The Arizona Desert Lamp

The UA marches boldly into the 1910s

Posted in Campus, UA Transformation Plan by Evan Lisull on 26 February 2009

Football Team, UA's FirstTo be fair, you can hardly blame the UA for missing the innovations of the combined college; after all, the school was just getting on its feet when U. Michigan’s College of Letters, Science, and the Arts was formed from the LSA Department (est. 1841) in 1915, and when the “college” department – the precursor of the current College of Arts & Sciences – was formed at the U. Virginia in 1912.

Finally, though, after much prognostication, we can finally count our school among those other esteemed institutions:

University of Arizona Provost Meredith Hay today announced that the College of Fine Arts will join the previously announced academic partnership with the Colleges of Science, Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences. The new partnership of colleges will now be titled The Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science.

. . .

The individual colleges will function in unison under the umbrella of the Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science. Science, SBS, Humanities and Fine Arts will continue to be managed by a dean and the overall structure will be governed by the executive dean, Joaquin Ruiz.

. . .

It is expected that the consolidation of numerous administrative functions of the four colleges into one larger unit will allow the UA to realize annual savings of several million dollars. Those savings will accrue through the new administrative structure and in the way the University will be able to schedule and offer classes.

My colleague is right to be skeptical of the “millions of dollars” in purported savings;  it would be nice to see any estimates or justifications of these wild predictions. Yet even if the reorganization had a net-zero effect on costs (which I find a far more dubious proposition), it is welcome to see that in combining these schools, the UA is reinstilling a sense of the liberal arts, in the most unsullied sense of that word.

I’ve pointed out before that a wide swathe of top public universities have similar institutions; it’s also worth pointing out that every other Pac-10 school has, at the very minimum, combines their social sciences with their humanities. The better ones – Berkeley, Stanford, and USC – have big, evil, consolidated colleges with letters, arts, and sciences. Of course, we only want their Women’s Resource Centers, not their successful academic institutions.

I’m willing to hear a good argument for why History and Classics should be in different and unassociated schools, or why a student should deal with two different advisors (or perhaps, even more) for her International Studies and Spanish double-major. Yet if the only argument against this framework with a wider purview is irrational fear of the big and new, such as today’s Wildcat headline ‘College merger claims Fine Arts’ (what is it, cholera?), then I remain resolute in my support of the proposal.

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