UCSB’s College of Creative Studies Freezes Literature Major Admissions

Former Students and Faculty Cry Foul Over Lack of Leadership

Literary enthusiasts who got their start at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies (CCS) are in an uproar this month after officials announced a temporary admissions freeze for CCS’s literature major. The action by the Academic Senate Undergraduate Council followed an unforgiving panel review, which stated CCS lacked faculty leadership and relationships with associated departments. But dedicated alumni and faculty have vehemently objected, some arguing that a frozen program at UCSB has never been restored.

Though the “college within a college” only has about 70 literature majors each year, quite a few alumni have spoken up about their unique undergraduate experience. Established in 1967 by the late fiction writer Marvin Mudrick, the small academic community is often considered a graduate school for undergraduates. In its nonpunitive grading system, students can fully devote themselves to one class and withdraw from another. Further, several sources explained the CCS literature program emphasizes a deep study of the classics and shies away from contemporary requirements ​— ​such as historical criticism and statistical analysis of text ​— ​typically found in English departments. “They aren’t being fed a program; they are pursuing knowledge, overcoming their own ignorance, and doing it with an avidity that will do far more than compulsion ever can,” said alum Kia Penso in an email, adding CCS students are free to take classes for credit in any department.

Reading a statement before the Academic Senate earlier this month, Professor Michael O’Connell ​— ​who has taught in CCS for five years and retired from the English Department in 2010 ​— ​asked that the “precipitous” moratorium be deferred. He called the leadership dilemma a “catch-22”: The program had “pleaded” for leadership after the previous program head retired in 2009, but CCS management has failed to take action. English Professor Shirley Lim had previously served as program head but was “alienated” and “forced out” in 2011, his statement went on.

Other CCS majors ​— ​biology, chemistry, art, computer science, and more ​— ​will not have their admissions suspended. CCS Dean Bruce Tiffney said the freeze on admissions was a response to concerns about the “mechanical sustainability” of the program and reiterated that the suspension is temporary. “No program continues unchanged,” he said. “What we need to accomplish is to ensure an uninterrupted flow of ladder faculty participation and leadership emanating from a range of departments and disciplines from across campus.”

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