By Adina Bruce, Website Manager
Directed by the office of the provost and the deans office, the English, psychology, music, physics, and chemistry undergraduate departments will be taking part in a “unification.” This merger is characterized as an opportunity to increase intercampus collaboration and is scheduled to start in Fall 2021.
In a statement to the YU Observer, Dean Karen Bacon explained that this new direction for many undergraduate departments will give students on both campuses the opportunity to take courses by a greater variety of professors as well as “increased programming.” She stressed that “[t]his is not a restructuring but a unification of departments to broaden and align the curriculum where appropriate and share faculty where appropriate.”
After reaching out to various department heads about this development, the YU Observer received responses that overwhelmingly expressed uncertainty as to what the new policy would entail and how this would practically affect students. However, many faculty members seemed hopeful that increased collaboration would give students new educational opportunities.
When asked to comment by the YU Observer, Dr. Matt Miller, newly appointed chair of the Stern College for Women’s (SCW) English department, expressed, “this is still a pretty new idea … [the members of the English department] are trying to work together to devise ways we can offer more diverse courses to both our midtown and uptown students, especially our English majors, while still maintaining the same basic framework as well as separate campuses … we do hope to devise ways to take better advantage of our diverse uptown and midtown faculty to provide more educational opportunities.”
Some departments such as math, political science, history, computer science and economics have already enacted collaborative policies. Dr. Marian Gidea, chair of the SCW mathematics department, explained how the respective SCW and Yeshiva College (YC) mathematics departments have already been working together “through coordinating their classes, having some faculty teaching in both campuses, and supervising student research.” He expressed that merging departments serves to “offer students at both campuses an enhanced access to all faculty across the two campuses, a unified curriculum, and a broader variety of courses they can take.”
The policy of merging undergraduate departments was proposed in 2015 by President Emeritus Dr. Richard Joel as part of sweeping cuts and restructuring following a severe financial crisis. At the time the proposed merger was announced with the aim of fully merging by 2018. That process was clearly never actualized.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on many university institutions, and a recent study by New York University’s Professor Galloway on university financial predicaments even placed Yeshiva University in the “struggling” category. However, Dean Bacon remarked that this upcoming merger is not based on budgetary concerns, stating that “[t]he programs drive the budgets”.
Some students are hopeful that this development will result in positive changes. “I think this could be really nice for both campuses. There are a lot of really good physics professors uptown and downtown. I’m sure that learning from different teachers and encountering different teaching styles could only further our education,” stated physics major Benjie Goykadosh YC ’21. Other students, however, are skeptical; an anonymous SCW ‘24 student shared, “I find this decision sends a very clear message to both faculty and students involved in the affected departments – that YU cares more about money than improving education … YU has targeted only their least popular departments. … Merging may provide more variety, but it is ultimately a cost cutting measure, demonstrative of YU’s complete neglect and lack of regard for the welfare of its ‘less profitable’ divisions.”
As of now the impact of this policy remains unclear; however, Bacon promises more information will be released as the semester develops, stating: “We are excited about this work. As the semester unfolds, we will have more information about Fall 2021 plans”