School of Culture & Society may see name change

The school of Culture and Society (above, Bliss Hall, one of the school’s academic buildings) could be renamed the school of Humanities and Social Sciences. (Tim Lee/Photo Editor)
The school of Culture and Society (above, Bliss Hall, one of the school’s academic buildings) could be renamed the school of Humanities and Social Sciences. (Tim Lee/Photo Editor)

Students of the school of Culture and Society may see some new developments during the next 10 years, including a possible change in the school’s name.

According to Benjamin Rifkin, dean of the school of Culture and Society, a group of alumni, faculty, students and other staff members worked to draft a strategic plan during the Fall 2009 semester.

The plan details the group’s goals for future years and states that in 2020 the school will “stand as a national exemplar in teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences.”

While nothing is final, the proposed new name of the school is currently the “school of Humanities and Social Sciences.” When asked about the proposed name change, Rifkin said the “school of Culture and Society” does not reflect the academic programs within the school.

“If you ask outsiders, people who are not students, faculty or staff at (the College), what academic programs might be in a school with that name, they will more often than not suggest that the school of Culture and Society should be the academic home for courses in art, art history, film, music and theater, because these are what constitute our understanding of culture,” he said in an interview.

“These are all perfectly appropriate disciplines and I’m personally very glad that we teach these subjects at (the College). Of course, they are taught in the school of the Arts and Communication,” he said.

Rifkin also said he understands people may have an “emotional connection” to the school’s current name, but asks them to consider that just 10 years ago the programs in the School of Culture and Society were part of a larger division called the School of Arts and Sciences. That school no longer exists, and the programs that were once in it have since been divided into the School of Culture and Society, the School of Arts and Communication and the School of Sciences.

Besides the name change, another proposed change is the development of a diversity advisory council, curriculum committee and a student advisory council in order to include students in the governance of the school.

“Currently, we consult with individual students to get their opinion on any particular policy change on an ad hoc basis,” Rifkin said.

The diversity advisory committee would make recommendations to the Dean on how to improve recruiting efforts of students and faculty from diverse backgrounds. The curriculum committee would review and approve proposals to revise and implement new programs and courses. Lastly, the student advisory council would give regular input on matters of importance to students. This council would include one student from each major, one student from each of the six other schools at the College and some other students.

Social Sciences Building (Tim Lee/Photo Editor)
Social Sciences Building (Tim Lee/Photo Editor)

According to Rifkin there are actually very few overall changes to the school.

“It’s more a codification of the values that are reflected throughout the College and especially in our school,” Rifkin said. “For instance, we’d like to do a better job at integrating course-based opportunities for community engaged learning. That’s not anything new on our campus, but now it’s in writing as a proposed goal for our school.”

Other goals include recruiting more faculty advisors for the … open-options program, encouraging study abroad by making sure students are not hindered by the requirements of their majors and establishing an alumni advisory council that would help foster relationships between current members of the College community and alumni.

There will be a forum for open discussion from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Feb. 17 in the New Residence Hall lounge. Students will be able to share their comments and reactions to the strategic plan, which was sent out to the school of Culture and Society community earlier this month. Another forum will take place from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on March 18 in room 202W of the Brower Student Center. After collecting and reviewing feedback, the strategic planning committee will revise the plan and

resend it to the community in April. If the final plan is affirmed this spring, it will go into effect during the fall 2010 semester.