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A merging of minds: cognitive sciences and psychology departments to merge

The Corporation approved the merging of the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and the Department of Psychology into a single department at its meeting Feb. 27. While the two departments will merge when the next fiscal year begins July 1, they will not move into the renovated Metcalf Chemistry and Research Laboratory until fall 2011.
This merge has been a "long time in the making," said Provost David Kertzer '69 P'95 P'98.

Though the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences broke off from the Department of Psychology in 1986, the divide had downsides for both departments, Kertzer said.

"If you take (cognitive and linguistic science) out of the psychology department, you have a department that is by nature weakened," he said. Furthermore, both departments had difficulty attracting top faculty members, who "couldn't understand why the departments were split," he said.

The University originally planned to build a Mind Brain Behavior Building to house the new department, but those plans were scrapped last year in favor of renovating Metcalf, saving around $30 million, The Herald reported in July. While the Corporation has not yet authorized construction on Metcalf, the University has raised more than half of the money needed for the renovation and is "confident" the Corporation will give the go-ahead at its May meeting, Kertzer said.

During the 2010–11 academic year, most of the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences will be relocated to Wayland Square, while psychology faculty members will remain in Hunter Laboratory. The physical division of the newly merged department next year "shouldn't impact the student experience," Kertzer said.

At the Feb. 2 faculty meeting, faculty members raised concerns about creating common standards for the new department regarding graduate student admissions and faculty evaluation for promotion, since each department currently has its own procedures and criteria. The faculty will decide upon common guidelines by the time of the merger in July, Kertzer said. He added that "the differences tend to be rather modest" because all departments operate under University guidelines.


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