Arts & Sciences
faculty pans split-school notion
remarks to the Faculty
Senate in September, University President John T. Casteen
III raised the idea of restructuring the College
and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, which he suggested
may be unwieldy in size and scope, and invited faculty members
early returns are in, and it appears that the Arts & Sciences
faculty are pretty happy with the status quo.
following a panel discussion of the issue -- presented as part
of the Oct. 26 Arts & Sciences faculty meeting -- were overwhelmingly
against a split, which would separate either the sciences or the
fine and performing arts (or both) into separate schools.
Arts & Sciences dean Melvyn Leffler asked for a show of hands
at the discussion's conclusion, only three of the approximately
60 faculty members in attendance favored a split. Most faculty
appeared concerned about the potential dimunition of a broad-based,
liberal arts education for students enrolled in a science or arts
school, which they suggested would be more professional or pre-professional
Biology professor Janis Antonovics -- one of the three proponents
-- began the panel discussion by describing his vision of a split,
and laying out arguments for and against such a move.
his plan, the so-called "hard" sciences in the College
would unite with the School
of Engineering and Applied Science and the basic sciences
in the School
of Medicine to form the College of Science and Technology.
The Medical School's clinical faculty would simply be assigned
to the Medical Center, and the remainder of the Arts & Sciences
would become the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences,
2020 Commission on Science and Technology -- of which Antonovics
is a member -- declined to endorse such a split, but suggested
it be studied further. (The Commission on the Fine and Performing
Arts also discussed a separate school for the arts, but rejected
suggested that a science and technology school would ease collaboration
between scientists across disciplines, especially in scientific
research that bears little resemblance to that conducted elsewhere
in Arts & Sciences. Further, the sciences' current minority status
within Arts & Sciences leaves them at a political disadvantage,
he said; uniting them with faculty from Engineering and Medicine
would give them better clout.
acknowledged, however, that a split would be an administrative
nightmare, and that the School of Medicine would be unlikely to
give up its basic science research enterprise, a major source
Idealists, he said, would favor the status quo because of a "common
bond of scholarship" among all faculty, while optimists might
forecast increased interaction between science and humanities
faculty. He concluded, "I don't see any reason to stay together
unless you're an idealist or an optimist."
found little support. Fellow panelist Judith Shatin, chair of
department and a member of the Fine and Performing Arts Commission,
followed with a strong defense of broad-based liberal arts education.
"Typically, schools of art are professional and pre-professional,"
she said, later reading a letter from a former student who transferred
to an arts school, then asked to transfer back to U.Va. in search
of a more well-rounded education.
view was later echoed by others, who noted that U.Va.'s liberal
arts education is an institutional strength that ought not be
Dennis Proffitt, another panelist, noted that a split would divide
his department down the middle, since some psychologists focus
on natural science and some on social science.
"What's broken? What do we need to fix?" he asked rhetorically.
Barriers to inter-school collaborations don't need to be pushed
around, he said, but lowered.
audience member noted that with the progress in stem-cell research
and the success of the Human Genome Project, science and humanities
need more -- not less -- interaction, in order to explore the
ethical questions being raised by scientific progress.
compromise notion -- splitting Arts & Sciences at the level of
research and graduate education, but maintaining unity at the
undergraduate level -- was also forwarded. Antonovics said that
idea "is something that should be discussed further."