Dude, where's my major?
Graphic design by Amber Soland
When Adora Harvey, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona senator of the Colleges of Letters, Arts and Sciences, announced her college had been disbanded at a senate meeting Wednesday Sept. 11, her fellow senators were surprised.
Harvey said she hasn’t heard a lot of feedback from students in her college.
“The communication that they’ve received is that nothing is going to change,” Harvey said. “From the student perspective, it really won’t. CLAS has been a student population that has been disserviced for a long time.”
She said there are some CLAS students who voiced concerns about graduating with their peers.
“There are some global studies and general studies students who feel like they want to graduate with their CLAS,” Harvey said.
She said it’s because the college worked with them for four years to see them graduate and they don’t want to graduate within another college with people they don’t know, along with advisers who didn’t help them pick their classes for all those years.
Taylor Lepird, a senior studying global studies, is one of those students concerned about graduation.
“Since I am a senior, the biggest thing that is affecting me is convocation,” Lepird said.
She said CLAS students have been told that CLAS is going to hold a convocation for December graduates, but that would be the final one. Global studies is moving into the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, so she will attend their convocation ceremony in May.
“I would just feel like I don’t belong there because I would have only been in that college for a semester,” Lepird said.
Lepird thought the disbanding affects CLAS students’ sense of place on campus.
“Disbanding a college is a major decision and it was done in, what felt like, a nonchalant way during the fourth week of classes,” she said.
Gail Burd, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, confirmed the disbanding was official as of Feb. 8, 2018.
“There really wasn’t anything there,” Burd said. “There were opportunities, but the colleges weren’t saving money. It wasn’t efficient. They weren’t really doing a lot of cross-college programs.”
The colleges were very strong by themselves and had “strong donor bases and a big-brand identity,” she said.
Burd said CLAS was created in 2009 in the wake of university budget cuts due to the recession. CLAS was a merger of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences and Sciences.
CLAS’ funding from 2015 to 2018 is demonstrably lower than that of other colleges. For 2015 and 2016, CLAS’ permanent allocated funding from the state was $169,649 and it decreased by 10.73% in 2017 to $151,439
In contrast, the College of Humanities received $23,240,448 in 2016 and increased by $2,302,469 in 2017, a 9.9% increase.
The College of Fine Arts received $16,671,381 in 2017 and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences received $56,366,399 in 2017. The College of Science received $84,059,024 in 2017.
Joaquin Ruiz, the Executive Dean for CLAS and the College of Science Dean, said when CLAS was first formed, the vision was to create new interdisciplinary degrees.
He said the School of Information, AKA iSCHOOL, and international studies, would have fit well in the CLAS when it was first created.
“It would have been great to have a few key international programs reside in the CLAS.”
Ruiz said another key issue within CLAS was the inability to hire faculty.
“There were all kinds of reasons we couldn’t put faculty in, and that was the cause of death, in my opinion,” Ruiz said. “We never had permission to hire faculty in this college.”
Burd said exploratory undecided majors will be housed in the Advising Resource Center*. General studies will be moved to the College of Humanities and global studies will be moved to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Harvey said the change could have both positive and negative impacts on undecided students.
“With what they have now, undecided students will actually get more advisory attention because there will be a lower student to adviser ratio,” Harvey said.
Undecided students won’t be in a college anymore, and “I think that’ll be the biggest negative impact,” Harvey said.
“They kind of feel like outsiders already, because they don’t have a major,” Harvey said. “They won’t have any representation, because they don’t have a college.”
Follow Priya Jandu on Twitter
*CORRECTION (10/15/19, 5:37 p.m.): The original article said undecided majors will be housed in the Advising Resource Center but the team formerly known as CLAS Academic Advising is now The A Center, not the Advising Resource Center.