Peace and conflict studies retired as major, will remain on campus through global studies program

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Heyun Jeong/Staff

The door to the Stephens Hall room that gave the “Peace” discipline a space on campus since 2003 is blank. Even the original metal sign that read “Peace and Conflict Studies Program,” formerly located outside its entrance, disappeared soon after the program moved to Stephens Hall in 2003.

Now, peace and conflict studies, or PACS, is undergoing another visibility change — this time impacting how the program will exist on campus. After spring 2018, PACS will no longer be a specific major that students can declare. International and Area Studies, or IAS, announced in spring 2016 that five out of six IAS majors, including PACS, would instead be consolidated into a global studies major.

PACS, along with development studies, will be part of two out of the three disciplinary “tracks” of the new global studies major — named “Global Peace and Conflict” and “Global Development,” respectively. The third track, which is new to the IAS curriculum, is called “Global Societies and Cultures.”

Global Studies was not created to help resolve the campus’s growing deficit but rather aims to address the curricular relevance of the five transitioning majors and provide them with easier access to resources, said Maximilian Auffhammer, director of IAS from 2010-15 and current director of global studies, in a previous article.

While Auffhammer said he believes the disciplinary teaching of PACS are important to the campus curriculum, he emphasized that combining the field of PACS with area studies and language training is necessary in the shifting social sciences.

“Losing identity for PACS when it’s the only demonstration of interest in that whole field on the campus is a drastic loss.”

– Michael Nagler, co-founder of PACS

PACS has always been limited in terms of its resources and visibility on campus, alleged Michael Nagler, who taught on campus as a professor from 1966 to to 2007 and is the co-founder of PACS. He added that the study of “peace” and “nonviolence,” which PACS has at its core, is intellectually valuable. Nagler said he believes it is important for different disciplines to crossover, but that the consolidation of PACS into global studies is a loss for the campus community.

“I agree that we need intellectual coherence, but this is not the way to go about it,” Nagler said in an email. “Losing identity for PACS when it’s the only demonstration of interest in that whole field on the campus is a drastic loss.”

The birth of global studies 

The discussion surrounding the creation of a global studies program was first initiated by IAS in 2015 to address the curricular relevance of the five IAS majors, according to Auffhammer.

Auffhammer added that global studies was also created to strengthen the representation of the five transitioning majors in the context of the “larger campus administrative landscape,” many of which were lacking resources, such as easier access to certain classes.

copyedited_crystalzhong_globalstudies“We thought about, ‘Does it make sense to go forward with these five separate majors, or is there something to be built from these pieces that we have that is better and strengthens the curriculum?’ ” Auffhammer said.

IAS identified the declining enrollment of students in area studies majors as one of the main weaknesses of the IAS program, prompting plans to create global studies in order to better allocate resources, Auffhammer said. In a letter sent in April 2012 to the then-dean of the Letters and Sciences Undergraduate Division Tyler Stovall, the Letters and Sciences Executive Committee stated that PACS must be provided with immediate financial support for the program to be sustained.

The L&S Executive Committee in 2012 recommended the retirement of PACS as a program because it was “out of control.” PACS unexpectedly had a growth in student enrollment from 2001 to 2011 due to “grade inflation,” said Associate Chancellor Nils Gilman.

PACS had witnessed a significant increase in students majoring in the program since the 2000s. The program had 27 majors in 2001, 87 in 2007, 140 in 2010, 163 before fall declarations in 2011 and 200 after fall 2011 declarations, making it the second-largest IAS major in 2014, after political economy.

“We thought about, ‘Does it make sense to go forward with these five separate majors, or is there something to be built from these pieces that we have that is better and strengthens the curriculum?’ “

–Maximilian Auffhammer, director of global studies

PACS significantly decreased in majors after 2012, with 106 students in spring 2014, according to a student-led petition titled “Chancellor Dirks: Fund Peace Studies at UC Berkeley,” authored by Shawndeez Jadalizadeh, a PACS major who graduated in 2014.

“By examining this data it becomes clear that decreased enrollment is not the result of a drop in student interest in PACS, but rather, the result of a lack of crucial funding and support,” Jadalizadeh said in a 2014 press release.

On recommendation of the L&S Executive Committee, IAS toughened curriculum requirements for PACS — one reason Auffhammer alleged may have resulted in the declining enrollment of students in the major in 2012.

Jadalizadeh alleged that IAS has been attempting to remove PACS from the campus curriculum and that the consolidation of PACS into global studies is the part of the same larger effort.

“If you believe that … peace and conflict studies is crucial to a fully functioning university, why would (you) allow (PACS and global studies) to be smashed and shoved into one thing?” Jadalizadeh said.

The consolidation of the five majors into global studies has not taken place to mitigate the campus’s budget deficit, Auffhammer previously said in an interview, adding that all of the majors will have better access to resources under global studies.

Previously, resources were not allocated appropriately to each of the IAS majors and formulating the global studies program “deals with the reality” that interdisciplinary majors are underfunded on campus, Gilman said.

“This is a way to streamline and create administrative efficiency,” he added.

Now, PACS finds itself transformed into one of the three concentrations of another program. In addition to PACS and development studies, students will no longer be able to declare Asian studies, Middle Eastern studies and Latin American studies as separate majors after spring 2018.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say that PACS will always be around,” Auffhammer said. “PACS will be gone as a program, but it will continue to live in formation, will continue to exist as one of the three pillars in global studies.”

All of the current PACS classes will be offered in the upcoming semester under global studies and will have new numbers attached to them with a ‘P’ at the end of each course listing, according to Alan Karras, associate director of International and Area Studies.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say that PACS will always be around. … PACS will be gone as a program, but it will continue to live in formation, will continue to exist as one of the three pillars in global studies.”

– Auffhammer

But Jerry Sanders, chair of PACS from 2006-12, said he believes that offering PACS courses in place of a separate PACS program will deprive students of a comprehensive study of the peace and conflict field.

“Peace studies connects threats like climate change, conflict, the breakdown of states, refugee crises and more,” Sanders said. “Making these connections is the most significant contribution that peace studies offers. … To do that, you need a comprehensive curriculum, not a few courses.”

According to the 2010 UC Undergraduate Education Survey, 67 percent of PACS students were satisfied with their “overall academic experience.” A PACS academic review submitted in January 2012 to the College of Letters and Science concluded that despite the significant value of the PACS program to the UC Berkeley community, its lack of resources poses “serious limitations on the growth and stature of the program,” considering the drastic growth of the number of students pursuing the major.

Political economy has two ladder-rank instructors who have a professor-level position, and PACS has none, despite periodic academic reviews by a review committee appointed by the L&S Executive Committee conducted in 2011-12 concluding that PACS was “severely under-resourced” and recommended the designation of at least one ladder-rank faculty member to address its resource gap.

The lack of ladder-rank faculty and the program’s “isolation” from other units on campus were cited by the L&S Executive Committee as some of the problems that influenced its recommendation to retire the major.

The campus, however, chose to retain PACS because of its popularity among students, and instead focused on improving its quality of teaching by increasing the program’s rigor, Gilman said.

Every program review that takes place on campus recommends the appointment of ladder-rank faculty, according to Auffhammer. None of the other four area studies majors have ladder-rank faculty slots, he said.

Political economy — the largest IAS major — will not be affected by this transition and will continue to remain a separate major.

Jadalizadeh alleged that leaving political economy out of this change is part of the effort to reduce the other IAS majors in the program — specifically PACS — and prioritize political economy.

“Political economy has been the heart and soul of IAS, it’s like the dream child, it’s very much the coddled young superstar. Both of the chairs are both political economists, and naturally they have protected that,” Jadalizadeh said. “It’s been like this since I was there, we all felt this, anybody even not in PACS was very clear that political economy was the king of the department.”

Auffhammer said, however, that PACS receives larger amounts of funding than political economy, even though PACS is a smaller major in comparison. In the previous academic year, $420,789.81 was allocated to PACS in contrast to $349,443.07 to political economy, Auffhammer said.

“Political economy has been the heart and soul of IAS, it’s like the dream child, it’s very much the coddled young superstar.”

– Shawndeez Jadalizadeh, PACS alumnus

“Peace” as a field of study

PACS class of 2006 alumnus Matthew Taylor, who is now an author, also alleged that the consolidation of PACS into global studies is part of a larger effort to “defund and eliminate” the PACS program on campus.

Taylor said that during his time as an undergraduate from 2002-06, the course PACS 164B, “Nonviolence Today,” was canceled for what he alleged were “explicitly political reasons,” adding that it was one action representing a larger “assault on PACS.”

“Everything that the administration is doing now is completely consistent with what the administration of the time was doing 10 years ago in terms of a long-term, slow-motion effort to undermine and slowly destroy PACS,” Taylor alleged.

Taylor and other students organized a white paper and a petition in 2006 to protest the cancellation of the class, which had more than 300 signatures and pressured the administration to restore the class temporarily.

PACS 164 was also the course that ultimately led to the creation of the PACS program on campus. Nagler said his admiration for Mahatma Gandhi inspired him to design the course in the 1970s.

After unsuccessful attempts to convince departments to include the course in their curriculum, Nagler decided to formulate a “teaching unit” appropriate to oversee the class and in the process — nearly a decade after — the efforts eventually resulted in the formation of what would become the PACS program.

“(PACS) gave me a place to do what I consider the most meaningful work of my career, and I think the campus loses a great deal by not giving peace a place, it risks becoming irrelevant to what the world really needs.”

– Nagler

Concerns regarding the purpose of PACS were raised by faculty, whom Nagler alleged questioned him and his team on the career path students would pursue after majoring in PACS and accused the program of lacking a balance between “peace” and “conflict.”

Nagler said, however, he envisioned that PACS would give students the tools to create their own careers, rather than prepare them for existing careers.

Sanders said PACS has also been left under-resourced because of its interdisciplinary status. Sanders speculated that although the university desires to have in its curriculum a space for interdisciplinary fields of study because of their prestige value, it not does not commit to giving these programs the resources they need in order to be sustained.

Global studies: The gains and losses 

The global studies major has been successful at other colleges, according to Karras, and the PACS curriculum will not be lost because of its transition into global studies.

Global studies majors will be required to choose from Asia, Africa, Europe and Russia, Latin America and the Middle East as a region of focus and a language that aligns with their region in addition to one track.

UC Berkeley’s global studies program was inspired by similar programs at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, according to Auffhammer.

Campus freshman Mia Silverberg, who is deciding whether she should major in global studies and development studies as her second major, said she found the process of choosing a specific area as part of her global studies requirement frustrating.

“I took Spanish in high school, and that’s actually part of the reason I am taking up Latin America as my area of concentration,” Silverberg said. “I really don’t have time in my schedule to learn an entirely new language, so that’s why I picked the one that I did.”

“I choose to major in PACS because I really wanted a major that could provide positive change.”

– Amelia Cecchetto, campus freshman and PACS major

Amelia Cecchetto, a campus freshman majoring in PACS, said she would not want to major in global studies because she prefers to study conflict resolution and peacebuilding rather than focusing on one particular region of the world.

“I choose to major in PACS because I really wanted a major that could provide positive change,” Cecchetto said.

Karenjot Randhawa, campus lecturer in PACS, said she believes that the transition of PACS into global studies will improve the PACS curriculum on campus by giving it the interdisciplinary lens to focus on the interaction between global issues as well as peace and security.

According to Randhawa, having expertise in a specific region will allow students to market their skills efficiently in a specified job market.

The decision to transition five out of six IAS majors into global studies was taken after faculty consideration, but some students said they felt excluded from the consultation process. In 2006, PACS students also felt excluded from decisions made around the PACS major and thus Taylor, along with other concerned students, formulated a “PACS Student Participation Council” that helped to involve PACS students in the major’s decision-making process.

Taylor said he is deeply attached to what PACS gave him at UC Berkeley and credits PACS as an important part of his undergraduate experience on campus.

Taylor added he is concerned that incoming UC Berkeley students will never be aware of PACS as a field of study and the learnings it has to offer.

“For the people on campus now, I think we’re fine … but as far as the future of Berkeley goes, it would be sad to see the … nut of PACS go away, because I know it’s different and unique and really offers a great perspective to a lot of elements on campus,” Cecchetto said.

Parth Vohra covers student life. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ParthVohra622.