Liberal arts programs need to be protected at universities

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It shouldn’t take students launching a protest for universities to recognize there’s more value in studying liberal arts than pennies and dimes. 

At the University of Wisconsin at Steven’s Point, the school’s administration has proposed they drop 13 majors in the humanities and social sciences so they can add programs with clearer career paths. The move has been rationalized to combat declining enrollment numbers and a multi-million-dollar deficit. As a result, this suggestion has been met with reactions of concern and protest from students and faculty members alike. 

Getting rid of 13 arts majors is clearly about more than just cutting costs. If the school is really in such dire financial straits, the university wouldn’t be introducing more than a dozen new science- and- business based programs and majors in the same proposal.

By taking a look at what the university is protecting versus what they believe is expendable — the school could potentially cut programs in art, history and political science for others in ‘fire science’ — it’s clear that humanities majors aren’t valued at the institution. 

According to Dave Arnold, professor of English at the Steven’s Point campus, the English major “most definitely pays for itself.” Arnold also argues “[h]umanities majors are cheap to offer” in comparison to the majors that Steven’s Point is suggesting the school offer instead. 

His argument is backed by the fact that in America, humanities majors, such as the ones slated to be eliminated, are cheaper for universities to offer compared to other programs, like engineering.

To cater to the large portion of students who aren’t sure of what they want to do after university, bachelors programs need to offer general degree majors like those found in the humanities. If the school goes through with these proposed changes, they’ll only be taking on students ready to commit to a specific career-oriented program, instead of appealing to this population as a whole. 

In terms of boosting enrollment, getting rid of arts majors isn’t the smartest thing for Steven’s Point campus to do. Balancing the cuts across all of the school’s faculties is the better option while they work towards a long-term solution to their deficit. 

To combat this proposal, students are planning to protest the potential cuts and will create a list of demands they will present to the University about how they can move forward with the budget issues. This comes at a time when students across the world and in the United States especially, are working extremely hard to have their voices heard. If there’s a strong enough backlash, a second look is warranted from the University on any decision.

Students are making the effort to prove they care about what is studied at their university in the future, and the administration needs to listen. 

— Journal Editorial Board

 

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