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Buffalo Dissolves Informatics School, Moves LIS to Education

The State University of New York’s University at Buffalo announced June 16 that it was dissolving its School of Informatics, with its two components—the Department of Library and Information Studies and the Department of Communication—moving to the Graduate School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences, respectively.

“Through the course of the natural evolution of the university, we are always looking at the best way to align and integrate strategically our academic programs and academic support services to best fulfill the university’s mission of teaching, research, and public service,” stated Satish K. Tripathi, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

The school was formed in 1999 by the merger of the Department of Communication and the School of Information and Library Studies. With its dissolution, Indiana University will have the nation’s only School of Informatics.

The week before the announcement of the restructuring, Tripathi announced that School of Informatics Dean W. David Penniman would step down and return to the faculty. Penniman released a statement June 25 that was harshly critical of the school’s dissolution. “This administration has failed to act in the collegial manner expected by the faculty and has taken dramatic action when most university faculty are away for the summer,” said Penniman. “They have misused their power and have discredited an innovative school, the university, and me.”

AT&T spokesperson Marilyn Reznick, whose firm has donated $400,000 to the program since 1999, also expressed dismay at the action. “Typically, when a change of this magnitude happens, there is a lot more public discussion and more engagement of supporters,” she said in the June 25 Business First of Buffalo newspaper.

“AT&T should be a place that understands reorganization takes place all the time—they have gone through many of them,” responded Tripathi in Business First. In a July 7 e-mail to the “School of Informatics community,” Tripathi said that programs in the discipline “will continue to be offered in their new administrative homes,” where faculty would have “a more robust context to collaborate across academic departments.”

Posted July 7, 2006; modified July 14, 2006.