Provost approves Brandeis 2020 proposals, with one change
Provost Marty Wyngaarden Krauss announced today that she has accepted the full set of recommendations made by the Brandeis 2020 Committee, with one modification to the proposal concerning the PhD program in anthropology.
The recommendations, the result of efforts by the faculty to balance university resources with commitments at the behest of the Board of Trustees, will be reviewed by the Board’s Academic Affairs Committee on March 23 and considered by the full Board the following day.
“In my judgment, the Brandeis 2020 Committee’s proposal of 18 specific actions constitutes a balanced, thoughtful, and strategic plan that is responsive to the mandate of the Board of Trustees and, while rendering difficult choices, will preserve our standing as an excellent liberal arts college within a robust research university,” the provost said in her announcement.
Her decision follows the Feb. 22 release of the committee proposals. Krauss, in keeping with Faculty Handbook guidance on the deliberative process, met with 17 faculty and student councils, committees and groups and attended two student forums to gauge the impact of the proposals on specific departments and programs, and on the university as a whole, prior to making her decisions.
After “listening carefully to many members of the academic community, and acknowledging that there are significant losses or changes to some very stellar and historically important programs,” she elected to support the proposals “so as to hold intact the collective judgment of this broadly based faculty and student committee.”
“This has been a spirited and often difficult discussion, culminating in an impressive special faculty meeting on March 4 that was well attended by scores of faculty—including those affected by the proposals and those not affected but wanting to hear the discussion and be supportive of this process—and by stirring and eloquent statements from the leadership of programs under review.
“Throughout this difficult process, we have collectively worked hard to preserve our commitment to Brandeis University as a community of scholars, creative artists, students, and extremely supportive staff who are all invested in retaining and building a strong, vibrant, and relevant university that will continue to be a beacon of higher education in the 21st century,” she wrote in her conclusion.
The provost's announcement dealt in some detail with the reasons for her decisions on the proposals of the 23-member committee. She addressed her one modification first.
Krauss acknowledged “some difficulties” in the anthropology doctoral program in the past but lauded the efforts of current faculty to “cultivate a promising group of MA and PhD students. The department has also brought in significant new revenues to GSAS through an expanded master’s program. The high quality of the (tuition-paying) masters' students, many of whom enroll at Brandeis because they want the opportunity to progress to a PhD program at Brandeis, has been evident and confirmed in my meeting with MA students.
“I believe that the PhD program should be retained on a smaller scale, limited only to admission of students vetted through the MA program. This will maximize the opportunity to maintain the significant revenue stream of the MA program, while reducing the cost of the PhD program and limiting it to those students most likely to excel," she concluded. "The Dean of Arts and Sciences will determine the number of slots in the PhD program."
"I concur with the proposal to suspend indefinitely admissions of external students to the PhD program in anthropology,” she wrote.
The provost also addressed three other much-discussed Brandeis 2020 proposals that she endorsed: suspending admissions indefinitely to the Cultural Production master’s program and phasing it out when current students graduate; suspending admissions to the Master of Fine Arts Program in Theater Design and phasing it out when current students graduate; and reconstituting the American studies Department as an interdepartmental program.
On Cultural Production: “This decision is made despite the ardent testimonials received from faculty, current students, and alumni regarding the unique contributions of the program towards interdisciplinarity at Brandeis and the view that this is a unique program in higher education that transcends offerings at other institutions.
“I have heard the argument that this program produces net revenue for GSAS, and while that is true, I am convinced that the university would have to make additional fiscal commitments in the long run to ensure that this program achieves and maintains a level of excellence that we would expect for any master’s program. While a young and innovative program will be lost, my judgment is that Brandeis’ portfolio of rigorous master’s programs will be maintained even with the phasing out of this program,” she wrote.
On Theater Design: “This decision is based in part on the projected costs of revitalizing and restructuring the MFA Program in Theater Design, as noted in the CARS Report, as well as in recognition that many university theater arts departments have excellent programs without an MFA program in design.
“I also concur with the recommendation to develop a more robust undergraduate curriculum in the history, performance and design aspects of theater arts. While I am impressed with the many moving testimonials received regarding the legacy of this celebrated program in Theater Arts, I am convinced that with the talents of the faculty and staff of the department, there is great potential for a new, exciting, and innovative model of education to emerge,” she added.
On American studies: “This administrative change, which will be effective July 1, 2010, is designed to preserve the major and to ensure that it continues to thrive with the involvement of Americanists in other departments/programs on campus in recognition of the CARS recommendation for a reduction of 4 faculty positions within the current department over time. I recognize that the department agrees to the reduction of faculty in the department and would like to maintain its departmental status. However, I agree with the Brandeis 2020 proposal that its reorganization as an interdepartmental program solidifies these reductions and secures an opportunity for it to remain a vital university program that takes more full advantage of the other talents and interests in our faculty to preserve a vibrant American studies major.”
The provost’s report also detailed several other steps that will be taken to adopt the remaining committee proposals. She concluded with a summary of the university’s historic financial balancing act.
“Since our inception as a liberal arts undergraduate institution within a vibrant research university, we have constantly faced a shortage of resources but an abundance of ambitions," she wrote. "The current economic crisis has forced us to adjust in many significant and painful ways to a new reality. This crisis has affected every member of our community in different ways. Under the leadership of the president and the Board of Trustees, we have confronted this new reality with many actions that have been difficult, but were necessary in order to remain a unique and treasured institution of higher education.”