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Volume 70, Issue 132, Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Reflecting on 'intellectual center' of UH

CLASS still growing into its role as undergraduate nexus

By Adriana Barillas-Batarse and Jessica Robertson
The Daily Cougar

Five years ago today, former Provost Edward P. Sheridan announced a proposed merger of the College of Humanities, Fine Arts and Communication and the College of Social Sciences to form todayis College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. This is the first of two articles looking at the merger five years later; the second will appear in Thursdayis Daily Cougar.

Five years after the College of Humanities, Fine Arts and Communication and the College of Social Sciences merged to form the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the dream of the college as a center for undergraduate education at UH is slowly becoming a reality.

Former Provost Edward P. Sheridan announced the decision to combine the two colleges to the Faculty Senate on April 19, 2000. He said he felt it was the right time for the merger because the dean of Social Sciences, Richard Rozelle, was retiring and the search for a new dean had not been successful.

Sheridan also wanted to create a college in which most undergraduate courses would be taught.

"At the time, one of the things that I felt at UH was that we lacked a college that was like the intellectual center of the University," Sheridan said.

The two colleges were combined with the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in the mid-1970s. They were separated because the number of departments under single supervision became unwieldy.

When the CLASS merger was announced in 2000, many faculty members were angry at the University administration because they said they werenit consulted on the plan. A task force, including faculty-led committees, was formed to deal with the transition, but many observers felt the merger was already a done deal by that time. "It is true that after the fact the provost appointed a task force, but the charge to this group was not to determine if we should merge, but rather to focus on a plan for the transition," associate art professor Angela Patton said.

Presented with the challenge of organizing a new, much larger college, 10 committees with equal representation from both colleges met for six months to discuss tenure and promotion, faculty raises, advising and grants and research. The transition was not complete until the bylaws of the new college were ratified almost two years later.

According to CLASS Dean John Antel, who was involved in the merger process, the work brought the faculty together.

"The faculty was so mad and humiliated by this thing that they pulled together," Antel said. "The process of writing the new bylaws and making this thing work created solidarity among the faculty."

Some of the minor conflicts, like where to locate the deanis office, were quickly overcome, Sheridan said.

"As transitional dean it was an interesting experience," said Andrew Achenbaum, who was HFAC dean before the merger and the first dean of the combined college. "A lot of very good people worked very hard to merge two colleges with very different ways of going about their business."

Achembaum stepped down as dean in 2002, and Antel was named interim dean. He became permanent dean last year with the unanimous vote of department chairs and strong faculty support.

"(CLASS) has everything from ROTC to psychology," interim Provost Jerald Strickland said. "It represents about one-third of the University, one-third of the faculty and one-third of the students. Considering the fact that we have 15 colleges, to have one college represent a third of something is a big population."

CLASS has more than 8,000 majors and minors, 14 departments and 20 programs. Under Antelis leadership, the college has concentrated on writing initiatives and redesigning the undergraduate curriculum.

A major accomplishment for the college was the creation of the Weekend University, a program started last year to benefit students with jobs and alleviate parking and scheduling problems on campus.

Antel said he wants to continue to follow the strategic plan of the University and focus on research and undergraduate education.

"Without the merger, Antel would not be our dean," Patton said. "In these reconstruction years, his leadership has been invaluable. The college is in the best position I have ever known, and it is all due to the magic of Antel."

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