Meric S. Gertler, FRSC
Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St George Street, Suite 2005, Toronto, ON M5S 3G3 Canada
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Department of East Asian Studies
After careful assessment of the Department of East Asian Studies’ planning document and of data relevant to its current role within the Faculty of Arts & Science, the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) has recommended a broad-based rethinking and restructuring of the study of East Asia within the Faculty. As the largest and most diversified division within the University of Toronto, Arts and Science has a particular responsibility to respond to rapid changes occurring in one of the most strategically important areas of the globe. If in coming years East Asia is to thrive as an area of teaching and research at the U of T, then the Faculty must now deploy its resources and energy in a manner extending beyond the range of the current departmental structure.
As noted in the planning document, the Department has evolved over the course of the past decade, in accordance with a model that privileges increased interdisciplinarity and complexity within the envelope of a single academic unit. Hence the Department’s coverage of an extraordinarily wide range of subjects and disciplines, from introductory language instruction to advanced seminars in history, philosophy and, religion across a temporal spectrum spanning antiquity to the present. Concomitant with this has been a fundamental shift away from the philological and hermeneutical approaches traditionally supported by the Department toward critical theory and “more problem-based … transnational approaches.” As observed in the planning document, significant challenges associated with these changes have emerged in recent years, as the Department has endeavoured to reconcile its new mission with the language instruction that forms the backbone of education and research at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The result, in the assessment of the SPC, is a widening gap between the Department’s vision, which points in the direction of non-geographically and non-chronologically defined thematic “nodes of excellence,” and its stated commitment to excellence in languages and literatures.
The SPC recommends two measures to restructure the study of East Asia within the Faculty. First, through consultation with other units that have indicated this area as a planning priority, faculty members trained in the relevant disciplines (such as History, Philosophy, and Religion) will be given the option of transferring their budgetary appointments to a cognate unit. These moves will strengthen the presence of research and teaching in East Asia across Arts and Science, in keeping with our priority to build on our academic breadth. Second, the faculty members who work in the areas of language and literature—that is, those faculty who represent the core centered on East Asian languages and literatures—will be incorporated into a proposed School of Languages and Literatures, a new unit designed to strengthen the profile of teaching and research in languages in the Faculty.
The School will have a single Director and centralized administrative services; individual language groups will retain responsibility for their undergraduate and graduate programs. Future faculty appointments will be managed by the School. The specific structure and operating principles of the School will be determined through a process of consultation with academic administrators, faculty members, and other stakeholders in the relevant units. The Dean will appoint a Working Group to advise him on this process, with their work to be concluded by December 2010. Taken together, these two measures will renew and strengthen the study of East Asia in the Faculty. In the context of this renewal, the SPC recommends that faculty members in this area continue to participate in the various initiatives of the Asian Institute.
In sum, the SPC recommends that:
1. the study of East Asia within the Faculty be restructured
2. departmental faculty members with training in such disciplines as History, Religion, and Philosophy be given the option of transferring their appointments to a relevant academic unit
3. faculty members in East Asian languages and literatures be incorporated into a proposed new School of Languages and Literatures
4. faculty members continue to participate in the initiatives of the Asian Institute.