The School of Architecture and Community Design (SACD) may merge with another college and lose its independence, according to an e-mail sent to SACD staff.
It is unclear, though, whether the merger has even been seriously proposed, as no such merger is mentioned in the budget task force’s February report.
The report recommended which programs and colleges should be merged in light of recent budget cuts.
Regardless, the dean of SACD supports this idea – proposed in reaction to the $55 million in budget cuts now facing the University – but he is unsure how merging with the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) will save the University money. Some students oppose the merge, and feel that the recommendation has come too quickly.
“We don’t think it will save money,” said Charles Hight, dean of SACD.
CVPA dean Ronald Jones said that the budget cuts are a motivation for this merge, and that it is something that should have happened already.
“This made a lot of sense for a long time but we never had the motivation for it,” Jones said.
Hight said SACD should merge because it is more vulnerable to be cut completely if it is not.
“If the school were to keep separate, the school would be in danger,” he said.
The budget taskforce recommended that SACD fall under the umbrella of the CVPA or the College of Engineering. Hight said that the best benefit for SACD would to be apart of CVPA because they have “similar thinking patterns.”
“Architects tend to think more like artists,” he said. “It has been viewed as an art, but it has to be technically sound.”
Jones said that CVPA would be ideal for SACD because of the way the college is organized.
“The umbrella is a much better metaphor because it says how many of us can gather underneath together yet keep our individual identities,” he said.
CVPA is set up differently from other colleges, Jones said. The college houses three schools: the School of Music, the School of Theatre and Dance, and the School of Art and Art History. Although Jones is responsible for money management and hiring faculty, he passes these responsibilities down to the individual directors of each school. They sit on a directors’ committee with Jones to discuss overall college changes and improvements.
“Each director and their staff makes decisions that are relevant to their future,” Jones said. “That’s why it’s easy for architecture to come in, because it doesn’t cause it to function different.”
John Wiencek, dean of the College of Engineering, said that the best option for USF would be for the faculties of each proposed college to discuss what would be best for them.
“The students will only be here for four or five years,” he said. “The faculty has a longer time investment to this University.”
Wiencek said that it has been clear that SACD would prefer to merge with CVPA, but that the College of Engineering could benefit from a merge with SACD.
“I think it would be helpful because we have some sustainability efforts,” Wiencek said. “There’s clearly some overlaps there.”
No matter which college it is combined with, Hight said SACD would not change. SACD would still offer a master’s degree in architecture and remain as competitive as it is. The school admits only 45 new students per school year and provides a master’s degree in architecture only through a five-year program in which the bachelor’s degree is skipped.
Hight also said that no class changes would be made as a result of the merge and that it would keep its name.
“We will not change the curriculum because of moving over there,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, architecture students had a chance to voice their concerns in an open forum with Hight, Jones and Wiercek.
Many students were concerned that too little time has passed during which to make such an important decision and that whatever decision is made will not be beneficial.
“I think there are some good opportunities to the merge,” said Jana Buchter, a graduate student in architecture. “I don’t think it should be made so fast.”
Hannah Sebastian, a graduate student in architecture, said that she feels the school is being “thrown around.”
“None of us are opposed to joining another school, it’s the rapidness of the decision,” she said.
Jones said that more time could be a disadvantage.
“The only advantage time gives is the opportunity to derail and play politics,” he said.
Some students felt that the rationale of budget cuts is just an excuse, because the merger would not save the University money.
“I would like to be told the truth,” Buchter said.
Others thought that it might be more appropriate for SACD to merge with the College of Engineering instead of the CVPA.
“The future of architecture is not in art, it is sustainability and environmental design,” graduate architecture student Robin Plotkowski said.
Other schools face changesAlthough the SACD is considering combining with CVPA, CVPA also has internal budget issues with an existing school within the college.
A mere seven years after two University fine arts schools merged because of budget cuts, the combined school is facing an additional budgetary blow.
The schools of theater and dance combined after University-wide budget cuts in 2001, director Marc Powers said. He called the effects of that cut “huge.”
“They went from lots and lots of funding available for special projects to little funds available for that,” he said.
The department – which made a decision to take phones out of faculty offices this summer to save $10,000 – has not yet recovered from the 2001 cuts. The school is facing budget cuts of up to 25 percent, though a final decision has not yet been made by the University.
“It’s like that cartoon with the piano hanging overhead, and we’re standing under it not knowing when it’s going to fall, but hoping that we’re looking up when it happens,” Powers said.
“We’re in the same position that every other academic unit is in,” Powers said. “Everybody in the entire campus is really stuck in the same situation of not really knowing yet. We know the worst case, but we don’t know the best case yet and we don’t know which is more likely.”
He said the School of Theatre and Dance will not know what its budget will be until July 1, which will make it difficult to plan what classes will be offered and which will have to be cancelled. Powers called the cancellation of classes a probability.
“The way funding cuts are being done, our only way to handle it is to cancel classes.”
Powers said more than 95 percent of his department’s budget is for personnel. To deal with cuts, he said the department would have to cancel courses, particularly those taught by adjuncts and non-tenured faculty – which make up 25 percent of faculty in the department.
As to which classes the department would cut, Powers said his priorities differ from the University’s.
“Obviously, we would want to make sure that we keep the ones that are needed for theater majors – that would be my preference,” he said.
“I want to make sure that students that are here in the program are going to be able to graduate. My obligation is to my seniors who have put in their time and ought to be able to graduate, so they come first.”
Powers said he puts the needs of seniors first, followed by juniors, sophomores, freshman, and then general education students.
The University, however, runs on credit hour production, meaning it must fill larger classes with more students at a lower cost.
Those classes tend to be filled with students taking the class for general education requirements.
“If we have to make sure that we bring in a significant number of credit hours, that means that the classes for advanced majors are more expensive and have smaller numbers,” Powers said.
The cuts will also affect the number of shows that the school would be able to offer in the future.
At this point, Powers said he has not been able to share much information with students.
“I can’t tell them because I don’t know how much the cut will be. We could find out that we have no cut or we could find out that they cut 25 percent.”
While shows are paid for through ticket revenue, advertising, gifts and foundation accounts, faculty need to be released to direct and design for the shows. Power said the amount of work that faculty puts into a show is much more than they put into teaching a class.
“Those shows are really our labs; it’s their science lab,” he said.
“So it’s important for us to keep those labs running, but they do have expenses. If I have to make sure that faculty are teaching more, then that might mean that we reduce the number of shows.”
Powers said the challenges he faces reflect the need for broad changes to fix the educational system in Florida.
“What would be nice is if the people of Florida would say ‘this is ridiculous, we want to have world class education in the state, and we want to support it,'” Powers said. “Something has to give, either the people of Florida as a whole are going to have to pay more taxes to make education throughout the state be good or the Legislature is going to have to set it up so that the people getting the education pay more tuition or it’s going to go downhill. It’s going to be less available to students and the quality is going to start to suffer if it hasn’t already.”
Some theater students said that it is an unfortunate situation for the school.
“I think it’s sad that all the arts are the first to take a hit,” said Corey Rawlings, a senior majoring in theater and art.
Matt Frankel, a junior majoring in theater and art, isn’t worried about registering for classes.
“I’ll only be worried if there are no teachers to teach them,” he said.