By Royal Hartigan, Contributing Writer
Except for one music faculty member on the restructuring committee and her efforts to obtain departmental faculty opinions, there has been no opportunity for consultation, discussion, and input for our faculty.
For an issue of such magnitude, this constitutes de facto marginalization of our voices, whether intended or not.
A number of faculty have asked: ‘Why did no one sit down with the entire music department and ask us if we want this, and how it would work, and why it makes sense for us?’ Others ask ‘Is there any real benefit to Music other than share the statistics and helping the college?
Assisting the college stability should not come at the expense of our own.
UMass Amherst has a departmental merger policy that, while not in effect on our campus, does create precedent for guidance in our process.
MUSIC FACULTY OPINIONS
All the music faculty I have heard from concur with the ideas herein. A few common themes are:
-If the combination of Music Ed and Art Ed into one department will only be on paper and not affect our day-to-day work, then there would no reason to force us into one department in the first place.
Any upper administrator or trustee would see easily through this sleight of hand.
-Such unnatural combinations do not show consequences that are both not obvious and could constitute an unseen agenda.
-Would this lead to faculty layoffs, and how will that affect our ability to serve our students?
-What would become of governance and self -determination? Would our sole music education faculty member be at the mercy of majority faculty committees that would outvote her, making essential decisions about music education – and by consequence – all music programs in the department(s) that are not in our interest?
– The loss of incoming student applications to such a small department.
– The loss of the very numbers we are told are the reason for mergers (when in fact our numbers are good relative to other departments in the college).
– The potential loss of accreditation.
– The loss of administration support given the high faculty-student ratio.
– The eventual elimination of our department.
The CVPA committee on restructuring proposed two original alternative programs of restructuring, one that kept music intact and the other dividing it and recombining it.
Unfortunately, at the CVPA all-College meeting when the issue was discussed the option keeping music intact was not considered.
The option keeping our departmental integrity is still a plausible possibility as long as it is in the interest of the students; if not, then all restructuring is counter-productive.
Our Music Department success can contribute to the college’s offerings through collaborative programs or classes, but not by diluting our department and curriculum, which will be jeopardized by an artificial division into performance and education.
Such collaborations are a programmatic and creative way to deal with numbers that does not require departmental reorganization or fragmentation.
While our Music Department needs to remain as a unified program, there could be college-wide program(s) in which music might be included while still retaining its integrity as a performing arts department.
In fact, we in music have always sought to collaborate with our colleagues in all the visual arts.
I personally can testify that we work on numerous projects each year involving the visual and performing arts on our campus and in the regional community.
I worked in one of these programs at San Jose State University (California) where at both an undergraduate and graduate level there was an interdisciplinary program and degree where students could earn a BA, or MA in a set of programs (perhaps similar to the collaborative studies being suggested).
Such a program would still retain departmental independence, but contribute to a college-wide program that allows student academic paths more freedom.
One example would be encouraging students in the visual arts and performing arts to take courses in each other’s areas as a substitute for some of the university studies requirements.
This might involve getting university studies approval for some of the CVPA courses, and would offer a creative and vibrant program.
There could even be a graduate interdisciplinary degree in the future between music and the visual arts, as well as other disciplines outside the CVPA.
I do not feel the solution to the issues we are facing is to restructure our college, only our collaborative programs and offerings for students.
Such a creative and refreshing way to connect our programs via interdisciplinary studies would solve the numbers, curriculum, cross-disciplinary programming, and student experiences all in one swoop.
In fact, music is a leader in this aspect as well, having core classes that include disciplinary and cultural diversity: Javanese Gamelan orchestra from Indonesia with music and song; African music dance, and song; large and small Jazz ensembles, Electronic Laptop ensemble, Caribbean Steel Pan ensemble among others.
In residencies, many of these ensembles work with literary, visual artists, dancers, and performance artists in outside-the-box cutting–edge collaborations.
This cutting edge 21st Century curriculum is unique in the U.S.
The idea of revised chairs and leaders in a restructure may end up having the unintended consequence of creating more bureaucracy and confusion than leaving the structure as is.
The changes that will help our college may be unrelated to structure and appearance, but rather intimately related to programs and offerings for students.
The current 6 department arrangement is clear and based on the manner of artistic creation; the proposed one blurs the reality and is confusing in many ways.
Our BA Music degree is one degree; our department needs to remain one department.
For this our department, successful in its unique programs and career paths, ismotivated to be a part of new inter-departmental collaborations in courses and experiences that benefit students.
We are dedicated to the mission and vision of preparing our students to be fluent global citizens in an interdependent and humane world.