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April 17, 2003

FAS and CAS: School of Arts and Sciences?

Should the Faculty and College of Arts and Sciences be renamed the School of Arts and Sciences?

At the unanimous recommendation of the FAS Council and with the support of faculty members at the April 16 Arts and Sciences faculty meeting, faculty in Pitt’s highest-enrolled unit will vote on the name change.

Dean N. John Cooper and other Arts and Sciences administrators argued that the name “School” is in keeping with Pitt’s nomenclature for units that offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, such as the School of Engineering and the School of Nursing. Responsibility centers that have undergraduate programs alone are called colleges (College of General Studies, the University Honors College), while those with only graduate programs are called graduate schools (Graduate School of Public Health, for instance).

Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs James Knapp, who is vice chair of the FAS Council, said, “The relation between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is often confused, even by our own people. The associate dean for undergraduate studies, for example, reports to the dean of FAS,” Knapp said.

He added that there is precedent for a name change. Knapp, whose Pitt tenure precedes the origin of the College of Arts and Sciences, recalled, “I was hired by a dean of Humanities into a School of Liberal Arts.”

In an statement endorsing the name change published in the April 1 FAS Gazette, Cooper wrote, “I suggest that the continuation of the current practice of naming the overall responsibility center the Faculty of Arts and Sciences while calling the undergraduate academic programs the College of Arts and Sciences is counterproductive. I continually find it necessary to explain to multiple constituencies the nature of FAS and CAS and the distinction between them. Even faculty who have been at the University for a decade have made it clear that they neither understand the distinction nor believe that it is useful.”

Cooper acknowledged two potential disadvantages to the renaming:

• A new name could confuse potential donors who graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences; and

• The name College of Arts and Sciences may suggest to prospective students a more intimate learning environment than is assumed to be available in a major research university.

“I do not believe that either of these concerns are determinative,” Cooper wrote. The College of Arts and Sciences, created in 1967, post-dates the Pitt experience of most donors, he pointed out, “[and] the University has many ways to offer the individualized support found in smaller programs,” such as access to Honors College classes and strong undergraduate advising services.

Cooper added that recruiters in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid support the name change because it simplifies marketing the Arts and Sciences programs.

Faculty and College of Arts and Sciences administrators also said that abandoning the distinctions of Faculty and College would strengthen the integration of the graduate and undergraduate programs.

Ballots on changing the name to School of Arts and Sciences (to be abbreviated as Arts and Sciences or A&S) and on making the corresponding changes in the unit’s bylaws are expected to be mailed to faculty next week. An approved name change by faculty vote would be submitted to Provost James Maher for his approval.

—Peter Hart

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