The Committee on Academic Priorities is charged by the President after consultation with the Committee of Six to deliberate with the campus community to develop proposals to meet the academic needs of the College over the next decade and beyond. The Committee is asked to submit its recommendations to the President and the Committee of Six in December 2005 for consideration by the Faculty, in the understanding that the outcome of the discussion will inform the stated goals of a comprehensive fundraising campaign and be a resource for other kinds of institutional planning.

Within the College’s continual process of planning and self-assessment, there have been and should be regular comprehensive reviews of priorities. A decade has passed since the last such review; proposals are maturing from numerous sources. This year the four working groups that are furthering the work of the Special Committee on the Amherst Education (SCAE) will report. Reviews of the administrative departments that support academic work are underway or completed. A report is awaited on the three-year Mellon Foundation Faculty Career Enhancement Grant. The projects under the President’s Initiative Fund have begun their work. To draw together these and other initiatives, we need a process of consultation and deliberation beyond what any standing committee can undertake, if we are to set academic priorities that will responsibly guide us over the next phase of our history.

Among the questions that the Committee might address are: Is the education that the College offers effective for the students it currently admits and for those it may wish to admit in the next decade and beyond? Is Amherst keeping pace with technological and other developments in research and teaching? In light of the Trustees’ stated willingness to consider an expansion of the Faculty, in what areas can we justify such an expansion, and serving what needs? If there should be an increase in support for scholarship, what form(s) should that support take? How can we attract outstanding faculty members and foster their development over the course of a career?

In addition to soliciting the views of faculty, students, and staff, the Committee should consult with the governing committees of the College, academic departments, the SCAE working groups, the Advisory Committee for Personnel Policies (ACPP), the Association of Amherst Students (AAS), and other groups organized to address academic areas and institutional needs. The Committee is charged to consider as well the practices and ideas of peer institutions.