Herbie Lee, vice provost for Academic Affairs, (top) and American studies department chair Eric Porter (bottom) discuss the suspension of the major. The Committee on Educational Policy has postponed suspension to allow faculty to restructure and current students to graduate. Photos by Prescott Watson and Kyan Mahzouf.

It’s an unusual disagreement.

Earlier this year, American studies faculty voted to suspend admission to the major beginning July 2011, citing decreased resources that greatly reduce the capacity of the program to provide a quality educational experience for students.

However, the Academic Affairs Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) has postponed the final decision on the suspension of American studies until February 2012.

Provost for Academic Affairs Herbie Lee said that according to the CEP, there are still alternative measures the American studies department can take to save the major. Lee said among the suggestions given by the committee, the CEP would like to see the major restructured to operate within available resources rather than be suspended.

Department chair Eric Porter said the delay does nothing to improve the quality of the program.

“The status is the same,” Porter said. “The faculty voted to suspend the major because we don’t have the adequate resources or faculty to sustain the major, and we are not getting any additional support.”

In 2004, the major had 10 faculty members. By the beginning of this year, that number had dropped to five. A decreasing faculty and highly impacted classes are driving forces behind the deterioration of American studies at UC Santa Cruz.

The proposal sent to the CEP by American studies faculty allowed for the major to be reinstated, should additional resources become available.

Lee said disagreements between the CEP and American studies faculty about how to best serve students contributed to the CEP’s decision not to take a firm stance on whether the major will be suspended or not.

In order to serve declared American studies majors, the CEP is implementing a teach-out plan. This will keep the major for at least two more years to ensure current students are able to graduate.

Lee said the CEP is hopeful this will give American studies faculty time to attempt alternative measures to preserve the major.

Fourth-year American studies major Falyn Davis stated although she acknowledges the lack of resources and the high amount of impacted classes, it’s frustrating that faculty members voted to suspend the major rather than find an alternative.

“The professors seem so caring and knowledgeable,” Davis said. “I don’t understand why they would just let the major go without putting up a fight.”

CEP has proposed running American studies as an interdepartmental major. This would allow faculty from other humanities departments to teach in American studies without becoming permanent staff. American studies faculty are currently working to transfer professors from other departments into American studies.

CEP has asked faculty to provide an update on the status of the major in December 2011. The committee will then reach a final decision as to whether the major will be permanently suspended by February 2012, Lee said.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we will be able to keep the major. There are great sources and ways that we can use to move forward with this.”