Fisher investigates future of two colleges
|Administrators are investigating the future of the colleges of Communications
and Fine Arts and might merge them if that option proves best, Dr. Bob
Fisher, vice president for academic affairs, said.
The university has needed a permanent plan for the two colleges since 1995, when Dr. Russell Shain became interim dean of the College of Fine Arts, Fisher said. Shain also has acted as dean of the College of Communications since 1990.
Dr. Les Wyatt, university president, said he asked Fisher to investigate the options for the two colleges and to draft a recommendation.
Fisher said he will recommend that the university should either continue to operate each college separately with Shain as dean, form a search committee to find a new dean for the College of Fine Arts or combine the two colleges and appoint Shain as the new college's dean.
"We're trying to be very cautious and thoughtful," Fisher said. "It's hard for people to believe me when I say, ÔIt's not decided.' But it isn't. It's not over."
Shain said he hopes Fisher devises a plan that will help both colleges.
"I want to see what can be best for both colleges," Shain said.
Fisher said he spoke with faculty members in the two colleges to hear their opinions about the three options. Fisher met with fine arts faculty in November and with communications faculty in January, he said.
Fisher said his decision to meet with fine arts faculty members first was arbitrary.
"This is a process, and I mapped out the way," he said. "I just decided it was best to start with fine arts (faculty)."
Christmas break forced him to delay his meeting with communications faculty, he said.
"It's not a decision that will be a result of a faculty vote, but I will hear their concerns," Fisher said. "I haven't sought (student input) except through faculty. But I'm open to any student input."
Richard Carvell, chair of the Department of Radio and Television, said administrators thought about combining the colleges in 1995, when Shain took over for Dr. John Keith, former dean of theCollege of Fine Arts.
After meeting with Fisher Jan. 15, Carvell said any decision probably would not affect his department.
"I can say that there wouldn't be any change in programs," he said.
Fisher met with professors from the Department of Journalism and Printing Jan. 16.
After the meeting, Dr. Joel Gambill, chair of the Department of Journalism and Printing, said, "I didn't hear any advantages or see any, but that's my opinion."
Dr. Marlin Shipman, professor of journalism, said he opposed combining the College of Communications with the College of Fine Arts. The merger would cause news and entertainment to intermingle, perhaps adding to the negative perception about the media that the public already holds , he said.
"I hope the administration will look at the proposal carefully and choose to keep us an individual college," Shipman said.
Bill Rowe, professor of art, said most fine arts faculty members do not favor a merger.
"Everyone I've talked to isn't for it," Rowe said. "Dean Shain is a fine fellow, but I think everyone would like someone from fine arts to lead fine arts. We'd like to have a dean."
Shain, professor of journalism, has a communications background.
"We'd like to have one of our own in there to raise money for the college," Rowe said.
Dr. Neal Bartee, professor of music and orchestra director, said he did not know the administration was about to make a decision about his college's future.
"I've been getting my mail; I usually keep up," Bartee said. "I didn't know about this."
Bartee said he did not want a the colleges to join because the College of Fine Arts might lose its identity.
Paul Gilbert, assistant professor of theater arts, said he thinks Fisher has included fine arts faculty members in the decision.
"I think we've had an opportunity to discuss it," Gilbert said. "The decision will be in (the administration's) hands, not ours. But we've had the opportunity to express our opinions."
Fisher said his recommendation will go to Wyatt and then to the Board of Trustees.
Fisher said he talked with officials from universities that have combined the two colleges and others that have not.
Hiring another dean would keep the colleges separate, allowing them to focus on the specific needs of their students, Fisher said. At the same time, the colleges share similar curricula, such as photography and graphic design, and students might benefit if the colleges merged, he said.
But he said he did not want to comment about specific advantages and disadvantages until he decides which plan to accept.
"I don't like making decisions both ways," he said. "It'll be hard enough to decide once."
Continuing the colleges as they are remains the least desirable option, he said.
"There wouldn't be any advantage to that except that I wouldn't have to face up to making a decision," Fisher said.
Students should expect an announcement in two to three weeks, Fisher said.
Back to January 27, 1998
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