SEAS changes divide faculty

Faculty members in two School of Engineering and Applied Science departments are urging University administrators to hold off on a reorganization of the school’s infrastructure until the school develops a detailed strategic plan.

Other SEAS departments, however, have publicly supported the plan laid out by GW Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman.

In an Oct. 2 memo to SEAS faculty and staff, Lehman spelled out a reorganization aimed at thwarting what he described as an “uncertain” academic and financial future for the school.

The plan will split the department of civil, mechanical and environmental engineering; split the department of computer science and electrical engineering; and combine the departments of engineering management and operations research.

The announcement last month riled some faculty members who said they had little input in the process, and raised concerns about the way resources will be allocated in the restructured school.

“The reorganization is meant to bring to the fore the basic focuses of the school,” Lehman told The GW Hatchet last month. “It will increase the potential opportunities for enhanced education and research. The purpose is to make the school a much better school.”

“I’m not naive enough to think there won’t be problems down the road, but I think there will also be opportunities,” said engineering management Professor John Harrald, whose department joined with the department of operations research to pass a resolution encouraging SEAS faculty to support the University’s plan.

But civil, mechanical and environmental engineering Professor Charles Garris presented to the Faculty Senate last month a resolution passed by his department stating that “to reorganize at this time would be a mistake damaging to teaching and to research.”

Electrical engineering and computer science department Chair Murray Loew said he sees the need for changes in the school but is unsure whether the proposed reorganization is the best way to implement them.

“Changes can be made without literally cutting the fabric of the department,” Loew said.

At last month’s Faculty Senate meeting, Loew presented a resolution passed by the faculty of his department recommending that “any reorganization be deferred until the schoolwide strategic planning committee reports back to the faculty.” He said the committee is expected to present its report Dec. 10.

Despite the faculty’s objections to the plan, Loew said his department is following the timetable Lehman proposed. He said faculty members have chosen which department they want to be in when the department splits, and the computer science faculty members have chosen an interim chair.

In an Oct. 13 memo to SEAS interim Dean Thomas Mazzuchi, civil, mechanical and environmental engineering Chair Theodore Toridis described his department’s displeasure with Lehman’s plan.

“Our department has considered the issue of splitting into two independent departments and has decided it is not in the best interests of the school,” Toridis wrote. “It is unfortunate that our views on this matter of reorganization are being ignored.”

Toridis was out of town and unavailable for further comment.

Engineering management’s Harrald called the restructuring “a real opportunity.”

“Our department is mostly graduate and very much market-oriented, so we have a bias toward looking for new opportunities and new ways to do things,” Harrald said.

“I think Vice President Lehman has invested himself incredibly in the process,” Harrald said. “There’s no doubt implementing reorganization is difficult. But this is not an end point.”

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