In the process of merging Armstrong State University into Georgia Southern University, a proposal from a working group to create eight subject-area colleges, splitting the current College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences in two, hit a snag.
More than 100 faculty members and a few staff members, all from the college known as CLASS, signed a petition against the proposal. When most of the 41-member Consolidation Implementation Committee met Wednesday afternoon in the Military Science Building on the Statesboro campus, Georgia Southern University President Jaimie Hebert, PhD, announced that the item, originally first on the agenda, was being moved to later.
Eventually, members of the big committee discussed the proposal, reviewed and supported by GS Provost Jean Bartels, PhD, RN, and ASU Provost and Robert Smith, PhD, for about half an hour before Hebert suggested tabling it. Now faculty members from both campuses have a chance to draft an alternative plan.
“One concern was that they didn’t ask us anything about it,” Professor Richard Flynn, PhD., moderator of the Georgia Southern University Faculty Senate, said in an interview Thursday. “A committee full of deans and administrators made the decision without consulting the faculty, and now that it’s tabled and we’re able to prepare our alternative plan, at least we’re going to have some input this time.”
Another concern of the faculty was that “the arts and humanities are under nationwide assault right now, and putting them in their own college apart from the social sciences just makes them that much more vulnerable,” added Flynn, a professor of English.
The current college, he said, has also achieved a level of interdisciplinary cooperation, including shared programs and student interactions, which would be made more difficult by a breakup.
CLASS, Flynn acknowledged, is Georgia Southern’s largest college in student enrollment and faculty numbers. The consolidation, slated to be approved by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in January and to take effect fall semester 2018, would extend the college to any departments assigned to it on Armstrong’s current campuses in Savannah and Hinesville.
Armstrong currently has four subject- area colleges: the College of Education, College of Health Professions, College of Liberal Arts and College of Science and Technology, all with counterparts or overlap among Georgia Southern’s seven subject-area colleges. Georgia Southern also has an eighth unit called the College of Graduate Studies, but it includes programs in the other colleges’ academic areas.
The proposal from the operational working group, or OWG, that considered reorganization would have increased the number of colleges to nine for the combined university, often referred to as the “new Georgia Southern.” The proposed colleges were a College of Arts and Humanities, a College of Behavioral Sciences, the Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Computing, a College of Business, a College of Education, the Don and Cindy Waters College of Health Professions, the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, a College of Science and Mathematics and the J.N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies.
“We have eight if you include Graduate Studies, but seven academic colleges, and four academic colleges there, so we were going to have somewhere before four and 11,” Hebert said after the meeting. “The OWG recommended eight. That didn’t sit well with some of our faculty and they want to propose an alternative. I think that’s great. Let them have that voice.”
The provosts had thought the proposal represented a compromise, but it wasn’t perceived that way, Hebert acknowledged. He agreed to have faculty members on the main consolidation committee come up with an alternative proposal by next Wednesday.
The issue could then come back for a vote during the Consolidation Implementation Committee’s next meeting, scheduled for May 24 on the Armstrong campus in Savannah. Hebert indicated that the working group’s plan will still be considered, with a compromise possible.
“We’ll bring both of those to the next meeting and, if we can get consensus to move forward, we will. Otherwise, we will take a vote on which organizational structure to adopt and we will move forward from that point,” he said.
The faculty subcommittee, consisting of Flynn, Armstrong State University Faculty Senate President Clifford Padgett, PhD, and three other faculty members from the Armstrong campus, includes all of the full-time teaching faculty on the consolidation committee, Flynn said. They planned to hold meetings to gather input from other faculty members.
He said he appreciated Hebert’s choice not to call for a vote on the subject.
“I think his decision was a good one. We welcome the opportunity to provide input no matter what happens,” Flynn said.
Hebert noted that most other recommendations, about 30 from various working groups, were approved without debate Wednesday.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.