University of Miami administrators announced early this week the School of International Studies [SIS] will cease to exist as of next fall.
The undergraduate and graduate academic programs will be transferred to the College of Arts and Sciences.
Andy Gomez, interim dean of the School of International Studies, said he was notified of the decision on Monday at noon.
Most faculty and staff members were told on Tuesday afternoon, Gomez said.
SIS undergraduate and graduate students were told at two separate meetings held on Wednesday afternoon.
President Donna Shalala, said Gomez made the decision “based on strengthening international studies and international affairs within the University of Miami” and better serving the needs of the SIS student body.
SIS was founded in 1997, after the geography and international studies majors offered by the College of Arts and Sciences merged with the masters and doctoral degrees offered by the then Graduate School of International Studies.
SIS has about 300 undergraduate students, 115 graduate students and 22 faculty members, Gomez said.
It offers two majors, one in international studies and one in geography and regional studies.
Its graduate programs include a master’s and doctorate in international studies and a master’s degree in international administration.
The school is also home of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and the recently established Miami European Union Center, which it co-runs with Florida International University.
“By incorporating [the programs into the College] we will be able to save money at the administrative level and put it into the academic side of the house,” Gomez said. “The college of arts and sciences is the backbone of any undergraduate program at any university. This is a positive move. I have no doubt this is the right decision.”
Gomez said he had been reviewing the possibility of the transfer for about six months.
SIS, Gomez said, has been a deficit school.
Under the College of Arts and Sciences, the programs will have more money to expand. Students and faculty members will have access to more resources, such as more scholarships and research grants, he said.
More funding, he said, will also allow the programs to hire more faculty members and have smaller classes.
Gomez said the undergraduate and graduate degrees would not change.
Faculty members would not lose their rank or their tenure and staff members will not be affected either, he said.
Several professors said they were surprised and “insulted” by the decision.
Thomas Boswell, chair of the department of geography and regional studies, said he was “surprised by the decision to abolish the School of International Studies, but supported Shalala’s decision.”
Boswell was concerned about the future of the programs’ abilities to attract and retain professors and graduate students.
“Being a part of SIS has proven to be an important recruiting tool for some of our young and very talented faculty,” he said. “Now I am concerned about being able to keep them here at UM when SIS no longer exists.”
At the meetings, Gomez assured students they would not be affected and promised students he would do his best to look after their interests.
The changes, he said, would be structural.
The students, however, were outraged.
At the Wednesday meeting in the Bill Cosford Cinema for undergraduates, students vehemently and angrily voiced their disdain.
Many of the nearly 90 undergraduate and graduate students who attended the meetings said they had chosen to enroll in the international studies program at UM because the degree had its own school.
Others complained that they would get lost in the “bloated bureaucracy” of the College of Arts and Sciences, with over a dozen majors and over 3,200 students, is the largest among the 14 schools and colleges at UM.
The students said they were upset because they would lose “personalized service” they received from the staff.
Some also complained that Gomez and Dr. Patricia Whitely, vice president for student affairs, did not answer any of their questions.
Gomez and Whitely said they will try to set up two separate meetings between Shalala and 24 graduate and undergraduate students so they could discuss their concerns.
“To me, symbolically, this means that we, as a university, are not committed to international studies,” said senior Nuri Haltiwanger, 21. “Personally, I would have never applied here if it was just a major within Arts and Sciences. The students who came to this school, didn’t come to be part of Arts and Sciences.”
“[The move] is a scar in the program,” said SIS sophomore George Metellus. “It’s like we lost the luster because we don’t have our own school.”
Kenneth Lewis, a first-year master’s student, said he favors the change if it helps, like “funding for graduate assistantships or scholarships.”
Loss of prestige, Lewis said, does not worry him.
“We still have the same teachers, who will still have the same contacts,” he said.
The transfer of the programs still has to be ratified by the Faculty Senate, which is scheduled to vote on it next week, Gomez said.