Many professors in Wisconsin saw their fears of a 2015 change to state tenure law realized last week. That’s when the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point announced its plan to cut 13 majors — including those in anchor humanities departments such as English and history and all three of the foreign languages offered — and, with them, faculty jobs. Tenured professors may well lose their positions.
Here’s what’s being cut:
The shock was part size, part substance. Cutting 13 majors — in any disciplinary area — is significant. But the cuts are concentrated in the humanities and social sciences, raising serious doubts about the institution’s ability to deliver on its liberal arts mission. Here is the full list of nixed majors: American studies, art (excluding graphic design), English (excluding English for teacher certification), French, geography, geoscience, German, history (excluding social science for teacher certification), music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology and Spanish.
Note that what’s being demolished isn’t the whole program in those fields — just the possibility of majoring in those disciplines, which means that these fields of study are being reduced to support programs for more valued programs, which happen to be the sexy and more readily vocational STEM side of campus. So students won’t be able to drink deep from the well of English literature, but they’ll just get little bit of exposure they need for their computer science degree, which ain’t much. They’ll still keep a few English professors around, but they aren’t going to be happy with a job that is reduced to teaching a few low-level service courses to biology and physics majors who resent being there. As for the other disciplines…chemists and auto mechanics don’t need no music literature or philosophy or art. They’ll wither and die.
UWSP is going to be reduced to a vocational college.
The plan is part of the campus’s Point Forward initiative to stabilize enrollment by investing scarce resources into programs Stevens Point sees as distinctive and in demand. Those include business, chemical engineering, computer information systems, conservation law enforcement, fire science and graphic design.
Business schools don’t even belong in a university. Those other majors certainly are legitimate and useful, but they are all specifically applied skills, which is fine, but they aren’t going to have the depth that I expect out of a university’s curriculum.
The key phrase there is “scarce resources”. They aren’t that scarce, they’re just not given to universities by the state as part of an ongoing strategy of gradually starving education out of existence. Wisconsin has just lurched farther ahead in this destructive program than other states, but Republican legislatures everywhere would love to cut the education budget and use it to pay off lobbyists and their own election campaigns.
It’s not just UWSP. You know they’re also gunning for the jewel in the crown of Wisconsin’s educational system, UW Madison. UWSP is just a harbinger for every other college in Wisconsin and the country.