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After a year of continuous debate over the closing of the American Civilization, Regional Science and Religious Studies departments, the Faculty Senate Committee on the Faculty released a statement on the closings late last month. Professor of Law and Economics Alan Auerbach, who chaired the committee, said this week the statement was formulated in response to the School of Arts and Science departmental closings. "The issue was whether proper procedures had been followed by [Dean Rosemary Stevens]," Auerbach said this week. "We realized the need to clarify what proper procedures are." Auerbach said the committee was not "taking sides" in the matter, but rather attempted to increase the communication between departments and the administration in such matters. Consultation of this manner is the major theme throughout the statement. "The decision to discontinue a department should therefore be based upon academic considerations as determined by the faculty as a whole or appropriate committees thereof," the statement says in the opening paragraph. "Accordingly, there should be early, careful, and meaningful faculty involvement in decisions relating to the reduction of instructional and research programs." The first of four related sections suggests existing faculty committees which presently make budgetary decisions should be "involved in decisions to limit the resources of departments or close them" and also suggests that the dean take into account the committees' advice. The section continues to state that "hard times" or "scarcity of resources" is not an excuse to close a department, only if the substance of the department is waning. "[In light of budgetary constraints,] the dean decided that some departments were more important than others," Auerbach said this week. "Money is never in unlimited supply and we all have to make tough decisions." The second section of the statement suggests that departmental reviews should be used to aid departments in improving. The section continues to say that reviews should not be initially conducted when proposals to close or make "adverse changes" to a department arise. Communication is further reinforced in the third section which recommends that "faculty members of a department facing closure must be informed well before the formal recommendation of a closure is publicly announced." The final section dealing with department cuts states that the proposal to close a department is not grounds for an academic freedom violation. Am Civ Department Chairperson Melvyn Hammarberg said he is pleased with the statement. "I'm very pleased to see that the Senate has taken action calling for full public discussion of any administrative recommendations for the closing of departments," Hammarberg said this week. "I think we have learned a lesson through what has happened in the past year -- in the future similar proposals need full open deliberation by the faculty." Stevens said the decision to add the Faculty Senate's statement to departmental closing procedure will be up to Provost-elect Stanley Chodorow when he arrives at the University in July.

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