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Fine Arts Dean To Retire Early
Faculty Critizes UND'S Decision To Eliminate College

UND is moving forward with plans to eliminate the College of Fine Arts and Communication and to integrate its components into the College of Arts and Sciences.

As part of those plans, College of Fine Arts and Communication Dean Bruce Jacobsen has agreed to accept early retirement next year, UND President Kendall Baker said.

Jacobsen told his college's faculty of his plans to leave office at the end of the academic year in a letter dated Aug. 26.

In the letter, Jacobsen wrote, UND's decision to abolish the College was short-sighted, ill-advised and unnecessary.

But top UND officials said they believe programs will retain their missions and strengths in a different college.

I don't see any downside to it, I really don't, said John Ettling, acting vice president of academic affairs and provost.

Baker said the change puts UND in line with other institutions nationally that also have departments of music, art, communication and theater with colleges of arts and sciences.

We think that that is a very common kind of pattern that you find in this country, Baker said.

The communication component was added to the College of Fine Arts on Feb. 1, 1994; it formerly was the School of Communication within the College of Arts and Sciences.

UND believes the change will provide administrative savings that will enable the university to protect some of its programs, Baker said.

Jacobsen and two departmental chairs questioned the decision to dismantle the college. In his letter, Jacobsen wrote that the college has given the university a unique character which distinguishes it, not only in the state but the region as well.

He said UND's arts and communication programs have greater breadth and depth at both the undergraduate and graduate levels than any other university in the northern tier states, from the University of Minnesota to Washington State. While UND's School of Communication is not accredited, all of its fine arts departments are fully accredited.


Jacobsen also said UND administrators didn't seek out his opinion and that faculty members should have been consulted.

That was, I think, unprecedented, Jacobsen said in an interview with the Herald. In all of the other budget-cutting and related planning, the faculty was very much involved.

The first time a merger of the two colleges was mentioned publicly was when Baker released the first draft of proposed budget cuts related to enrollment declines and Gov. Ed Schafer's budget-cutting exercise that asked state institutions to submit 95 percent budgets for the biennium beginning in 1999. Baker released the first draft April 28.

In the draft, the merger was identified as a response to Schafer's 5 percent budget-cutting exercise.

Jacobsen said he initially found out about the proposal while on an accreditation trip in California April 27. Visual Arts Department Chair Jackie McElroy-Edwards and Music Department Chair James Fry said they read about the proposals in the Herald April 29.

There's been no faculty involvement, Fry said. We all read in the newspaper - you at the Grand Forks Herald knew before we did.

Baker said UND had little time to seek feedback because of the governor's mandate.

We were under a mandate and a requirement, Baker said. In that kind of environment we did the very best we could to talk through a whole variety of options. It certainly is true that we were not able to have as much discussion as we would like to have, but that was because of the circumstances we found ourselves in.
Unique mission

Ettling, who took over as acting vice president of academic affairs and provost in July after Marlene Strathe left for a similar position at Northern Colorado, said he met with department chairs last week. He said the University of Houston, where he previously worked, included a division of fine arts within the College of Arts and Sciences.

That was an association that I enjoyed very much, Ettling said.

When he returns to his post as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, he said, I look forward to having them as colleagues.

Fry, the music department's chair, questioned whether money saved through administrative salaries would justify what he called a significant change to the university's mission.

I believe that the elimination of a college is a profound change to the university's mission and structure, Fry said. The college ... is a part of UND's unique mission within the North Dakota University System. It's North Dakota's only College of Fine Arts and Communication.

Source: Grand Forks Herald, August 28, 1998