Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The ADVANCE Equity Representative for the School of Humanities Responds to the "Needs Attention" Memo

Dean Vicki Ruiz c/o Acting Dean James Steintrager School of Humanities University of California Irvine

Date: January 14, 2012 Re: Departments Designated as “Needs Attention” in Fall 2011 APG-EVC/P Memo CC: Doug Haynes, Frances Leslie

Dear Dean Ruiz and Acting Dean Steintrager:

I am writing in my capacity as ADVANCE Equity Representative for the School of Humanities regarding the November 2011 APG and EVC/P Memo on the university budget, which designated several departments within the School of Humanities as “Needs Attention.” As Dean Ruiz addressed in the Town Hall Meeting of December 9, 2011, this categorization was given to department units whose quality and/or productivity fell short of expectations and requirements, especially with regards to Student Credit Hours (SCHs), number of majors, and overall rating by the NRC. Departments which have been designated “Needs Attention” have been alerted to the likelihood that significant programmatic and structural changes by their units may be requested and, in the meantime, they are not eligible for new FTEs.

I write to express my particular concern that all of UC Irvine’s Inter-disciplinary Programs on gender, race, and ethnicity were designated as “Needs Attention” and therefore face uncertain futures. In the School of Humanities, Women’s Studies, African-American Studies, and Asian-American Studies were designated as “Needs Attention” along with four language departments. In Social Science, Chicano Studies was designated “Needs Attention.” From a diversity and equity standpoint, this is very worrisome. The curriculum and scholarly mission of the IDPs are especially designed to address issues of difference, inequality, and oppression along lines of gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. The faculty members of the IDPs are disproportionally women, under-represented minorities, and other people of color, as are the students who take classes in IDPs or become majors in these fields. Women’s Studies, African American Studies, Asian-American Studies, and Chicano Studies are also programs where some of the most exciting new talent at UC Irvine has been hired in the last decade (indeed, the last five years). The classes offered by these units are explicitly intended to promote and deepen students’ understanding of “diversity” and satisfy the university’s general education requirements that have similar goals. As Interdisciplinary Programs, each of these units has developed innovative curriculum which speak directly to the on-going transformations in the Humanities and Social Sciences towards more transnational and cross-disciplinary paradigms. Although these are certainly difficult financial times for the University of California and all departments can be expected to make changes in response to the crisis, I find it alarming that the IDPs are being placed on de facto probation with such uniformity. This is not a time to rollback the university’s commitment to cutting-edge research and teaching on diversity and equity.

Of course, the APG Memo did not indicate that units with “Needs Attention” status would necessarily be dissolved or folded into other units (and Dean Ruiz helpfully reminded the faculty at the Town Hall Meeting that any such changes would require a Senate vote). Nonetheless, the very designation of the IDPs as problem units and the associated freeze on faculty recruitment places these units in a very disadvantageous (i.e. unequal) position vis-à-vis other departments in the School and the Campus. The hiring freeze seems especially unfair given that most of the IDPs already service large numbers of students with very small numbers of faculty. Indeed, the Asian American Studies Department and Women’s Studies Department have among the highest student enrollments (SCHs) in the School and much higher enrollments than traditional, large departments such as History that have been deemed “excellent” and permitted to recruit new FTE. More importantly, the reality that all ethnic studies and gender studies programs at UC Irvine have been deemed problematic has a terrible impact on faculty and student morale. It sends a strong message--- intentional or not--- that the scholarly and curricular focus of the IDPs on race and gender no longer has the full support of the administration.

As I know you are aware, each of the IDPs is submitting a formal response to the APG memo that addresses what they see as inaccurate and unfair assessments of their programs as well as numerous factual inaccuracies. There is particular concern that the IDPs have been evaluated largely on the number of majors (as distinct from student enrollments) and that the considerable scholarly achievements of faculty (including outstanding intermural funding and publication awards) have not been recognized by reliance on the NRC data. I write this letter to express my concern about the situation and my hope that as conversations continue with the EVC, the School of Humanities will strongly support its IDP units. If I can be of further assistance on this matter, I hope that you will call on me.

Yours Sincerely,

Heidi Tinsman
ADVANCE Equity Representative School of Humanities

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