The College Faculty stirred the College's alphabet soup of departments this week, eliminating JNES and adding JWST. The adoption of Jewish Studies was the main order of business at Tuesday's College Faculty meeting.
Until Tuesday, the Judaic and Near-Eastern Studies program survived in name only. After an exhaustive program review by the JNES committee, the program was entirely revamped. The modified program was passed by the Education Plans and Policies Committee earlier this year.
"It's been a long process," said Professor of Politics Ron Kahn, chair of the Jewish Studies committee. "All we did at the meeting is change the name."
The proposal to replace the current Judaic and Near Eastern Studies program with a newly minted Jewish Studies program was passed without audible dissent. The vote was taken after a brief question and answer session with the Jewish Studies committee.
Most of the questions posed by faculty members concerned the difference between Jewish and Judaic Studies.
Professor of Classics Tom VanNortwick asked, "By calling it Jewish Studies, does this reflect the committee's choice of time period?"
Committee member Professor of Politics Ben Schiff assured VanNortwick that Jewish Studies was a broad designation intended to encompass both the classical and modern periods.
According to the proposal, the change to Jewish Studies would also free the program from geographic constraints.
Professor of Art William Hood lamented the loss of the Near Eastern component of the program. "In a time when Arab culture is so important to the world and the college is so intent on cultural diversity, I'm sorry the Near Eastern part of the program will be lost," he said.
Dean of the College Clayton Koppes responded to Hood's concern by pointing to courses in the Religion and Politics departments that deal primarily with Islam and the Middle East.
Kahn stressed that the creation of a Jewish Studies program would in no way preclude the development of Arab Studies at Oberlin. The proposal passed by the College Faculty states, "The experience of all undergraduate and graduate schools in the nation suggests that such a curricular focus should be independent of Jewish Studies," he said.
The committee is currently conducting a search for a position in Jewish history. Kahn said the reconstituted program should be implemented by Fall 1998.
No more JNES: Professor of Politics Ron Kahn speaks at the College Faculty meeting Tuesday. (photo by Zach Fried)
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 13, February 6, 1998
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