PULLMAN, Wash. – Members of the Faculty Senate will cast an advisory vote early next week on the proposed merger of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and the College of Sciences (COS).
The merger is part of a $3.2 million budget reduction in academic programs.
At Thursday’s senate meeting, President Elson S. Floyd briefly discussed the state’s continuing budget shortfalls and urged support for the proposed merger.
“At the core of great universities, they have a college of arts and sciences,” he said. The work of such a college, he said, is foundational to everything else that happens at a university.
Washington State University is working to cut $20 million from its FY2012 budget. Most of those cuts will occur in non-academic programs, Floyd said. He has set an Oct. 1 deadline for having a budget plan in place.
Floyd: Merger will strengthen university
Details of the proposed budget plan were released in August and for the most part people support them, Floyd said. The main point of contention seems to be the proposed merger, he said, but he believes such a merger will strengthen the university.
 “I quite frankly look at it as a growth mechanism for our university,” he said. Acknowledging that a combined college would be large, Floyd said CAHNRS is even bigger, but it works.
Floyd asked for questions, but none were asked. After Floyd left the meeting, a discussion of the proposed merger lasted nearly an hour.
Merger savings questioned
Much of the discussion centered on whether the merger would really save money, where those savings would come from and whether the proposed savings and interdisciplinary collaborations could occur just as easily without a merger.
“I have nothing against the model, but if we are going to suit up and do this, I’d like to know why,” said Michael Hanly, CLA professor. At the very least, he said, a merger will require a lot of committee work, which people have plenty of already.
Merging cultures questioned
Several senators voiced concern that the arts and humanities would get short shrift in a merged college, especially if the new dean came from the sciences.
“The cultures are very different,” said Christopher Lupke, CLA associate professor.
Many universities do have a College of Arts and Sciences, he said, but when deans of those colleges are hired, faculty from diverse disciplines are part of the hiring committee.
Carmen Lugo-Lugo, CLA associate professor, said she was in a meeting recently where someone said that social scientists are only concerned about feelings. She and others in the College of Liberal Arts are concerned that their work will be devalued by people who do not understand it, she said.
Diversity, transparency encouraged
Joan (Anderson) Ellis, associate professor in CAHNRS, urged the senators to be open to the challenge of making a merger work. Her college is very diverse, she said, but they have found opportunities for working together in creative ways.
“You really need to start thinking much broader,” she said.
Karen Lupo, CLA professor, said for the most part people are not objecting to the merger itself, but they want more transparency about how the merger would work.
“The president must have something in mind,” she said, “but we don’t know what that is.”
David Turnbull, CLA associate professor, asked that the senators vote on the proposed merger via email, with the choices being to advise the president to go forward, to oppose the merger or to ask for more information. Senators also would be asked to provide comments related to their vote.
Faculty Senate leadership debated
In other business, the senators discussed senate bylaws related to transitions in leadership. Cathy Claussen was chair elect last year and was slated to be chair this year. But last spring Claussen took a half-time position as a university ombudsman and resigned her position with the Faculty Senate.
The bylaws state that if the chair cannot serve, then the chair elect moves into that position. However, the chair elect, Turnbull, declined, asking instead that last year’s chair, Max Kirk, stay on and he, Turnbull, remain chair elect.
An email vote was taken in August and the senators voted 44-4 to retain Kirk as chair for another year. But several senators are questioning whether appropriate procedure was followed and why the bylaws related to leadership succession online differ from the bylaws in the Faculty Senate archive.
The next Faculty Senate meeting is scheduled for Oct. 6.