Joint department up for discussion

Spanish and Italian and German departments consider merger for next year

Queen’s may soon have a modern languages and linguistics department if the Spanish and Italian and German departments vote in a few months’ time to merge.

Spanish and Italian share a single department.

Last week, both departments held internal consultations with faculty and graduate student representatives to discuss the move.

There’s a planning committee with representatives from both departments also looking into the merger.

The move could take effect in 2010-11, Arts and Science Dean Alistair MacLean said, adding that both departments have been discussing the merger for about a year.

The potential joint department, which could end up being named something else, will eventually be brought to University administration, he said.

“Departments would have to reach some agreement … then we would look at the logistics of it.”

The Senate Committee on Academic Development, a University Senate sub-committee chaired by Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane, is responsible for dealing with such initiatives.

MacLean said one benefit of merging small departments is being able to increase administrative staff.

“A large department like psychology or biology would normally have a graduate support officer, an undergraduate administrator and someone to help with the budget,” he said. “A small department wouldn’t have the resources, so if small departments merge together it becomes more effective to supply them with administrative help.”

He said departments might also want to combine academic resources. For example, faculty members from the departments seeking to combine similar courses could look at turning them into one course.

MacLean said his office has had preliminary discussions with both departments on the proposed merger between the Spanish and Italian and German departments.

“We’re trying to preserve programs for students,” he said. “We’re trying to create a situation where the best of the programs currently available will still be available to students in the future.”

Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) Vice-President (Graduate) David Thompson said graduate student representatives in both departments were contacted to be involved in departmental discussions.

The SGPS met with MacLean’s office last week and were told graduate students could continue to receive their master’s degrees and doctorates in each of the specific languages instead of in the joint department.

“They informed us ... if students came to Queen’s to study German, they would still get their PhD in German,” Thompson said.

Teaching assistant and teaching fellow appointments wouldn’t be affected by the merger, he said.

“They emphasized that student life wouldn’t change,” he said. “They said the reason behind this was that there would be a greater governance and administrative structural improvement.”

German department head David Pugh and Spanish and Italian department head Donato Santeramo declined to comment.

—With files from Rachel Kuper

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