University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Academic Development: University of Notre Dame / by Philip S. Moore, C.S.C.

IX. Academic Organization and Administration

In its academic organization Notre Dame did not become a multi-division institution, with administrative officers and faculty for each division until 1920. In that year the University was organized into five colleges: Arts and Letters, Commerce, Engineering, Law, and Science, each presided over by a dean; and under the colleges, into departments, each presided over by a head. From its founding almost eighty years earlier, a variety of terms were used to designate various areas and programs, but administratively everything was directly under one officer, the Director of Studies. The organization effected in 1920, with its delegation of administrative responsibility to a number of men, each qualified in his field and charged with its development, contributed much to the progress Notre Dame has made in the last forty years.

In the beginning there was but one academic program and the term used to designate it was Course -- the Collegiate Course. In 1865 a second program was introduced, the Scientific Course and in 1873 a third, the Civil Engineering Course. Later the area of science was broken down into specialized fields and other fields of engineering were added. This gave rise to the Course in Biological Sciences, the Course in Chemistry, the Course in Electrical Engineering, the Course in Mechanical Engineering. In the areas of the humanities and social sciences, "selective elective" programs were also inaugurated and again the term used to designate them was Course -- the English or Belles-Lettres Course, the Course in History and Economics, etc. The term Course, therefore, designated a program of studies and no matter how varied these programs in subject matter, they remained in one organizational unit, under a single administrative officer.

But there was one exception to this rule before 1921. This exception was Law. Introduced in 1869 the program in Law was called the Law Department.[185] This designation continued until 1882 but may not have then been of any significance. At any rate from 1883, the very year in which Mr. William Hoynes came to Notre Dame, until 1890 Law was relegated to a section of the Annual Catalogue titled Special Courses. In 1890, however, the Law Department was reestablished and Mr. Hoynes was listed as Dean, and a Faculty of five members was also listed.[186] Dean Hoynes apparently exercised administrative authority, under the Director of Studies, until his retirement in 1917.

The term Course continued in general usage until 1905. But before we come to that year, we must interject the term School into the picture. This term put in its appearance in 1897 when the several areas of the University were named the Schools of Arts and Letters, of Science, of Engineering, and of Law. This was a step forward in paper organization, but except for Law, it was apparently no more than that. Incidently, the term School to designate an area of the University has never been much in favor at Notre Dame. Introduced in 1897,[187] it was dropped in 1905. Since then there have been a School of Library Science, 1919-24 in regular year and 1927-53 in the Summer Session; Schools of Education, of Fine Arts, and of Journalism in the late 1920s; and recently the reestablished School of Law under the title Law School. Undergraduate School, Graduate School, and Summer School have also long been part of our terminology. In 1905 the term College replaced School and under the colleges were sub-divisions called Departments. The term Program replaced Course for programs of studies. Like the term School, the term College represented a subject area -- v.g. Science -- rather than an administrative division of the University. The same was true for the Departments. Nevertheless the terminology has perdured ever since, and was there in 1920 when these subject-areas were organized into administrative divisions with deans over the colleges and heads over the departments.

The term College had not been used before 1905. On the other hand, Department had been applied in a number of senses from the very first years of the University. Thus as early as 1853 honors and prizes were distributed according to Departments -- i.e. subjects, such as Christian Doctrine, Greek, etc. For a number of years separate notice in the Catalogue was given to a Department of Fine Arts -- i.e. studies in Music and Painting which were available but not included in any of the Courses. In other words, Department was used synonymously with Special Course in this and several other instances. Law Department seems to have been such synonymous use from 1869 to 1883. Finally Department was used for many years to designate the various levels of education comprised within the University -- the Minim Department, the Preparatory Department, the Collegiate Department.

In 1920 as has been noted, deans for all the colleges and heads for all the departments thereunder were appointed. At the same time the Faculty was divided into College Faculties, and subdivided into Departmental Faculties. In 1920 also a Committee on Graduate Study was reactivated to administer graduate studies, and in the next year, 1921, an Academic Council was established and given authority, under the President, to pass upon all major academic matters and to make policies and regulations.

Except that the Committee on Graduate Study was replaced by a dean and Graduate Council in 1944, this organization and administrative "chain of command" has remained until the present. The Faculty operates by departments and colleges; matters initiated by the heads and staffs of the departments pass to the deans and staffs of the colleges, to the Vice-President for Academic Affairs (formerly the Director of Studies), and to the President. In matters pertaining to graduate work, the competent administrative authority is the Dean of the Graduate School and the Graduate Council, while matters involving policy or major changes of any kind are referred to the Academic Council, which acts immediately under the President.

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