Originally created 02/24/01

School for international affairs gets University of Georgia's OK



The University of Georgia on Thursday approved the creation of a new school of Public Policy and International Affairs after a proponent argued that the new $79 million unit won't cut into "the bone and muscle" of established colleges within the state university.

Pending approval by the state Board of Regents, the new school, endorsed Thursday by the school's university council, will be the first separate college to be established at the university in more than 30 years. University of Georgia political scientist Loch Johnson, who spearheaded plans for the school, said funding will come "primarily from endowments, a little bit from the state legislature."

The school, loosely modeled on Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, intends to equip students "with the necessary skills to solve contemporary problems of public management, politics and public policy."

The vote came despite skepticism among faculty in the humanities about how much money for the project will come from the university's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the largest and oldest unit. The new school would dislodge the political science department from Franklin and establish a new dean's position, along with dozens of new faculty positions. Also driving concern about the plan is the university's new $2.5 billion strategic plan, which calls for raising $350 million for new projects over 10 years from budget redirection within 13 existing colleges.

The last separate college established at the university was the School of Environmental Design, created in 1969.

"Even a small redirection can have dramatic effects in Franklin College on things like travel budgets," said one faculty member. Another jokingly professed to a "sense of loss ... as we contemplate the loss of 37 members of our college faculty and ... 600 brilliant undergraduate majors."

In approving the project in a voice vote, the council brushed aside a challenge from the university's economics department, which argued that the proposal's inclusion of 42 to 61 political science Ph.D.s and only five economics Ph.D.s slights the importance of economics in creating sound public policy. As such, the school's composition differs widely from top-ranked policy schools such as Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, said David Mustard, an assistant economics professor.

"It's not slightly different," Mr. Mustard said. "It's completely different."

But supporters of the new school argued that more economists would be brought on board - joining the political science department, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the Center for International Trade and Security and other groups - as the new school grows. "I don't think there's any question economists should be involved," said Del Dunn, regents professor of political science. But, he said, "They all grow where they came from. I think this is a good start. I have no hesitation in believing this will be interdisciplinary."

University of Georgia President Michael Adams said the new school "will undergird our already strong efforts in the field of public affairs. The university has a proud tradition of preparing our graduates for positions of leadership and public service; this school then is a natural step for us."

The proposal will now go to the regents, who will consider the new school and other proposals to expand the University of Georgia further with a new biomedical institute and a College of the Environment. The university's marine science and environmental health programs have declined to join the new environment school, but the university's environmental design professors recently kept the plan alive by voting to merge with the Institute of Ecology and form a separate school. The plan is also raising questions about research money migrating from the humanities, but supporters say the university must change to meet market and student demands.

"The university has to change to meet new environments," said Jack Crowley, dean of the environmental design school. "In change there will always be pluses and minuses."