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Professional organizations respond to UW-Stevens Point proposal to cut humanities majors

Professional organizations respond to UW-Stevens Point proposal to cut humanities majors


A directory of humanities departments at UW-Stevens Point is displayed on the wall of the Collins Classroom Center. The university plans to eliminate numerous liberal arts degree programs, including English, foreign languages and philosophy.

More than two dozen professional organizations are urging UW-Stevens Point administrators to roll back a proposal to cut 13 humanities majors.

The proposal would eliminate majors including English, art, history, philosophy and foreign languages in an effort to reduce the university’s $4.5 million budget deficit. The plan also seeks to emphasize “high-demand career paths” such as engineering, information technology and marketing.

Twenty-five groups — including the American Historical Association, American Political Science Association and National Communication Association — said in a joint statement that the regional university would be doing a disservice to “first-generation college students, students of color, and students from families of limited means” by cutting in-depth education in humanities and social science programs.

The groups also countered the need to focus resources on programs with high-demand career paths, which the university listed as a criterion for keeping programs. The groups claim many college graduates change career fields several times during their lives.

“By focusing preparation only for narrowly defined jobs, Stevens Point administrators risk leaving students with considerably poorer preparation for the full range of careers most Americans will experience in a working lifetime,” the statement said.

In a letter to the Stevens Point Journal, UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Bernie Patterson wrote that less than 10 percent of students currently major in the programs that would be cut under this proposal. He said that number is even smaller when taking out students whose second major would be cut.

Although students could no longer major in those subjects, courses in the humanities would still be offered and some even required in the university’s core curriculum, Patterson said.

“It is a false choice to suggest that we must offer these broad (liberal arts) skills or majors with career pathways,” Patterson wrote. “Both are essential, and both will continue to be offered at UW-Stevens Point.”

Amy Ferrer, the executive director of the American Philosophical Association which signed the letter, said that students graduate with stronger communication, critical thinking and problem solving skills when they can take in-depth courses that major programs provide.

“The ability to major in these fields is just as important as being able to take courses in these fields,” Ferrer said. “We feel it’s very short sighted to focus on these careers that might just be of the moment.”

Provost Greg Summers said he expected that academic professional organizations would raise concern over the proposal but stood by the proposed changes.

“A primary aim of our proposals at UW-Stevens Point is to create a new type of educational experience for our students, one that combines career preparation with the habits of mind and heart that are the character of the liberal arts,” Summers said in a statement. “We want to ensure that every major will have this distinctive stamp.”

Summers said in a forum at UW-Stevens Point that the proposal process has not been completed, and the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents must approve the plan.

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