University of Tennessee administrators are proposing a sweeping change in academic structure: separating the music department and interdisciplinary study programs into their own colleges, creating a college in its nonpartisan public policy think tank and restructuring of the College of Arts and Sciences, the largest on campus.
The proposal will have a ripple effect on several aspects including student experience, faculty satisfaction, financial support, etc.
But there are a lot of details to sort out before this plan is finalized. Here’s a look at what we know (and don’t know) about what’s to come.
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What is the timeline for the University of Tennessee realignment?
Chancellor Donde Plowman announced the proposal on Monday. So what comes next?
The board will hear in February proposals for a new Baker School (or college) of public policy, a college for interdisciplinary programs, and a new college of music. These movements require approval.
Plowman doesn’t need board approval to realign the College of Arts and Sciences’ leadership structure, so trustees are working on all the details of the two-year pilot immediately.
Next steps include:
- Appointment of an Acting Executive Dean and Division Deans
- Establish ways to measure the effectiveness of the pilot program
- Creation of implementation teams
The timing of these next steps is unclear, but the new structure should be in place by August 23, 2023 – the first day of the fall semester.
Who is involved?
The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, the governing body of the University of Tennessee system, must agree. Members control the organization, administration, and funds of not only the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, but other universities in the UT system as well.
One of their responsibilities is to approve the establishment of any new campus, institute, college, or school, including new colleges proposed by Plowman.
The Education, Research and Services Committee will review the proposal and provide a recommendation to the Board in February.
To determine how the new divisional structure will work within the College of Arts and Sciences, Provost and Senior Vice-Chancellor John Zomchick said implementation teams will be created. These teams will likely include faculty members, department heads, and possibly administrative staff.
What does this mean for students?
The biggest change could affect music school students, who would split from the College of Arts and Sciences to join their own new college. This would allow the College of Music to create new program requirements (or get rid of old ones) with the approval of the Undergraduate Council and Faculty Senate.
There will also be additional opportunities for students who wish to create their own major or cover more than one discipline. Their place could be at the new college of interdisciplinary studies. Moving this outside of the College of Arts and Sciences will allow students to build a major that draws from courses offered at multiple colleges.
There is still much to learn about what a new college or school would bring to Baker Center. The center had no academic program mission before, but new undergraduate academic programs could include majors and minors in public policy, public administration, public leadership, and more. The new Institute for American Civics will be housed in the new school or college, pending approval.
What will the new deans structure at the College of Arts and Sciences look like?
A new structure within the College of Arts and Sciences will separate the college into Arts and Humanities divisions; Social sciences and natural sciences; and Mathematics. Each division will have its own dean who will report to an executive dean for the entire college.
This is intended to reduce the number of people who report directly to the dean of the college (which is currently over 30), reduce administrative burdens for faculty, and improve communication for the college’s more than 700 faculty members.
How much will this realignment cost?
Knox News does not have details on the cost of the new colleges and the new structure within the College of Arts and Sciences. But we can look at how much other deans and university staff are paid.
In its academic structure change announcement, UT listed five schools with an executive dean structure. At four of these universities, salaries range from over $228,000 to almost $483,000, according to public salary databases:
- Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, University of California, Berkeley: $228,615
- Alan Dorsey, University of Georgia: $299,364
- James WC White, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: $400,000
- Anne Curzan, University of Michigan: $482,925
Just look at the University of Georgia — one of UT’s ambitious peers — salary ranges for the five associate deans at Franklin College of Arts and Sciences range between nearly $126,000 and $226,000.
UT College of Arts and Sciences Dean Theresa Lee earns $305,441. She has led the college since 2012 and intends to retire at the end of this academic year. She recommended the Executive Dean model during feedback sessions with Plowman and Zomchick.
What are students and teachers saying?
At a Faculty Senate meeting on Monday, several faculty members still had questions about the restructuring process. The email dropped into their inboxes shortly before the meeting started, and Zomchick answered questions as they arose. Plowman will take questions from faculty members next week.
Jack Love, professor of religious studies at the University of Tennessee, said he favors separating the music school from the College of Arts and Sciences as long as staff and students have funding. and adequate support to keep him upright.
“If the administration will fight for music and provide funding for the faculty and financial resources it needs to become an independent school, it will be a great victory for the University of Tennessee. I wish Chancellor Plowman all possible success in accomplishing this task,” Love said.
Joseph Beller, a double major in physics and music, has a lot of questions he doesn’t yet have answers for, like if there will be different program requirements in place for him before he graduates, or what Graduation requirements will look like now that her majors are at different colleges. He also wants more communication about the changes with the students.
“I think the most disappointing thing is the communication isn’t there,” Beller said. “In some parts, I think it’s great because you don’t want a bunch of students freaking out, going to their counselors, like me, saying, ‘What does this mean to me? You don’t want a whole lot of chaos. You don’t want a bunch of misinformation. But at the same time, … you want to keep students informed,” Beller said.
“It’s kind of an experiment conducted at the expense of the students. We don’t know if the students are going to benefit,” Beller said.