January 16, 2003

Trustees Agree AA&P Will Remain One College

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After a semester of investigation and much speculation, the Board of Trustees determined that College of Architecture, Art and Planning will remain a single entity. Dean Porus Olpadwala, whose term ends this year, will step down.

President Hunter R. Rawlings III had proposed the dissolution of the school last summer. Yet, although the architecture college will stay in its current form, it will come under renewed scrutiny in order to enhance its intellectual unity within current budget constraints.

“Based on the extensive conversations that have taken place with the College of Architecture, Art and Planning and its several constituencies over the last several months, we do not recommend the dissolution of the College as it is presently configured,” stated a press release issued Dec. 20 by Rawlings and Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin. “However, the highest priority in the weeks and months ahead must be given to the tasks of significantly enhancing the intellectual definition of the College, reviewing its curriculum and developing a permanent solution to its ongoing budgetary problems.”

The statement indicated that the intellectual focus of the college will be the concepts of “design and the built environment,” or the design discipline as a whole, according to Olpadwala.

The concepts were chosen to serve as “a broad umbrella,” Olpadwala said, “focusing on architecture as a linchpin and linking [art and city and regional planning] to it through the umbrella of the built environment.”

Olpadwala also said that the college will eventually create intellectual ties with departments elsewhere, such as landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, design and environmental analysis in the College of Human Ecology and various departments in the College of Engineering.

“The situation as we see it today is that the college has no focus,” said Vice Provost Walter I. Cohen. He added that there is also no core curriculum for the three departments of the college.

Cohen said he foresees more focus on urban design, a combination of architecture and planning, as part of the college’s reorganization as well.

In addition to reviews of the college’s intellectual direction and cohesion, budgetary concerns will also come to the forefront.

“Our goal at the moment is to support the college in its budget planning efforts,” Martin said. “Budget authority will shift from the individual departments to the college to help the college faculty align academic and educational priorities with budget plans and realities.”

Olpadwala explained that the administration aims to support itself solely on its general operating budget so that supplementary funding would not be not needed.

“It is absolutely certain that [the college] is under-funded,” Cohen said, noting that other colleges have similar problems. “We aspire a little bit above what our resources allow, which is to our credit.”

Cohen believes the current plan for the architecture college is sound.

“I feel pretty comfortable myself with it even though there are plenty of people in the college who aren’t,” he said. “If the faculty in [the college] don’t make [the plan] their own, it will fail.”

Cohen estimates at least five to ten years will be needed for the new intellectual focus and budgetary reorganization to be implemented.

Olpadwala’s five-year deanship ends this semester. Cohen said that he believes a search for a replacement will commence later this spring.

“I don’t anticipate that we would find another dean by July 1,” the deadline, he added. In this case, Olpadwala would remain for an extra semester or year until a new dean is selected.

Cohen also said that while Olpadwala’s specialty is planning, the new dean would most likely be an architect.

Alumni of the architecture college interviewed by The Sun were generally happy with the decision to keep it in its current form.

Howard McCalebb MFA ’72, who helped to organize a series of alumni meetings in New York City last semester, said, “I don’t think that the original idea was very well thought-out as indicated by the haste [of the plan to dissolve the college].”

Joel Perlman ’69 agrees. “I think it’s great,” he said. “[The college] has a tremendous tradition. None of it really made sense, to break it up.”

A committee is being formed to develop the new “design and the built environment” intellectual plan for the architecture college, along with another committee which will create “shared curricular requirements and/or joint course offerings,” according to the press release. The committees, which will be overseen by Olpadwala and Cohen, will have faculty members from both inside and outside the architecture college.

Initial plans will be submitted by March 1. Rawlings and Martin also expressed their desire for the college to offer at least one required course for all students starting in the fall.

Archived article by Andy Guess