Major Discussions

CAMPUS ISSUES: There still should be open discussion with those affected to decide whether or not to combine three campus majors.

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Consolidation without communication creates problems, even before any action is actually taken. The campus is currently reviewing a proposal to reorganize three majors - Asian American studies, Chicano studies and Native American studies - into one major. While the plan is far from administrative approval, let alone implementation, the fact that this possibility is being discussed with so little input from the department is troubling.

The recommendation to combine these three majors under one ethnic studies title came from an external committee comprised of faculty from other campuses. Citing "tensions" that have stemmed from shared governance among the majors, the report released in September 2009 said that the department would be more cohesive with only one comprehensive major.

Despite this conclusion, there is not nearly enough information to judge the exact benefits or drawbacks of consolidating the three majors. Creating a single major might be more efficient and might not affect curriculum. We also understand the separate titles are a source of pride and guarantee in-depth studies based around specific cultures. It is ultimately too soon to tell how this proposal would go forward.

While input from an external and therefore more impartial committee is helpful, it should not be the only voice in this matter. Still, as of Friday, department officials admitted that they had not yet discussed the recommendation with faculty members. Various student groups, including the UC Berkeley Raza community, have expressed their desire to keep the three majors separate in a letter to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and during the Oct. 7 protests.

Yet these reactionary responses are not equivalent to an open discussion with the department. While administrators may believe that the recommendation is in its earliest planning stages, the campus should incorporate all voices from the start to make this a truly collaborative process.

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