APC report on Headrick plan presented to FSEC

News Services Associate Editor

The status of an inquiry by the Faculty Senate's Academic Planning Committee (APC) into Provost Thomas E. Headrick's plan to establish a new Department of Computer Science and Engineering was presented to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee at its March 25 meeting.

Headrick has proposed creating the new department, effective this summer, to bring together faculty members working in the areas of computer science and computer engineering. Degree programs in electrical engineering would remain in an independent Department of Electrical Engineering housed in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

APC Chair Claude Welch, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Political Science, told committee members his panel had met earlier that week with James Whalen, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Stuart Shapiro, chair of the Department of Computer Science, and Alan Cadenhead, associate dean for the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and talked by telephone with Mark Karwan, dean of the engineering school.

The APC is concerned "with the way in which changes of this magnitude are discussed and implemented," particularly with respect to the faculties of the affected programs, he said. He noted that there was a "fair amount" of discussion on the subject earlier this academic year when Headrick asked units and deans "to engage in planning and discussion" on how the university could integrate its resources in computer science and computer engineering, and a "great deal" since he issued his plan in early March.

Although Welch said the committee has reached no conclusions as of yet, he expressed concern that a detailed memo outlining the plan was circulated to senior administrators, members of the Founder's Committee, Whalen and Shapiro, and members of their departments, but not to the Faculty Senate.

"As a general principle, it's highly unfortunate that the senate did not receive (the memo) right from the start, given our responsibilities (to review proposals regarding the formation, reorganization or dissolution of academic units, as outlined in the senate's charter)," he said.

Headrick's plan was viewed with cautious optimism by some FSEC members.

Ramalingam Sridhar, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, called Headrick's plan "a very bold step.

"If it is implemented right, it will turn out to be a fantastic deal over the years," he said.

Dennis Malone, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said the new department would be good for the engineering school, the computer science department and the university in terms of undergraduate enrollment and reputation.

"But whether it is a positive, a negative or a flaming disaster for electrical engineering remains to be seen," he said, adding that much will depend on how programs and faculty members shift from one department to another.

He labeled as "most troublesome" a statement in the plan that would move three positions in electrical engineering into the new department once those faculty members retire in the near future. "It appears to give electrical engineering no choice about what happens in the future," he noted.

Welch said his committee will meet again on April 20-this time with Headrick in attendance-and will report more fully to the senate after that.

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