  • The Ph.D. program in biochemistry should be merged with the Ph.D. program in biophysics and structural biology to form a single Ph.D. program in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.
  • The number of university-funded slots (total slots, not new admits) in the computer science Ph.D. program should be reduced from 10 to five, effective with AY 2010-11.
  • The number of university-funded slots (total slots, not new admits) in the chemistry Ph.D. program should be reduced from 25 to 20, effective with AY 2010-11.
  • New admissions to the MFA program in theater design should be suspended indefinitely, effective immediately. The graduate design curriculum should be maintained through the successful program completion of the current first and second year design students, and then phased out. The tremendous interest and enthusiasm for theater among undergraduates should be served through an undergraduate theater curriculum that addresses and integrates all aspects of history, performance and design, and draws undergraduates into more of the department’s activities.
  • The budget of the Brandeis Theater Company and related theater production activities should be reduced significantly over the next two years. The existing model of producing theatre in the Spingold Theater Center should be reevaluated to make it more cost-effective, and to work in concert with the theater arts curriculum to better engage undergraduates in theater productions.
  • New admissions to the master’s program in cultural production should be suspended indefinitely, effective immediately. The cultural production curriculum should be maintained as necessary for currently enrolled students, and then phased out.
  • All GSAS stand-alone master’s programs should prepare a three-year plan (2010-11 through 2012-13) showing how they will achieve benchmarks set by the dean of GSAS for enrollment, expenses, revenue and metrics of student success and satisfaction. Programs that do not achieve their benchmarks by 2012-13 will be phased out at that time.
  • The chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physics, math and computer science departments should be placed under a new “umbrella” of a Division of Science. A new director of the Division of Science, together with a curriculum committee with representatives from each department, should take on the responsibility for planning the curricula of the majors, minors and graduate programs in the sciences. In addition, the administrative and technical staff support in these departments should be reorganized and restructured to support the curriculum and the research needs of the faculty, at the level of the division. The departments would retain their Handbook-mandated roles in the processes of appointment, review and promotion of faculty.
  • The new Division of Science should carry out the CARS-mandated net reduction in faculty of 10 FTE by the elimination of specific subject areas from the research portfolios of each department, with corresponding reduction of the associated curricular activities. The areas of chemical dynamics, immunology, radio astronomy and combinatorics should be phased out entirely; targeted nonreplacement of faculty in cross-departmental research areas will focus the remaining research enterprise and preserve current areas of strength.
  • The American studies department should be reorganized as an interdepartmental program, maintaining and potentially growing the existing major in American studies under the aegis of the program. Over time, this will allow this innovative and popular major to thrive through increased contributions from Americanists outside the current department, even as the CARS Committee-recommended reduction of four faculty FTE occurs through attrition.
  • The Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (NEJS) should identify the faculty positions and/or research areas that have been or will be eliminated in order to meet the CARS Committee target of 22 faculty FTE. Efforts already underway to identify courses needed for other departments and programs that could be taught by NEJS faculty should continue. Opportunities should be sought for NEJS faculty positions to be made joint with other departments, in order to reinforce the curricular capabilities of those departments while maintaining the ability to deliver the NEJS curriculum. We ask the NEJS faculty to prepare their plan for curricular reductions by March 1, so that these can be included as part of the package of restructuring changes brought to the Board of Trustees in March.
  • The physics department should consider whether the undergraduate major in biological physics could be phased out and replaced by a track within the physics major.
  • The faculty in Comparative Literature, European Cultural Studies, English, German Language and Literature, Russian Studies, French and Francophone Studies, Hispanic Studies, and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies should consider a restructuring of these literature and culture offerings to increase flexibility and student choice, and to facilitate better sharing of resources. We ask these faculty to finalize the broad outlines of their proposal by March 1, so that this can be included as part of the package of restructuring changes brought to the Board of Trustees in March. It is understood that this would be only an outline of a new structure or structures, with details still to be worked out.
  • The undergraduate major in Italian Studies should be terminated, effective with the class of 2015. We should continue to offer instruction in Italian language, and a minor in Italian Studies.
  • The undergraduate major in Hebrew Language and Literature should be terminated, effective with the class of 2015, and the existing major in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies should be modified to recognize Hebrew as a track within it.
  • The undergraduate minor in Internet Studies should be terminated, effective with the class of 2015.
  • The undergraduate minor in Yiddish and East European Jewish Culture should be terminated, effective with the class of 2015. Courses in this area should continue to be offered and recognized within Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.

The committee also discussed changes to the University Writing Seminar (UWS) and the university’s foreign-language requirement, but stopped short of making specific recommendations.
The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, Graduate School Council and Faculty Senate will next review the committee’s proposals. The four School Councils will also be given the opportunity to comment beyond what occurred in preliminary consultations with the committee.
In addition, separate open forums will be held for undergraduate and graduate students, and the Faculty Senate will likely call a special faculty meeting to discuss the proposals. Provost Marty Krauss will then make a decision to accept, reject or modify the proposals, after which they will be conveyed to the Board of Trustees for consideration at its March meeting.
Jaffe also lauded the committee.  “I am extremely proud of the faculty, staff and students who worked diligently and seriously under great pressure to put this plan together. It has not been easy, and painful changes for the community remain in front of us. But I think that we should all be pleased that we have been able to formulate a plan that addresses the board’s desire for consolidation while preserving the essence of who we are and putting us on a strong trajectory for the future,” he said.

Members of the 2020 Committee expressed a desire to reconvene after other campus committees dealing with the university finances finalize their reports. These include the Administrative Resource Review Committee, which is examining administrative costs and structures; and the Bold Ideas Group, a provost-led committee charged with developing programs and initiatives that have the potential of producing significant new revenue streams.
"These proposals for Arts and Sciences are intended as our contribution to the comprehensive plan being constructed for the Board of Trustees...which we understand will also include reports and proposals on administrative costs and structures, centers and institutes, increased contributions from (the International Business School and The Heller School) and new revenue-generation ideas from the Bold Ideas Group,” the report states.

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