Semester's First Academic Senate Meeting Bodes Poorly for California Studies
Proposed Discontinuance Discussed by Senate
February 10, 2005 11:58 AM
On Tuesday afternoon, SF State’s Academic Senate met for the first time this semester, spending most of the two-hour meeting discussing a proposed discontinuance of the California studies (CAS) minor. Administrators in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSS) contend that no student has ever graduated with a minor in CAS since the program began in 1995, making continued support questionable during a time of budget cuts and increased enrollment in other, more popular programs.
Dawn Terrell, associate dean of BSS, told the group of senators assembled in the Seven Hills Conference Center that a faculty committee within her department had recently voted 14-5 in favor of discontinuing the minor.
“We are looking for ways to best utilize resources and reduce costs,” said Terrell. “I’ve estimated, conservatively, that the cost of mounting the minor is $13,000 a year. It’s a relatively small amount, but it could cover three other [class] sections.”
However, Lee Davis, director of the CAS program, says that the minor has not yet had a chance to prove its worth. During the meeting, Davis pointed out that the CAS minor underwent a major revision in 2002, which she believes will make it much more likely for students to pursue in the future. Davis also maintains that the program brings in a substantial amount of grant money, far more money than the program costs to run.
“I have a long history of raising funds and working with the community,” Davis said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve been the principal writer of at least 15 grants. It’s at least hundreds of thousand of dollars that have come in to SF State, $1.2 million total.”
According to Davis, that source of extra money is already drying up. She said that the school lost $50,000 in grant funds immediately after administrators announced their intention to ax the CAS minor.
“The day after the discontinuance was announced in the press, one of our granting agencies called me and said, ‘If your university doesn’t support you, we won’t either,’” Davis said.
Seated in the back of the meeting room, five students enrolled in the CAS minor wore white t-shirts emblazoned with a map of California bearing the words, ‘California Studies Program.’ Each of the five students had also pinned a copy of their CAS admissions paperwork to the back of their T-shirts, which they claim disproves university records showing only a single student enrolled in the minor.
While all SF State students must declare majors before graduation, there are few requirements regarding minors, meaning that there may be many uncounted students wanting to pursue a CAS minor.
Earlier this year, a group of interested students formed a new campus club, the Cal. Studies Student Association (CASSA), to support the California studies (CAS) program. Club members point to a recent survey they conducted, which found that 98 percent of the 128 SF State students surveyed believe that the program should continue.
Tiffany Chilcott-Knauss, a 22-year-old geography major, said she plans to graduate with a minor in CAS. Chilcott-Knauss addressed the meeting and asked senators keep the CAS minor.
“As I understand it, this was only a working minor in the last two years,” Chilcott-Knauss said. “For the students who found out about the proposal to discontinue the minor, we were a little freaked out. We want this minor to continue. In an era of California’s prominence, now is not the time to discontinue the California studies minor.”
Many academics also spoke in support of the CAS minor, including Richard Walker, chair of the California Studies Center at UC Berkeley.
“We think it’s an extremely bad idea [to discontinue the minor],” Walker said. “It’s darn clear to me that to neglect the study of California is a grievous error. It’s a wrong move.”
Walker also suggested that administrators might have targeted the CAS program for discontinuance due to its small size when compared with other programs in the college.
“There’s an inevitable bias to cut the little program,” Walker said. “It’s easier to cut the little programs than to go after the heavy hitters.”
According to procedures listed on the Academic Senate’s web site, http://www.sfsu.edu/~senate/, senators will revisit the proposed discontinuance again before casting their final votes for or against the CAS minor. If senators vote to discontinue the CAS minor, their recommendation will go next to SF State’s provost, John Gemello.
Senators are expected to vote on the discontinuance during the next scheduled Academic Senate meeting at 2:00 p.m. on Feb. 15 in the Seven Hills Conference Center.
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