Death of Sociology?
The sociology department faces potential discontinuation after undergoing a special program review this year. Some faculty were informed of this possibility as early as July of 2016, according to Sociology Professor Sine Anahita.
Threefaculty members left the program during 2016, she said, two of which left suddenly in the summer. Following this change the provost placed the department on special program review.
“I went to the provost and said we have to do something,” Anahita said. “Cut the lifeline is what I actually said, because we had just been bleeding.”
Admission to the program was suspended in September 2016, according to Alexandra Fitts, vice provost and accreditation liaison officer.
“It was a very difficult decision for [Provost Susan Henrichs]. It’s a difficult decision for the chancellor, but Susan was so humane about all of this,” Anahita said.
While no official decision has been made regarding the fate of the sociology department, hopes are not high among faculty members.
“It looks like we will be able to keep the minor,” Anahita said. “And I’m fighting to keep the BS but I just don’t know.”
Students often choose the Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology if they plan to attend graduate school, Anahita said. The difference between the two degrees is additional math requirements for the BS.
The department is currently made up of four adjunct professors in addition to Anahita, who is the only tenured faculty member remaining.
“It’s been heartbreaking,” Anahita said. “I’ve been here 14 years and I can’t imagine not teaching sociology. It’s not just a livelihood, it’s a calling.”
According to the report provided by the department, the program currently has four declared majors. These students will be ‘taught out’ and given an appropriate amount of time to complete their degree, according to UAF spokeswoman, Marmian Grimes.
Every program at the university is required to be reviewed once every five years. However, a program can be examined under special program review more often, according to Chancellor Dana Thomas.
“We look at programs under special program review when we see some trend occuring,” Thomas said.
Special program review looks at departments through a number of lenses, examining number of declared majors, number of graduates, cost of department and faculty numbers, among others, according to Thomas.
Once a program is placed under special program review, a report is drafted examining a number of factors. This report is then passed on to the faculty senate who will make a recommendation to either discontinue the program or not. That recommendation is then passed onto administrators and then to the chancellor’s cabinet who provides their own recommendation. The final decision is made by the Board of Regents.
While the current budget crisis affecting the university and the state as a whole plays a significant role in the increase of special program reviews, these reviews are not entirely based upon budget cuts, according to Thomas.
“Every institution wants every program to be successful,” Thomas said. “That doesn’t always happen. Life happens and change occurs. We’re being responsible by having a look at those and addressing any issues we see.”
These special program reviews are not consistent each year. Seventeen programs and specific degrees within those programs are up for review this year. However, no programs were under special review last year, according to Thomas. No programs have been identified for special program review for next year yet, Thomas said.
While some programs in the past have been discontinued altogether, in some cases, programs have been preserved by combining departments, Vice Provost Fitts said. Examples of this are the combining of the Communication and Journalism departments as well as the combination of the Film and Theater departments.
While some programs may be discontinued, certain courses will still be available for students to take for other major requirements such as social sciences and humanities. An example of this was the discontinuation of the Russian Studies major but the continuation of Russian language courses, said Fitts.
The faculty senate met Monday to discuss the continuation of the Sociology bachelor of arts degree. No recommendation was announced as of press time.
If the recommendation is made by the chancellor’s cabinet to discontinue the degree, the regents will likely be voting on the issue either at their June meeting or their September meeting depending on scheduling, according to Grimes.