Ancient Greek Survives at Brandeis

March 10, 2005

For months now, Brandeis professors have been riled by the possibility that key liberal arts programs -- including instruction in ancient Greek -- would be eliminated. Now the dean who put those ideas up for consideration has withdrawn them.

Adam Jaffe, dean of arts and sciences, recently told faculty members that they no longer needed to view these ideas as being under active consideration. Linguistics and a music composition program also faced elimination and several other departments faced possible reductions in size.

Dennis Nealon, a spokesman for Brandeis, said that the dean's announcement "underscores what the administration has said all along -- that these were ideas, not proposals." Nealon said that the concepts were intended as "starting points" for discussing how Brandeis might shift resources away from some areas and toward others.

Nealon added that Jaffe had told faculty members that he regretted the tensions created by the way he proposed the ideas -- by issuing a paper with these options. He has pledged to faculty members that as he and other Brandeis officials continue to explore ways to improve the university, private conversations with departments will be extensive and will precede public announcements.

And Nealon stressed that the "integrated planning" process that Brandeis has been using -- which included the dean's proposals -- would continue.

The university has experienced considerable turmoil as Jaffe's proposals were debated. While ideas to close or scale back departments are always controversial, the debate at Brandeis went national. Many faculty members at the university and their colleagues elsewhere argued that even considering the closure of a program like ancient Greek would diminish the university's standing as a liberal arts institution.

As opposition to the proposals grew, Brandeis administrators appointed a special faculty panel to review them. That panel issued its report last month, rejecting almost all of the ideas put forth to eliminate or scale back programs.

"Phasing out Greek would be, and indeed has already been, taken by undergraduates, alumni, and outside writers as a sign, at the very least, that Brandeis is engaged in a radical shift away from the humanities," the panel said in its report. The report added that some faculty members were considering job offers elsewhere as a result of the proposals.

"Our colleagues have told us that the faculty feel demoralized, since they have been largely excluded from the planning process up to this point," the report said.

An editorial in The Brandeis Justice, the student newspaper, said that students and professors can "all breathe a bit more easily" because the academic programs being discussed for elimination have been saved.

The newspaper said that the proposals "revealed a lack of appreciation for the historical and present significance of the liberal arts at Brandeis."

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