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November 21, 2012


envelopeSuspension of doctoral admissions decried

To the editor:

I made the following personal statement at the full faculty meeting of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences on Nov. 2.

As a faculty member of the German department since 1979 and its chair for many of those years, I understand curricular and programmatic innovation and appreciate the crucial role for small humanities departments in major research universities. Constrained as we are by the limitations of size, we deal in the currency of visionary change and curricular cooperation as a matter of routine. The important work some years ago of the task force that established Pitt’s cultural studies program, which I chaired, is just one example of this kind of timely involvement, as is my colleague Randall Halle’s recent contribution to the planning for the new PhD in film studies.

Pitt’s graduate program in German has always been modest in size, but it has also always met institutional challenges with an urgent sense of opportunity by nurturing a culture of curricular flexibility and cross-disciplinary cooperation. Thus — until the events of last spring — we could look back over the past five years and see ourselves well on the way to securing a place on the national stage of German studies. We were confident that our reinvigorated doctoral program would continue to progress, were proud that our students had begun to win their share of Pitt and national fellowships, and had recently concluded important negotiations on trans-Atlantic cooperation with a German partner.

I will not rehearse the reasons that have been offered in various meetings over the past six months in support of our growing confidence, which was abruptly undermined last April by the surprise decision to suspend admissions to the graduate programs in classics, German and religious studies. I simply want to take what might be a last official opportunity for some straight talk and register my concern — not only for the affected departments, but also for the University that has made my professional life possible.

As a dedicated member of Pitt’s academic community, I am sorry to conclude that this decision was wrong on both procedural and substantive grounds. Rather than strengthening the humanities within the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, it will damage them considerably. Furthermore, if the suspensions are not lifted for next year, they will also, in my view, make future attempts to restart the programs impossible. In sum, without any significant fiscal impact, the move to suspend and delay can only hamper the ongoing efforts of our top administrators to position the University among the leaders of public and private institutions. If European studies in a global context is to be part of their strategic vision at this pivotal moment, as I think it should, its success is unthinkable without a vision for German studies that includes a broad-based research program AND graduate education in ALL the relevant disciplines. The present course, I’m afraid, which can still be adjusted, will not take us there.

Clark Muenzer


N. John Cooper, Bettye J. and Ralph E. Bailey Dean of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, replies:

I value and will reflect on Professor Muenzer’s comments, which were shared with the faculty during the Dietrich school faculty meeting on Nov. 2, 2012, at which I reported on the ongoing discussions with the three departments for which doctoral admissions have been suspended.

As I indicated in my remarks that day, I invited the three departments to submit to me restructuring proposals for the review and consideration of the appropriate governing bodies of the Dietrich school and the University, and conversations are active with all three departments.


Problem with room assignment?

To the editor:

The Senate plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee is calling for information on problems with room assignments for scheduled classes.

PUP is gathering this information in order to facilitate a conversation among stakeholders about classroom assignment shortages and mismatches. While the problem seems to be greatest in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the undergraduate level, we are interested in hearing from faculty and departments across the Pittsburgh campus and the curriculum.

Please include as many specifics as possible, including but not limited to:

  • Course name and number.
  • Course date (term and year).
  • Course level (introductory, etc.).
  • Type of course (lecture, seminar, etc.).
  • Target enrollment.
  • Technology requirements related to method of instruction (slides? video playback or other form of display? web access? audio stations for language skill development? special software?).
  • Other specialized requirements or circumstances.

Please send your information to Lori Molinaro in the Senate office ( or to one of the PUP chairs by Dec. 1.

Thanks for your input.

Pat Weiss



Susanna Leers



Senate plant utilization and planning committee


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