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Sociology Faculty Wants Independent Department; Committee To Lay Plans

By Saniel B. Bonder

Faculty sociologists in the Social Relations Department reached a consensus at an informal "wing" meeting last Wednesday to make plans for the creation of an autonomous sociology department.

Ezra F. Vogel, professor of Sociology and chairman of the meeting, said that the sociologists also agreed "not to take any precipitous action." He said they asked him to appoint a committee "to work out feasible plans for the new department with other concerned groups- undergraduates, graduates, and faculty members in the other wings of the Social Relations Department." He has not yet appointed the committee.

The Social Relations Department includes, besides sociology, the social branches of psychology and anthropology. When the present Soc Rel department was created in 1946, the Department of Sociology was abolished, white the physical branches of the other disciplines remained independent departments.

Vogel explained that many sociologists in the Soc Rel faculty want to form their own department now for a number of reasons:

Under the Soc Rel department, they say they have had no cohesive intellectual community, and sociology as a discipline has been relatively weak in comparison with departments at large universities like Columbia and Berkeley. The sociologists feel that a separate department would facilitate growth of a community of sociologists and of the discipline itself.

"The frontiers in sociology." Vogel said, "now seem to be in the consideration of social problems and public policy." Sociologists want more intellectual contacts with economists, political scientists, and historians, butthe present interdisciplinary organization inhibits such arrangements. Meanwhile, psychologists and anthropologists in the Soc Rel department have been able to establish outside contacts through the autonomous departments of their disciplines.

The Soc Rel department has become much more difficult to administer because of recent increases in undergraduate and graduate enrollment and the number of research staff. Undergraduate enrollment alone has doubled in the last six years and is now over 650 students.

Vogel added that it is not clear at this point how the programs of the present department will be affected by the creation of a new department. He said that this question, among others, will be considered by the new sociology committee.

Whatever plans the committee arrives at will have to pass several hurdles before they can be enacted. They will have to be approved at least by the sociology faculty, the Soc Rel faculty (whose departmental meetings now include ten voting graduate students), and the Faculty of A??s and Sciences.

Alex A Inkeles professor of Sociology and one of the leaders of the movement for a new department, said that the new committee probably would not try to draft a master plan for reorganization of the entire Soc Rel department. He noted that there is a critical distinction between such a master plan and one "which would take care of the prospects of sociology, but which would be thoroughly discussed with the other people in Social Relations."

David Eaglesfield, teaching fellow in Social Relations. was one of two graduate students who attended the sociology wing meeting last week. He said that he expressed reservations at the meeting about the effect of the creation of a new department on graduate programs.

Eaglesfield explained that graduate students in sociology feel their contacts with students and faculty in the other Soc Rel disciplines will be hurt by the establishment of a separate sociology department. He added that "the whole situation is still very unclear."

A poll taken last winter among the graduate students in Social Relations indicated that about 85 per cent of them would be opposed to a split in the department.

It is not clear what the sentiments of the other concerned groups are at this point. One member of the Soc Rel faculty said that most faculty members seem either in favor of the split or ambivalent about it. but there has been no official attempt to gauge faculty opinion.

Nor has anyone polled undergraduate opinion. Head tutor S. Franklin Sampson said that many of them "certainly would want as flexible an undergraduate program as Soc Rel now offers: that is, some intellectually justified combinatory program." A subcommittee of the Committee on Undergraduate Instruction, an important departmental policy committee which Sampson heads, is planning to poll undergraduate concentrators on the issue soon.

Besides the unappointed sociology committee, another committee has been formed to investigate the possible subdivision of the department. Appointed at the request of department chairman Roger W. Brown, professor of Social Psychology, the committee consists of four faculty members and two graduate students. Both Vogel and Eaglesfield are members of the committee. Its chairman, B. Irven Devore. associate professor of Anthropology, said the committee will have its first meeting this Wednesday.

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