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Senate makes it easier to terminate interdisciplinary programs
STANFORD -- The Faculty Senate on Thursday, Feb. 17, revised procedures governing renewal and termination of interdisciplinary programs.
In the interest of efficiency, the senate decided that graduate and undergraduate programs in the same field could be renewed on the same eight-year timetable.
The senate also agreed that an interdisciplinary program could be ended by mutual agreement of the cognizant dean and the Committee on Graduate Studies or the Committee on Undergraduate Studies, as appropriate. The action would be reported to the senate.
If the dean and committee do not agree, the matter would be resolved by the senate.
The lack of clear program termination guidelines became an issue in 1991-92, the two committees told the senate in proposing the changes. Budget constraints that year led the administration to question the financial viability of some programs, but it was not clear how to end one.
In the history of interdisciplinary programs, none has ever been closed.
In presenting the proposed revisions, political science Professor Judith Goldstein, chairwoman of the Committee on Graduate Studies, said program reviews in recent years have become more detailed and time consuming. Putting graduate and counterpart undergraduate program reviews on the same time schedule would contribute to efficiency, she said.
David Brady, chairman of the Committee on Undergraduate Studies and professor in the Graduate School of Business and political science, said the joint reviews would give the committees "better information for making judgments."
Graduate program reviews in the past took place on a five-year cycle, while undergraduate reviews occurred every eight years.
Linguistics Professor Elizabeth Traugott said she worried that an eight-year review cycle in interdisciplinary doctoral programs would be too long, providing less leeway to recommend closure and making it more difficult to deal with graduate students who might be floundering.
Goldstein responded that the committee shared Traugott's concern about graduate students staying too long. A student whose program closes - and who cannot finish in time - could be shifted to graduate special programs, she suggested.
Robert Simoni, chair of biological sciences, said that students should not be admitted if it were not possible for them to complete the program before its termination.
John Bender, English, suggested establishment of performance criteria that interdisciplinary programs must meet or be terminated.
Goldstein responded that both committees are aware of the need for guidelines, but said it would be difficult to write down all the possible scenarios that must be met.
The impetus for the proposed guidelines, she said, is that the deans "did not think it was possible to terminate a program."
Brady said the undergraduate studies committee considered what criteria might be adopted, but got hopelessly mired. In the end, "our focus was on procedures that would aid us in making better use of resources and give the committee the opportunity to make cost comparisons, whether that be intellectual or economic costs," he said. "I thought that was the best we could do."
Responding to comments from Gene Franklin, electrical engineering, Senate Chair Pat Jones said that the default position of the new guidelines would require termination of a program in the absence of a favorable review by the graduate or undergraduate studies committees.
James Sheehan, history professor and chairman of the Commission on Undergraduate Education, worried aloud that the senate could force a dean to keep open a program against his or her will.
Brady said the senate should trust the committees, but also reserve the right to be the arbiter.
Jones said that a dean might decide there is no programmatic need for an interdisciplinary program because the school has a department in which faculty work in that general area. The senate might not agree on the grounds that the program covers new area and is a valid program. "Where you have that kind of disagreement, I think it is something for senate discussion," she said.
Libraries Director Michael Keller spoke up to ask for language that would direct those trying to set up new programs to formally consult with the libraries to measure potential impact on collections and services. "Many of [the interdisciplinary programs] have a very great impact" on the library budget, he said.
The senate agreed to add language to that effect.
English Professor George Dekker, associate dean for graduate policy, said the additional responsibilities for the graduate and undergraduate studies committees would make their work "weightier than in the past." He suggested that careful thought be given to membership and assuring smooth transitions from year to year.
To implement the changes, the senators unanimously adopted changes to the senate's policy on frequency of interdisciplinary program reviews, which, by reference, also includes a set of new guidelines on introduction, renewal and termination of interdisciplinary programs. In the future, the guidelines can be amended without senate vote. Charges to the graduate and undergraduate studies committees also were amended as needed.
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