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President Casper proposes restructuring Humanities and Sciences school

STANFORD -- After months of consultation, President Gerhard Casper has introduced a proposal for restructuring the School of Humanities and Sciences.

The proposal would maintain the school as a single unit, but create for each of its three disciplinary clusters a full-time deputy dean who would control a portion of the school's discretionary funds.

Keeping the school whole is "consistent with our view of the curriculum and our view of research, neither of which should be constrained by organizational boundaries," Casper told the Faculty Senate on Thursday, Jan. 21.

Casper's proposal would strengthen the disciplinary clusters, he said, while giving the overall dean broad academic and administrative authority. It was designed to free up the dean's time to engage in more long-range planning, which is necessary if the school wants to change, Casper said.

"With full responsibility for this vast school, the dean can't be expected to devote a lot of time" to planning, he said.

Beginning the search to replace Ewart Thomas, who announced two weeks ago that he was stepping down as dean, provides an occasion to review the school's basic structure, Casper said.

Among the proposals:

  • The dean - The dean would continue as the school's chief academic and administrative officer, with authority to assign faculty billets and responsibility for programs, policies, finances and long-range planning.

The dean would retain responsibility for undergraduate and graduate education, and could appoint one or more assistants to help with these areas.

The dean would be the school's representative to the University Cabinet and the primary representative to the president and provost.

  • Deputy deans - The dean would delegate to three deputy deans day-to-day management of natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, including oversight of faculty searches and local sign-off authority for appointment and promotion recommendations. Interdepartmental programs and centers would be divided among the deputies.

Each deputy dean would be selected by the dean based on the recommendations from a search committee consisting of faculty from the departmental cluster. Deputy deans would serve three years, with possibility of reappointment, and it is assumed they would serve full time.

The deputy deans could be invited to participate in University Cabinet meetings as appropriate, Casper said.

  • Finances - The dean would assign a portion of discretionary funds to each of the deputy deans for faculty recruitment, capital needs and other extraordinary expenses. The deputies would have full authority to spend the funds.

Much of the school's discretionary funding comes from vacant faculty billets and unpaid faculty leaves. The allocation of these funds would not diminish the dean's authority to reassign billets among departments, Casper said.

The dean would retain primary authority for fund raising.

Not the final word

Casper told the senate that his proposal (see text) was open for further discussion. It draws many elements from a proposal submitted at his request in early January by the H&S deans. He also discussed ideas with the Humanities and Sciences Faculty Council, the Faculty Senate's Planning and Policy Board, and many interested individuals.

"I'm not saying every aspect of my proposal is essential," Casper told the senate. "Indeed, I think the whole proposal should be discussed further," especially after the search for a new dean is concluded.

He said he thought the ideas in his proposal reflect an emerging consensus in the school.

"Our goal should be to have a plan in place so that prospective nominees for the deanship may understand the changes desired by the faculty, the president and the provost, and may be fully aware of the dean's role in this new context," Casper wrote in his document.

The proposal is not a blueprint for the school's organization. Casper wrote that he expects the new dean, for instance, to review how to handle school-wide functions, including undergraduate and graduate education.

Responding to questions in the senate, Casper said the selection of deputy deans would await appointment of a new dean. Clarifying the faculty appointment process, Casper said that deputy deans would undertake initial steps, but that the school-wide committee on appointments and promotions should continue to be a screening and evaluation mechanism and make final recommendations to the dean. The school-wide committee is "an agent of quality control," he said.

The largest school

How Humanities and Sciences is organized has potentially large consequences for the future of graduate and undergraduate education on the Farm.

Humanities and Sciences is the largest of Stanford's seven schools, with a 1992-93 operating budget of $79.3 million and 462.75 total faculty billets (fine arts, 35.67; languages and literatures, 80.77; other humanities, 86.15; social sciences 136.16; natural sciences, 124). The school has 28 departments, more than half of which rank in the top five nationally, and as many programs, a large number of them interdisciplinary.

While some undergraduates earn degrees from the schools of Engineering and Earth Sciences, the School of Humanities and Sciences is responsible for 80 percent of all undergraduate teaching. It awards 40 percent of all doctorates at Stanford.

During discussions of Stanford's budget problems last year, some faculty suggested breaking H&S into its three main components on the grounds that the large school was too unwieldy to govern. Responding to concerns about undergraduate education, some suggested creation of a separate undergraduate college, along the lines of Harvard.

Helping Dean Thomas run the school this year are five faculty associate deans - all nominally part time, but who in reality work full time, according to one H&S staff administrator. Current practice among the humanists and social scientists is to organize the division of labor so an individual does not oversee his or her own department.

The five are:

  • Alexander Fetter, physics, who is responsible for the natural sciences.
  • Anne Peck, food research, who is responsible for the social sciences, except food research. Peck also is director of graduate studies.
  • Susan Stephens, classics, who is responsible for the fine arts, languages and literature, and history.
  • Russell Berman, German studies, who is responsible for four humanities departments and also serves as director of Overseas Studies.
  • Albert Camarillo, history, who serves as director of undergraduate studies and is responsible for food research and a host of programs and centers.

Casper said that a consensus emerged in his discussions that the role of the current associate deans should be strengthened.

"This stronger role will inevitably require a distribution of some budget authority, particularly for discretionary funds," Casper wrote in his proposal.

Following the senate meeting, Casper said any of the five current associate deans could be selected for the new slots.

"What is important is to increase their legitimacy," he said in a brief interview. Giving their peers a role in their selection will do that and will make their jobs somewhat easier, he said.

Three-year terms are long enough to provide continuity, Casper said, but not so long as to jeopardize a faculty member's ability to keep up with the mainstream of his or her academic activity.

He said that the university had been successful recruiting faculty for academic administrative posts because requests to serve come from their colleagues.



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