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MACALESTER COLLEGE
EDUCATIONAL POLICY AND GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE

PROPOSED NEW ACADEMIC STRUCTURE

February 2003


A. INTRODUCTION

As a small liberal arts college with limited resources we must make choices about how many and which primary courses of study we can support. Majors can be organized along either disciplinary or interdisciplinary lines, but we must ensure that there are sufficient resources to sustain any major we offer. Following extensive consultation and careful deliberation - and building on the work of the Curriculum Committee during AY 2001/2002 - EPAG would like to propose the following academic structure as a framework for organizing the curriculum and allocating resources in order to ensure that we can sustain a range of primary courses of study appropriate to a first-class liberal arts college. It should be noted that, although EPAG has been appropriately mindful of the findings of the Task Force on Academic Quality and Structure, it has in no way sought to 'implement' its recommendations. Nor has it necessarily been guided by the logic or specific findings of the Task Force. Rather, EPAG's approach has been to:
  • develop its own set of guiding principles regarding the future academic structure of the College;
  • develop a rational academic structure based on those principles; and,
  • encourage existing units to determine for themselves where they will fit in this new academic structure.
B. GUIDING PRINCIPLES

After careful deliberation, EPAG adopted the following principles to guide us in thinking about how best to re-organize the academic structure of the College. The following list is rank-ordered from most important to least important.

1. Promote the College's core mission of providing a first-class liberal arts education.

Minimally, such a structure would be consistent with, and supportive of, a curriculum that:
  • requires students to follow a primary course of study in order to acquire both an understanding of disciplinary theory and method and the ability to apply these to address problems in the larger community (depth);
  • encourages students to develop a broad understanding of the liberal arts (breadth); and
  • enables students to develop competencies related to internationalism, multiculturalism, writing, quantitative reasoning, and civic engagement. It should also be flexible enough that is can be adapted to promote additional curricular goals that may be established by the College in the future.
2. Support the scholarly work of the faculty

Minimally, such a structure would:
  • support faculty scholarship within the established and emerging (inter)disciplinary fields of inquiry that are central to Macalester's distinctive liberal arts mission;
  • establish intellectual communities beyond the primary (inter)disciplinary academic units in order to promote interdisciplinarity and allow faculty to work with colleagues outside of their (inter)disciplinary 'silos';
  • allow for curricular innovation and the emergence of new communities of scholarly inquiry and teaching.
3. Maximize the efficient use of College and faculty resources

Minimally, this would require a structure governed by the following principles:

  • Parsimony: Our academic structure should be simple and consistent; there should be as few layers of academic management as possible; we should minimize wasteful duplication and avoid the needless multiplication of administrative units and bureaucratic layers.
  • Clarity: There should be clear lines of responsibility, authority and accountability; there should be greater clarity in the way our programs are defined in order to communicate more effectively with internal and external constituencies.
  • Focus: The structure should allow us to distinguish between programs that the College is committed to sustaining and those it is not and then to allocate resources accordingly (over time).
  • Viability/Sustainability: Each academic unit ought to be large enough to continue to offer the courses necessary for a major(s), even as faculty members are on regular sabbaticals or are otherwise released from teaching. Academic units also ought to be large enough that they provide faculty members with a primary academic 'home' or 'community' that is supportive of their scholarly work. There seems to be a broad consensus that 3 FTE is the minimum requirement for viability/sustainability of a major program.
C. THE NEW ACADEMIC STRUCTURE

On the basis of these guidelines, EPAG recommends that the academic structure of the College comprise three types of unit: disciplinary departments, inter-disciplinary departments and inter-departmental programs.

Disciplinary Departments
At all of our peer institutions, the basic building block of the academic structure is what might be called the 'disciplinary department'. Such departments, ubiquitous in the academic world, administer widely recognized and well-established disciplinary programs. Disciplinary departments allow students to follow a primary course of study (through departmentally based majors); enable students to develop a broad understanding of the liberal arts (through departmentally based minors, general education requirements and electives); and, ideally, provide faculty members with a primary intellectual community and scholarly home.

EPAG proposes that the disciplinary department remain the basic academic unit of the College. Disciplinary departments would have the following characteristics:
  • such departments would have no fewer than 3 FTE faculty;
  • such departments could administer more than one disciplinary program (eg. Math and Computer Science);
  • such departments could offer courses of their own;
  • such departments could continue to offer 'emphases' within the major;
  • each disciplinary department would offer a major course of study (as defined under 'Departmental Major Concentration' in the College Catalog);
  • such departments would be required to offer at least one minor program of study open to non-majors (as defined under 'Core and Minor Concentrations' in the current College Catalog);
  • such departments would no longer be entitled to offer a 'core concentration' (the 'core' option is being discontinued);
  • such departments would be entitled to submit allocation requests.
  • such departments would be subject to a 'sunset clause' that would require them to demonstrate sustained student interest over several years or be downgraded or discontinued.
Inter-disciplinary Departments
All of our peer institutions have some form of academic unit or administrative arrangement that organizes interdisciplinary fields of study/inquiry. Such units/arrangements are beneficial in that they:
  • encourage holistic/integrative thinking appropriate to a liberal arts education (although it should be acknowledged that this also often takes place within traditional disciplinary departments);
  • allow for curricular innovation;
  • enable faculty to create scholarly/learning communities that reflect their research interests.
Macalester has historically organized such fields of study/inquiry into 'interdisciplinary programs', which have comprised a limited number of program-specific 'integrative' or core courses and a larger number of courses provided by disciplinary departments. In practice, such programs have varied enormously: some offer majors, while others offer only minors; some have their own T/TT faculty, others do not; some are well resourced, others are resource poor; some draw a large number of students, others relatively few.

Based on the guiding principles articulated above, EPAG proposes re-organizing our inter-disciplinary studies programs into two new types of administrative unit: the inter-disciplinary department and the inter-departmental program. The first of these (the interdisciplinary department) would have the following characteristics:
  • such departments would be limited to those established and emerging interdisciplinary fields of inquiry that are central to Macalester's distinctive liberal arts mission;
  • such departments would have no fewer than 2 FTE core faculty;
  • such departments would be able to offer courses of their own;
  • each inter-disciplinary department would offer a major course of inter-disciplinary study (as described under 'Interdepartmental Major Concentration in the College Catalog - NB: this language will have to be revised);
  • such departments would have the option of offering minor programs of study (as defined under 'Core and Minor Concentrations' in the current College Catalog) open to non-majors ;
  • such departments could administer several appropriate interdisciplinary major and minor programs (the latter as 'tracks' or 'concentrations');
  • such departments would not be entitled to offer a 'core concentration' (the 'core' option is being discontinued);
  • such departments would be entitled to submit allocation requests. However, they would only be entitled to sufficient FTE to enable them to offer their core curriculum. As interdisciplinary departments they would continue to draw on a range of existing faculty resources in other departments (and so would not need as many positions as a disciplinary department);
  • such departments would be subject to a 'sunset clause' that would require them to demonstrate sustained student interest over several years or be downgraded or discontinued.
Inter-departmental Programs
The second new type of inter-disciplinary administrative unit would be the 'interdepartmental program' (another label might be 'college program'). Inter-departmental programs would have the following characteristics:
  • such programs would offer only minors;
  • these minors would involve from five to seven courses drawn from a list of designated departmental offerings linked by some theme or topic;
  • the lists of approved inter-departmental programs and their constituent courses would be determined by EPAG (in consultation with interested faculty);
  • such programs would not be able to offer courses of their own;
  • such programs would not involve a free-standing gateway/introductory course, capstone requirement or any other mandatory or integrative free-standing course;
  • such programs would not be entitled to any personnel or financial resources;
  • the sustainability of such program would not be a consideration in allocations decisions;
  • such programs would be subject to a 'sunset clause' that would require them to demonstrate sustained student interest over several years or be discontinued.
D. IMPLEMENTATION

EPAG believes that the implementation of this new academic structure ought to be guided by the principle that existing units (departments and programs) are best equipped to determine how and where they will fit into the new institutional framework and that, therefore, they ought to be afforded the opportunity to make that determination for themselves. Accordingly, EPAG requests that each existing academic unit submit, no later than [INSERT DATE] 2003, a plan articulating where it will fit in the new architecture and how it will adapt its curriculum and administrative structure to make it consistent with its proposed future status (as a disciplinary department, an inter-disciplinary department or an inter-departmental program). EPAG strongly encourages existing departments and programs to give careful consideration to creative and non-traditional options that are likely to:
  • enhance our ability to deliver a first-class liberal arts curriculum;
  • enhance the ability of the faculty to do their scholarly work;
  • maximize the efficient use of finite financial and personnel resources.
These plans will then be reviewed by EPAG. Our intention is to implement this new academic structure by [INSERT DATE]. While EPAG requests that all existing departments and programs submit such a plan, we recognize that the following academic units/programs are likely to be particularly strongly affected:
  • Astronomy;
  • Education;
  • Japanese;
  • Linguistics;
  • Russian Language;
  • African American Studies;
  • Asian Studies;
  • CNAS;
  • Environmental Studies;
  • Humanities and Cultural Studies;
  • International Studies;
  • Latin American Studies;
  • Legal Studies;
  • Neuroscience Studies;
  • Russian, Central and Eastern European Studies;
  • Urban Studies; and
  • Women's and Gender Studies.
In order to facilitate the allocations process, EPAG requests that all departments with outstanding allocations requests submit their plan as soon as possible.

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