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Humanities program may be eliminated


By Natasha Bhuyan & Lisa Rich
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 30, 2004
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Program's future before Board of Regents tomorrow

The Arizona Board of Regents could authorize the elimination of UA's Humanities Program tomorrow, a proposal that has been controversial among faculty members.

Proposed by UA President Peter Likins in January 2003, the disestablishment of the humanities program falls in conjunction with Focused Excellence - a plan which narrows the emphasis of university programs to provide more specialized education.

Other proposed eliminations included the School of Health Professions and Medical Technology and the department of atmospheric science, as well as the French Ph.D. program and Masters program in Russian.

"The Humanities program offered a special brand of interdisciplinary teaching, bringing together art, literature and philosophy into the same course," said Richard Poss, director of the humanities program.

However, in a 2003 eliminations proposal, the humanities program was labeled incomplete, concentrating primarily on lower division units, which classified it as "not a normal comprehensive academic department."

If the curriculum is cut, tenured faculty will be reassigned to departments of media arts, classics, religious studies, English or astronomy. Poss said the university has assisted nontenured faculty and staff in finding new positions.

"There was a great deal of discussion at first, and we considered many different alternatives," Poss said. "We explored all the possibilities. The faculty at this point agrees with the elimination ... they're accepting what's happening."

However, not all faculty agree.

Bella Vivante, associate professor in the humanities program, said when she was first notified of the proposal she was in shock.

"(I was) wondering where were the minds of the upper level administrators," Vivante said, "with all their so-called 'focus on excellence,' to eliminate a long-standing program pre-eminent for its excellence in innovative, student-oriented teaching."

Vivante, who has taught at the UA for 18 years, said if the program is eradicated the effects will be detrimental. In addition to the loss of some general education and humanities courses, Vivante said 80 percent of humanities honors courses would be erased from the academic catalog.

However, in the proposal, university officials said although the humanities program will no longer exist, "the academic interests in which the program faculty engaged (will) continue through their presence in the new assigned departments/colleges and courses."

In the past, students in the humanities program were not offered a degree in humanities, but received a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree. If the regents approve the disestablishment of the program, the BLA will also be discontinued.

Although the proposal has not been officially passed, students are no longer being admitted into the program. According to the proposal, students in the BLA program have already met with advisers and some opted to change majors.

Vivante said deleting courses and refusing additional students suggests the humanities program has already been eradicated, awaiting only ABOR approval to make it official.

"President Likins, having no clue to the impact of his arbitrary decision, washed his hands of the situation as soon as he made it," Vivante said. "The whole process ... superbly illustrates the extremely poor leadership of the current university administration."



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