Three of the University of Pennsylvania's academic departments may be eliminated, in the latest in a series of cost-cutting initiatives at Ivy League universities, the school's dean of the School of Arts and Sciences recommended Wednesday.
If a new fiscal plan proposed by Dean Rosemary A. Stevens is approved by school trustees, the departments of religious studies, American civilization and regional science will be dissolved.
In addition, the department of astronomy will be absorbed by the physics department and the management of the Slavic languages department will be overhauled, Stevens said in a phone interview yesterday.
"There are not resources to rebuild these programs that have been in jeopardy for some time," Stevens said. The decision to eliminate these departments was made after an 18-month study of the School of Arts and Sciences.
The primary goal of the changes was to strengthen academic areas that are already strong, Stevens said. The dean added that she made these recommendations so departments at the University of Pennsylvania "could be among the best programs in their field."
In addition, Stevens said that the five departments were singled out for cuts in order to protect the academic areas they represent.
For example, "astronomy is being absorbed by physics to protect teaching in astronomy because we have a very small astronomy department," Stevens said.
Trustees met to debate and decide upon the fate of the recommenda-
Diana L. Eck, chair of the Committee on theStudy of Religion at Harvard, said that religiousstudies at the University of Pennsylvania willsuffer because a disjointed department cannot beexpected to flourish.
Eck said the study of religion "needs a homebase so that a cohesiveness dependent on a type ofdiscourse" can form between faculty members.
Despite not having a department for religiousstudies, Harvard gives faculty the needed homebase with an interdisciplinary committee, Ecksaid.
Harvard's interdisciplinary committee onreligious studies is composed of 20 professorsfrom the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and thefaculty of the Divinity School.
Alan E. Heimert '49, chair of Harvard'sCommittee in the History of American Civilization,expressed regret at the recommendations.
"I'm very sad because the University ofPennsylvania with Harvard was a pioneer in thefield," Heimert said.
Students at the University of Pennsylvania saidthey were upset as well over the decision todissolve the three departments.
"The financial sense has yet to be explained tous," said Josh I. Tyrangiel, an undergraduate."The reason we're here is academics. There arethousands of things that the university can takemoney from.