By Melissa Prentice
Arizona Daily Wildcat
With the flurry of public fact-gathering hearings in the last few weeks, three Faculty Senate committees are quickly proceeding down the road to their April deadlines for deciding the fates of three departments.
But since that road is a new one, the process is creating more questions than answers for many people involved.
After University of Arizona Provost Paul Sypherd and President Manuel T. Pacheco recommended eliminating the journalism, statistics and physical education departments, three separate committees comprised of faculty, staff and students from the affected areas and faculty senators were asked to "take a hard look at the recommendations and see if they support it or not" and report back to Pacheco within 90 days ending in April, said Malcolm Zwolinski, Faculty Senate president.
The proposed department cuts will set a precedent under a new procedure, which was established by the Senate a year and a half ago in response to an Arizona Board of Regents policy, he said.
The precedent-setting possibilities of the committees raised concerns among students and community members who asked at forums last week: "What if your department is next? Do you want to set a precedent that makes it this easy to eliminate departments?"
But Zwolinski said the committees are not concerned with establishing a precedent, but rather with studying the merits of each individual recommendation.
Norman Austin, a classics professor and chair of the committee studying the journalism recommendation, said the committee's sole purpose is to "review the decision and what led to it." However, he added that since the committee is comprised of faculty members, they will naturally "think about the implications (of the committee's decision)."
John Bradley, a member of the physical education committee and a language, reading and culture professor, said he is concerned about setting a precedent.
"We are trying to make sure we follow all the procedures and collect as much information as possible before we make our decision," he said.
Regardless of the recommendations of the current committees, the same steps will be followed if there are any department elimination proposals in the future, Zwolinski said, adding that the process "seems to be working.
"The process is going quite adequately, I think it is doing what it was designed to do Ä to give people opportunity, who have not had the opportunity, to speak out on issues," he said. "It gave many people a good opportu- mid
nity to express their feelings and speak their minds."
Without previous cases to compare to, forum attendants also questioned how much weight the committee's recommendation will have in the decision Pacheco reports to the regents.
Austin said he thinks the committee's reports will "certainly be considered" by Pacheco. "We are a faculty group who are listening to other faculty and are listening to students and community members," he said. "I am absolutely certain he will take it (our recommendation) into account."
But the president is not mandated to follow the committee's recommendation or even to present the recommendation to the regents, although it is very likely he will pass on the information, Zwolinski said.
Some forum attendants have advocated asking the full Senate to endorse the committee's report, and Bradley said he endorsed this plan.
"I hope they would vote on it; with the confidence of the Faculty Senate our recommendation would carry more credence and weight," he said. But since the process has never been followed before, he said he is unsure what route the Senate will take.
The full Senate will not be made to vote on any of the recommendations, but can choose to vote on any or all of them, Zwolinski said.
Although Zwolinski said the committees do not have a direct forum with the regents, both Austin and Bradley said they felt the regents would be informed of their decisions even if Pacheco does not agree with them. One option to insure this is to ask the faculty representative on the board to present the information if Pacheco doesn't, Bradley said.
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