Art Practice Department Plans to Cap Major

Photo: <b>Substitute professor Indira Morre</b> consults junior art practice major Erica Rosen on her work for an advanced painting class.
Kevin Hahn/Photo
Substitute professor Indira Morre consults junior art practice major Erica Rosen on her work for an advanced painting class.

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UC Berkeley's Art Practice Department is working to finalize plans to temporarily cap the number of students in the major as part of its ongoing process of rethinking the undergraduate program, officials said.

There are currently about 180 to 190 art practice majors. The cap, which will be implemented next semester, aims reduce the total number of students in the major to 100 within the next academic year. About 80 art practice majors are expected to graduate in spring 2010.

The department was examined this past summer as part of the campus's review program, which assesses existing academic programs every eight years.

"What activated this process was the review of the department," said Hertha Sweet Wong, the department chair. "We all agreed that the number of majors should be lowered."

The temporary cap, which has been approved by the College of Letters and Science Executive Committee, will only be effective for spring 2010, during which fewer than 10 students are expected to declare, according to Sweet Wong. The screening process for the major could potentially include a GPA requirement and a portfolio review.

All students who wish to declare the major are already required to submit a portfolio for admission.

Department officials said the changes are not a result of budget cuts, but of the long-term goals for the major. The department has been trying to cap the art practice major for four to five years, before the external review began two years ago, Sweet Wong said.

According to Katherine Sherwood, a professor who has been with the department for 20 years, the external review committee noted that the department should be run by 20 faculty members. There are currently six in the department, one of whom works part time.

The committee also recommended the immediate hiring of two additional faculty members, though Sherwood said the campus's current hiring freeze would prevent this.

"Four years ago it was very clear that enrollments were skyrocketing and we had to do something about it," Sherwood said. "It clearly is not a result of the budget cuts."

Sweet Wong added that the cap will be instrumental in preventing faculty burnout and providing enough attention to students.

Still, she noted there may be issues with communicating the change to potential art practice majors, since it is difficult to determine who will declare.

According to Sweet Wong, the next steps are to finalize the discussion about the cap and find a "workable model."

"The whole point of this was to strengthen the major, not to diminish it ... so that it serves everyone better," she said. "It's a really strong major and what we're trying to do is see if we can make it a little more rigorous."


Contact Denise Poon at [email protected]

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