Senate has approved the merger of two language departments in the Faculty of Arts.

The French and Hispanic and Italian Studies departments will merge in April to form the Dept. of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies. It will be headed by the present head of French, Richard Hodgson.

The current majors of the two departments will be retained, but both departments have been asked to develop some shared courses and programs. The merger will have no impact on students' abilities to complete their programs.

Arts Dean Shirley Neuman said the merger will make for administrative efficiencies that will allow the department to concentrate its resources more effectively on teaching.

PRISM international, a literary quarterly published at UBC, has launched the Earle Birney Prize for Poetry. The first winner is Bruce Taylor, a Quebec poet.

The $500 award will be given each year to the best poem appearing in the magazine.

The prize is named for Earle Birney, who was twice awarded the Governor General's Award for poetry. Birney helped found the university's Creative Writing program and was a former editor of PRISM international.

PRISM international has published contemporary writing and translation from Canada and around the world since 1959. It is already known for its annual short fiction contest.

A new academic chair at the university will focus on issues in contemporary India.

The Asa and Kashmir Johal Chair of Indian Research will enhance teaching and research on India in the social sciences, law and humanities.

It is named for Asa Johal, a former member of UBC's Board of Governors, and his wife, who funded the chair along with a matching grant from the university.

The holder of the chair will also be responsible for increasing outreach activities in B.C. and throughout Canada. The growth of this country's Indo-Canadian community was one of the rationales for the creation of the chair, as was India's increasing importance in Asia.

The chair will be based in the Centre for India and South Asia Research in the Institute of Asian Research. The naming of the chair was recently approved by Senate and the Board of Governors.