IAS Restructuring Controversy
Popular among her students, International and Area Studies garnered high praise throughout the year as one of Cal’s best. Thus, it came as a surprise when she announced that she may be leaving the university within the year.
Professor Roy’s decision was apparently in part due to the recently announced plans to restructure the IAS Department—plans she has since been publicly opposed to.
In March, the university announced that the department would be reorganized as part of the Institute of International Studies, headed by a director instead of a dean. Curiously, that means that the current deanship, under which Professor Roy serves as associate dean of academic affairs, will be dissolved and effectively replaced by the directorship of the IIS.
When Executive Vice Chancellor George Breslauer announced to the student body that the university had decided to restructure and cut funding for the International and Area Studies Department, students and teachers alike organized in protest. Chief among them was Roy.
In an op-ed to The Daily Californian, Roy disagreed with the university’s claims that the changes were made with sufficient consultation with IAS administrators like her, and argued that the claims of cost-savings by the university were probably untrue. She also argued in favor of having a deanship rather than a directorship, citing the importance of having an administrative position devoted mostly to representing students and faculty when it comes to dealing with the demands of the more powerful university administrators at California Hall.
But by Roy’s own reasoning, isn’t that exactly where the current deanship failed? If Roy is right—that the dean protects the interests of the IAS Department—then it wouldn’t be necessary for professors like her to go public in opposing the administration’s decisions by writing to student newspapers and rallying students to their side.
In addition to Roy’s op-ed in The Daily Californian citing her reasons for opposing the restructuring, the newspaper’s editorial board was quick to come out in favor of “transparency.” Likewise, every student-written article since has hinged on that notion.
In the weeks that followed the ignition of the IAS restructuring controversy, more than 1,300 students and faculty signed a petition opposing the changes and calling for more transparency. A group called the IAS Coalition formed in response to the university’s decision and has since written several pieces calling for little more than “transparency” and complaining about the inefficient campus bureaucracy that has deterred them from making appointments with the chancellor himself.
Ironically, the IAS Coalition’s attempts to “Declare a moratorium on restructuring of the IASTP” and “Hold open meetings for public comment and discussion with stakeholders”, if they achieve anything, will significantly slow down that already frustratingly inefficient bureaucracy.
We’re all for transparency. But as Breslauer stated in his op-ed to The Daily Cal, “‘Consultation’ does not mean taking a binding vote among all stakeholders, and ‘transparency’ does not mean making all decisions in public. The role of senior administrators is to consult, to make the hard choices that are within their jurisdiction, and then to explain their rationale publicly.” Indeed, it is not the responsibility of students to ensure that they are receiving an adequate education; it is the responsibility of university administrators and instructors.
We at the Patriot are all in favor of students taking an active interest in the decision-making of university administrators, and even of protesting when protest is due. But in the case of the recent controversy over the reorganizing of the IAS Department, we do not yet see why students should care enough to see that the chancellor sits down with 40 different IAS Coalition protesters. Sure, it’s great for dramatic effect, but for what other purpose than that?
In one of the more recent op-eds on the subject, the situation seems to have boiled down to one where students simply don’t know exactly what’s going on or why exactly Professor Roy is so displeased. Transparency—or lack thereof—undoubtedly remains the main issue for students. But taking into consideration the overwhelming lack of specific grievances other than there being a perceived “lack of transparency,” the real reason for all the protesting, indignation, and opinion writing seems to have more to do with Ananya Roy leaving Berkeley, and less to do with the actual decisions made by the administration.
Roy has claimed to be most dismayed by the impact that the new changes will have on the IAS Teaching Program—the program that supposedly serves thousands of students both within the department and university-wide and that played a key role in establishing her Global Poverty and Practice minor. Yet little to no specific reasons have been pointed out as to how the Teaching Program would suffer as a result of the changes.
Those who are skeptical of the wide-spread opposition to the proposed changes say the move could be indicative of the university’s trend toward more financial independence. The administration has estimated the changes will result in at least $250,000 in savings to the university annually, in addition to making the division more accessible to researchers and alternative funding. Also, some believe much of the opposition to be based on a prevailing fear of academic diversity. Some would like to see alternative points of view regarding “global poverty,” “political economies of industrial societies,” and “peace and conflict” (all three currently being offered as academic concentrations by the department) while others would prefer to keep classes ideologically monochromatic.
Why all the flak then from Professor Roy and her students? Does anyone know? Perhaps it is time for Professor Roy to elaborate and for students to reserve their protests for issues they know more about and administrative missteps that are slightly more egregious than “the lack of transparency.” Transparency, after all, comes from the full disclosure of both sides.