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Friday, September 24, 2021

International relations major likely to transfer into political science department

The international relations (IR) program is set to be transferred into the department of political science later in the upcoming year. A bill co-drafted by political science director John T. Scott and international relations director Daniel Kono has been sent to the UC Davis Academic Senate for ratification, although no date has yet been determined.

Both directors affirm the merge is purely on an administrative level, and that no changes will be made to the curriculum, requirements or status of the major under the political science department.

“The proposal is not to disestablish IR or to change it at all, in terms of the requirements and curriculum,” Scott said. “Students will still graduate with a degree in IR, but it will be formally administered within political science. Actually, ever since its inception, [IR] has been administered by political science in one way or another, so this is formally recognizing what we’ve been doing for the last 25 years.”

Kono agreed. “It’s been the case for a while that political science provides the majority of the classes in the IR major. It’s not a secret that the director has always been from the political science department, and the administrative staff has also been located within political science. There’s some sense in that this kind of administratively ratifies what’s always been the case. There’s no plan to change anything.”

Even most of the administrative facets, while incurring a change of hands, will not see any changes during this transition.

“We’ll continue to be an interdisciplinary major, and none of the major requirements are going to change. The major is still going to have a separate budget, a separate director and separate awards and scholarships.”

Both directors hope the change will smooth out burdensome technicalities in student registration and faculty availability to better provide for the students of both disciplines.

According to Scott, the main purpose of the move is that IR students face difficulties meeting their required courses, a great majority of which are under the political science department. A lack of coordination between the two disciplines has been a major factor in the complications.

“Our goal is to be able to offer the curriculum better for IR students as well as political science students, so that both can graduate in a timely fashion,” Scott said.

Because both majors rely largely on political science courses, the high demand has often led to a frustratingly lower supply than necessary.

“There’s always been some bottlenecks surrounding some of these courses,” Kono said. “I know from personal experience when I’ve taught some  of these courses, and they tend to have long waitlists.”

Students will be placed in classes with a 120-student limit and a waiting list of 100 students, which can be problematic, according to Scott.

Another potential benefit could be the crossover of experience between the staff of both departments.

“Obviously, we in political science have advisers and staff that deal with IR matters,” Kono said. “But people go on leave — assembly leave or something like that. If we have people within the department that have expertise, be it with political science or IR matters, someone else could pick up the slack. These are fairly small benefits, but they add up.”

While rumors of the complete disestablishment of the major have been circulating around campus, Scott affirms that this will not be the case.

“The only concern that has been raised by both faculty and students was to make sure that the IR program was still a separate major with its own identity, its own curriculum,” Scott said.

Members will convene this November and deliver their official comments and should reach a decision about the bill then.

Andre Knoesen, vice chair of the Academic Senate, offered only a brief preview of their perspective.

“It was presented to us with strong support from the people that administer it,” Knoesen said. “At this moment, it seems that it’s going to see strong support from us too.”

ADAM KHAN can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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