Aug

25

A Look into the Policy and Planning Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

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FAS meets in the Faculty Room of Low

Moody-Adams’ reasons for resigning probably surrounded decisions made by the Policy and Planning Committee (PPC) of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). Executive Vice President Nicholas Dirks focused his reaction to the dean’s condemnation of FAS on defending the PPC and stressing that whatever Moody-Adams found objectionable has not been set in stone. We’re still investigating exactly what these objectionable proposals were, but understanding the origins and function of the PPC sheds light onto the process of the College’s consolidation with the wider Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The inception of the PPC can be traced back to a document prepared by the FAS Academic Review Committee (ARC), a FAS advisory committee that is more administrative than strictly academic; it aims “to assess program quality and effectiveness, to foster planning and improvement, and to provide guidance for administrative decisions.” In its March 2010 report, “Faculty Governance in the Arts & Sciences,” ARC set out to solve a critical problem plaguing FAS, excess bureaucracy: there were duplicate committees, consistent miscommunication, and a lack of transparency. A select quote from the report about the organization of FAS reveals it all: “We tried to obtain a clear flow chart of administrative offices and responsibilities: it proved impossible. Indeed it was not even clear whom to turn to in order to obtain one.”

And so how do bureaucrats fix problems? By creating more committees! ARC recommended scrapping the previous vague yet formidable Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in favor of a new one, the PPC. According to the report, the PPC could ideally improve communication and cooperation between constituent schools of and committees within FAS. However, looking at its actual implementation and influence, we do begin to see the roots of Moody-Adams’ concerns. PPC could appear a mechanism to consolidate power under FAS and leave individuals schools like the College with substantially less control over their matters.

When the PPC was created, it absorbed the Faculty Budget Group (FBG). “By incorporating the charge of the FBG into the PPC, budgetary concerns will be informed by curricular concerns which have until now been handled exclusively by individual departments and schools.” This is directly in line with Moody-Adams’ arguments about administrative restructuring diminishing the power of the Dean of the College. Note that this is not necessarily a negative thing. Consolidation arguably enhances assertiveness and power of a central administration in a time of financial crisis.

Not only is the PPC in charge of budgetary matters, but it is also a key player in shaping the education policies of the schools within FAS. In 2009, the PrezBo-conceived Task Force on Undergraduate Education recommended creating a Educational Policy and Planning Committee within FAS to handle policy issues regarding curricular development; however, seeing how committee’d up FAS already was, ARC suggested simply to dump these responsibilities on PPC as well. The PPC envisioning document argues this move would “strengthen the integration of academic policy and fiscal planning,” which is true, but because these powers are now more within direct FAS control, those in the Moody-Adams camp will argue that the restructuring even further weakens the powers of the College.

College administrator’s apprehension towards conceding more power to FAS and PPC is understandable. A Core education is sacred—but expensive, and those tightening the purse strings in PPC are more inclined to make decisions for financial reasons that would potentially hurt liberal arts quality. Moreover, the College has always been an undergraduate institution, and historically, Arts and Sciences a graduate one. FAS united undergraduate and graduate education, but the March ARC report perceptively notes that there remain “residues of the perceived rivalry in terms of both resources and academic priorities.”

Multiple sources we’ve spoken to have explained that the PPC strengthens and consolidates the power of FAS, and this is partially true. However, we must also remember that consolidating power is not necessarily a bad thing when strong directional leadership is required. And indeed, Dirks and FAS have already held a lot of power for a long time. In a 2009 Spectator article discussing the bureaucratic nightmare of FAS, Dirks is cited as the person who already “regulates FAS budget and chooses how to spend tuition.” It’s just that this time around, FAS’ moves were too much for Moody-Adams to tolerate.

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3 Comments

  1. I wonder  

    if SEAS is anywhere near this fucked up.

  2. :(

    "And so how do bureaucrats fix problems? By creating more committees!"

    Bwog, please don't turn into my dad's bad political jokes: "Did you hear? Obama's starting a deficit-reduction committee. It will have a budget of one trillion!"

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