The Ithaca College Honors Program is undergoing changes that will move the program from the Office of the Provost to the School of Humanities and Sciences. Additionally, its office will be relocated, and the program is searching for individuals to fill its leadership positions.
Jeane Copenhaver-Johnson, associate provost for academic programs, announced the changes to students in the honors program via email Nov. 18. She said in the email that La Jerne Cornish, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, tasked the School of Humanities and Sciences with creating a new liberal arts program that will become the new honors program. She said the current honors program will continue to run and will admit students from the Class of 2024 and possibly from the Class of 2025. Any student who is currently in the honors program will still be fully supported.
Copenhaver-Johnson said that the School of Humanities and Sciences used to house the honors program and that faculty, staff and students in the School of Humanities and Sciences are developing the new program.
“We’ll also use this as an opportunity to develop additional, really strong, signature experiences that serve our students’ needs really well,” Copenhaver-Johnson said. “And that offers an opportunity for intellectual rigor for students who really have a hunger for that.”
She said there is no set timeline for the program to be created, nor is there a set timeline for the transition from the current honors program to the new honors program to occur.
Alicia Swords, director of the honors program and associate professor in the Department of Sociology, said she and the Honors Program Steering Committee were not involved in the decision to restructure the honors program.
“I can say that I think the steering committee and I would have liked to be much more involved in a process to discuss and consider proposals for these changes rather than the process that happened, which was that we were informed that the changes were going to happen,” Swords said.
Faculty members at the college have raised concerns about a lack of transparency between faculty and the administration, specifically by the Office of the Provost.
Cornish did not respond to request for comment.
Swords said she wishes faculty and students were included in the decision-making process as well.
“I would encourage those making these decisions and the administration at Ithaca College to carefully consult with faculty and students prior to making changes like this,” Swords said. “And that was not the process that took place.”
Swords said she and the Honors Program Steering Committee are not opposed to the School of Humanities and Sciences housing the honors program.
“The committee and I believe that in whatever form the honors program takes as it’s being reimagined that it’s really important to maintain a commitment to interdisciplinarity,” she said. “We really urge that faculty outside of H&S also be involved in the process of restructuring.”
In a letter to the honors program faculty, the Honors Program Steering Committee said it is thankful to see that the guidelines for the new, reimagined program are built on the current program.
“We remain hopeful that future decisions will follow practices of shared governance,” the letter said.
Jaime Warburton, assistant professor in the Department of Writing and honors program faculty, said she was surprised by the announcement of the changes, but she is excited to see them take place.
“It was a bit of a surprise to me that the current honors program would be dissolved, in part because it very recently went through a restructuring, and, usually, one would give that restructuring a little time before assessing,” Warburton said. “However, as Dean Stein reminded us, and I agree with her on this too, it’s always a good idea to take an opportunity to make something better. So even though the dissolution may have been surprising to me, I’m excited to see it happen.”
Junior Leighann Guardino, a student representative on the Honors Student Advisory Board, said she thinks the changes that are being made to the honors program will be beneficial.
“It seems like the faculty that are in charge of restructuring the honors program are making it more geared towards interdisciplinary study, which is why I joined the honors program to start with,” Guardino said.
Copenhaver-Johnson said the college is currently searching for a new honors program director and a new associate director.
“Those are the natural changes to Honors that would be happening right now, no matter what,” she said.
Copenhaver-Johnson also said in the email that the honors program will move into Muller Faculty Center from the garden level of the Peggy Ryan Williams Center. The honors program is one of the offices and departments that will be moving as part of the college’s five-year strategic plan. In an email to the campus community, Cornish said the honors program will be moving to Muller Faculty Center in Summer 2020. The honors program was moved from Muller Faculty Center to the garden level of the Peggy Ryan Williams Center to be closer to the Office of Civic Engagement in 2017.
Copenhaver-Johnson said in the email about the restructuring of the honors program that the move will allow the honors program to be closer to the majority of the faculty and staff members in the School of Humanities and Sciences and that plans for the honors lounge and the offices for the honors program director and associate director are currently being configured.