USF announces academic restructuring aimed at cutting costs and consolidating resources

USF’s largest college will be restructured as a result of budget cuts.

The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) will be split into three schools to save money and streamline administrative services, Provost Ralph Wilcox wrote in an e-mail to CAS faculty and staff Thursday.

“The economic challenges we face will continue,” he said. “(The realignment is) happening for savings and budget reductions, which has really driven much of the process.”

CAS will be divided into three schools: the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, the School of Humanities and the School of Sciences. Departments, schools and institutes will be housed under the appropriate school. For example, the Department of Anthropology will belong to the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences and the Department of Chemistry will belong to the School of Sciences.

The Institute for Black Life, the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean and the Department of Economics will be moved into CAS. Four academic entities – the School of Aging Studies, the Department of Criminology, the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling – will leave CAS to form a new college with similar academic entities.

This new college, which will be named by its faculty and staff, will focus on mental health. Dean of the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) Junius Gonzales will serve as the new dean.

Gonzales said he wasn’t aware until the last minute that he would serve as dean and that Wilcox had requested him for the position.

“I am certainly honored by the provost’s request, although I’m a little bit challenged (by it),” he said.

Gonzales said he expects some problems to arise, but the college will mostly offer new opportunities.

“There may be short-term issues, as in trying to create an administrative structure for something new,” he said. “For the faculty, it’ll just be little headaches.”

Gonzales said the first year will be a transition for students, but should offer a “more immediate exposure to research opportunities.”

“I want to make sure … that we don’t reinvent the wheel in terms of operation and advising,” he said.

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) will also undergo a change. The School of Architecture and Community Design (SACD) will be absorbed into the college as its fourth school. CVPA will be renamed.

CVPA dean Ron Jones is expected to serve as dean of the college. He said SACD fits within CVPA because architecture is an art form.

“They have the same kinds of concerns,” he said. “At the end of the day, architects are concerned with the way things look.”

Jones said students shouldn’t feel any impact and that the changes would only have an organizational and structural impact on the college.

“Students and faculty shouldn’t be highly conscious of a new structure as a result of the merger,” he said. “We have to rewrite our bylaws in such a way to accommodate the (SACD) without violating any of their values.”

The restructuring will streamline administrative services, therefore saving money, Wilcox said. It will also save money by consolidating curricula.

“For instance, no longer will there have to be multiple research methods in all deparments,” he said.

In CAS, each school, instead of each department, could host its own research methods class.

“There are common curricular elements for research methodologies in the sciences, in the humanities and in the social sciences,” Wilcox said.

The restructuring may also make the University more competitive for research dollars.

“This will make us compete successfully for research funding, which, in part, could set off some dollars lost from state funding,” he said.

Students shouldn’t feel any impact from these changes, Wilcox said, because schools will not be physically moved.

“We’re not going to move overnight and make students travel to the FMHI building, for instance,” he said.

By fall 2008, most of the structural changes will have taken place.

“I expect, for the most part, they will be invisible to the student,” Wilcox said.

John Skvoretz, dean of CAS, could not be reached for comment.