UC senate debates TAM merger

John Kolinski, junior in Enginering, waves a flag during a protest outside Foellinger Auditorium on Monday afternoon. Students from the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics protested in support of defeating a senate motion to combine the depart Patrick Traylor

John Kolinski, junior in Enginering, waves a flag during a protest outside Foellinger Auditorium on Monday afternoon. Students from the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics protested in support of defeating a senate motion to combine the depart Patrick Traylor

By Dan Petrella

A group of about 50 students marched in a circle in front of Foellinger Auditorium in the rain Monday afternoon with flags, banners, buttons and t-shirts bearing the words “Save TAM.”

“What’s the plan?” one student shouted.

“Save TAM!” the other demonstrators responded in chorus.

“Stop the sham!”

“Save TAM!”

For months campus-wide debate has raged over the proposed merger of the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics and the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering into a new Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering.

The Urbana-Champaign Senate, made up of faculty and the Illinois Student Senate, was set to vote on the merger at its meeting Monday. The vote was blocked when the student senators present left after a call for quorum. As a result, not enough senators were present for a vote.

Before the student senators walked out of the meeting, a motion to close debate on the issue passed. The senate will reconvene next Monday at 3:10 p.m. in Foellinger Auditorium to vote on the proposal and finish the other items on the agenda, including a proposed resolution to eliminate Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.

“If nothing else, seeing 20 people get up and leave the meeting during a vote sends a powerful message about where the students are on this issue,” said ISS co-President Ryan Ruzic, junior in LAS. The ISS passed a resolution on March 15 opposing the merger.

Senate Executive Committee Chairman Vernon Burton, who was serving as chairman for the meeting following the early departure of Chancellor Richard Herman, said the walkout seemed like a smart tactic for people who probably opposed the merger and feared it was going to pass.

“I am a little disturbed that debate has been cut off because I think there are other people who had things to say that need to be said,” Burton said.

Discussion lasted nearly two hours before a motion to close debate passed.

While the group of about 20 student senators was leaving the auditorium, faculty Senator H. George Friedman, who called for the closure of debate, stood at a microphone in the center aisle and reminded his fellow senators “this isn’t the Texas legislature,” and that they should maintain order.

Nearly 20 speakers addressed the senate about their opinion of the merger. Students and TAM faculty spoke out against it, while faculty of other College of Engineering departments almost unanimously supported the change.

Professor Jimmy Hsia, who recently transferred from TAM to mechanical engineering, said he understands that there are very strong emotional attachments to the TAM department, having worked in it for 14 years. However, he feels both programs will benefit from the merger, and he said he has spoken to colleagues from around the country who agree.

“For such a serious decision, we should probably put aside emotions and evaluate it based on intellectual merit,” he said.

The longest address to the body was made by TAM’s faculty Senator Richard Weaver, who said “TAM is not so broken that it can’t be salvaged.” He blamed the College of Engineering Interim Dean Ilesanmi Adesida for luring faculty away from TAM into the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and damaging it further by not replacing faculty who transferred to other departments or left for other universities.

“There are alternatives,” he said. “We have a loyal alumni base, we have a student body with high morale, we have a hundred year history of doing mechanics, we have a strong, coherent program that offers a unique product in a unique environment . all we lack is support from the dean.”