Texas A&M Faculty Senate Reaction To Academic Reorganization Names Changes And The President’s End Of The Semester E-Mail

Screen shots from the May 9, 2022 Texas A&M faculty senate meeting video at https://youtu.be/jkLkZKcHXlE
Screen shots from the May 9, 2022 Texas A&M faculty senate meeting video at https://youtu.be/jkLkZKcHXlE

May’s meeting of the Texas A&M faculty senate was dominated by what university administrators are doing to implement academic reorganization decisions made by the president last December.

Interim provost Tim Scott announced proposed name changes that have to be approved by the Texas higher education coordinating board by the end of May. One of four department changes involves turning the department of international studies into the expanded department of global languages and cultures.

That includes A&M’s stand alone department of Hispanic studies to being a part of the department of global languages and cultures.

Dr. Scott said the new department and moving Hispanic studies into the department of global languages and cultures is a “protection of the degree, the courses, and the faculty”. He also acknowledged some will see it as “the first step towards elimination.”

A faculty senate member who is a professor in Hispanic studies, Maria Moyna, expressed her opposition, saying “I don’t see that anything good that’s going to come out of” the move and “I can tell you that one of the problems that has happened over the last ten years has been a systematic disinvestment in this department”, “and so now you have the perfect reason to close it.”

Dr. Scott said the other proposed name changes going to the coordinating board are:

  • the new college of arts and sciences, which combines the colleges of liberal arts, geosciences, and sciences,
  • a new school of fine arts, performance, and visualization that combines dance science from kinesiology, performance studies from liberal arts, and visualization from the college of architecture.
  • the department of socioecological health, which was the department of health promotion and community health sciences,
  • the department of kinesiology and sport management, which was the department of health and kinesiology, and
  • the department of communication and journalism, which was the department of communication.

Other faculty senate members expressed more general comments about A&M’s academic reorganization.

Senate member Douglas Benson, who is an associate professor at A&M’s college of dentistry in Dallas, said “when changes have to be made, yes it’s unsettling”, but “we feel like we’ve had decisions just handed down. And you come to work and you find all of a sudden that something has changed and no one told you why. No one asked your opinion, but it directly affects how you do your job to the betterment of the students and your institution. And when you ask for a why, a lot of times” “to be blunt, the answer comes very much across as ‘Shut up and sit down and get back in line. Grownups are working here. Just do what you are told.’ And that’s incredibly distressing.”

There was also reaction to an e-mail sent by president Katherine Banks.

As for her plan to share her strategic vision during her state of the university message on September 28, a faculty senate member in A&M’s veterinary college, professor John Stallone, said Banks should share her strategic vision now, “in the interest of shared governance and teamwork and faculty morale”.

Dr. Banks also wrote that she is “confident that the efforts of our 41 implementation working groups will position us for future success.” A faculty senate member in A&M’s college of medicine, professor Rajesh Miranda, said many working group meetings have been cancelled…which makes him worried about A&M making bad decisions that will have to be reversed. Dr. Miranda cited the decision of moving the health science center as a separate entity, only to return it as part of the university.

Click below to read the e-mail sent by Texas A&M president Katherine Banks on May 9, 2022. The e-mail was provided by A&M’s division of marketing and communications:

Texas A&M Community,

As the spring semester comes to a close, I would like to thank each of you for your hard work and contributions to the success of our students. This semester has brought the advent of many changes. Change can be challenging, but sometimes necessary. The landscape for all universities is crowded and competitive. We must continuously improve, and elevate our expectations while living our core values. This is what will drive us to the next level.

I recognize that these significant changes will have a direct impact on each of you. I assure you, these improvements are not intended to generate widespread reduction in our workforce. We have achieved great things in our educational delivery and research; now, we need to organize our administrative and academic operations to match these formidable strengths.

I am confident that the efforts of our 41 implementation working groups will position us for future success. These changes are critically important and serves as a means to an end. The exciting part is where we are going once these systemic improvements are completed. I look forward to sharing my strategic vision in a State of the University address on Wednesday, September 28. More details will be available soon. I hope you will be able to attend.

Best wishes for a restful and recharging summer break.

M. Katherine Banks, President

Click below to hear comments from the May 9, 2022 Texas A&M faculty senate meeting:

Listen to “Texas A&M faculty senate's reaction to academic reorganization name changes and an end of the semester e-mail from the president” on Spreaker.