Emporia State is taking the first steps to restructure the university’s academic affairs by restructuring the Liberal Arts and Sciences departments. Brent Thomas, James Ehlers and Amy Sage Webb Baza have created four possible models, all of which include eliminating the word “liberal” from the title or eliminating the department as a whole.
“This makes faculty even more exposed and disposable than they have already been made by removing the representation and advocacy they would’ve received from their department and from their department chair,” said C. Emmer, professor of social sciences, sociology and criminology.
Emmer also related these models to the idea that the United States should no longer have state representation and should be categorized into three zones.
“Now this elimination of departments, in my view, is an obvious consolidation of power in the provost,” said Emmer. “You said at your job talk that you wanted to rebuild trust and these meetings from my perspective enlist the faculty to proof read a power grab. One atom bomb was dropped on LAS last year and now a second atom bomb is being dropped on LAS right now.”
These potential models were built from input and suggestions from faculty in the LAS department. Meaning art, music and theater would be consolidated into one school. This would also occur in fields such as the humanities or mathematics and sciences.
“I recognize that this is difficult work and it comes at a time in a year when we had a lot of stresses, a lot of difficulties and a lot of pain,” said Provost, Brent Thomas. “So this is not a great time to be doing a lot of things but I am very appreciative that you (faculty) have done this work and just like Amy, what I saw in the comments gives me a lot of reasons to be optimistic.”
This would not be the first time the university has attempted to move to a flatter organizational system. This occurred in the 1970’s when John Visser was president and wanted to save money, according to Steve Catt, professor of communications and theater.
“What we learned when they combined music, art and theater and communication went along, was you end up with a flat organization and you end up with communication overload,” said Catt. “Just too much for the chair to handle.”
Catt also explained that a system like this led to the turnover multiple department chairs.
“From a communication standpoint, there was just too much to be dealt with and you had people starting to feel marginalized,” said Catt. “They didn’t have a chair and it wasn’t that the person who was chair wasn’t a nice person.”
Thomas intends to provide a more certain model by June and also intends to bring a larger conversation with the other colleges together. After the restructuring proposal is finalized it will be sent forward to Ken Hush, university president, and will then be presented to the Kansas Board of Regents for approval.
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