Do budget cuts mean eliminating a college’s humanities department? For State University of New York Albany (SUNY) it does.
Earlier this month, the university announced its elimination of five degree programs: Russian, Italian, French, classics and theater.
Despite cutting these majors, SUNY decided to keep their Spanish program. Another hushed cutback is that the university plans to offer 13 journalism courses instead of 25 next semester.
George M. Philip, President of SUNY Albany, said the reason for dropping these programs was because of the university’s $33.5 million cuts from state funding and its low enrollment in those programs. SUNY is also anticipating another $12 million decline this year. Additionally, Philip noted that the decision had nothing to do with the curriculum and staff.
Although the economy is slow, these kinds of cuts are still somewhat surprising for such a large doctoral university.
Faculty was unaware and shocked by the news.
With 160 full-time positions expected to be laid off by 2012, SUNY will have discharged an approximate total of 360 positions since 2008. This act may be the simplest way to lay off faculty, but it surely is not the best possible solution for the university and its students.
Unfortunately, SUNY Albany is not the only university removing specific departments. According to the The New York Times, most large universities today encourage their students to take on practical majors like informational technology to prepare for the job market.
However, preparing for a career does not mean taking classes on solely one subject. By taking general education requirements, we gain knowledge in other fields and are exposed to a variety of courses.
Not only do these cutbacks place students under pressure to complete their majors before these departments are exterminated, but it deprives them from getting a well-rounded college education. Through the study of film, literature, languages and art, we are able to build on our creativity and critical thinking skills.
To throw away programs like this sends the message that humanities do not teach us anything and are not valuable.
“Knowing how to understand other languages, interpret cultural expressions, and evaluate belief systems is as indispensable to functioning effectively in the professional world as knowing how to use a computer,” said Louis Menand, an English Professor at Harvard University.
With all this in mind, we wonder if cutting back on certain departments will become a trend amongst all colleges across the U.S. And more importantly, would this happen to our very own University of Miami? It’s a frightening thought.
As of now, UM has always found the arts a necessity and has done an excellent job in advocating the humanities departments. The College of Arts and Sciences, the largest school on our campus, has about 3,912 degree-seeking students and offers students a well-rounded liberal arts degree.
Not only do we have a strong modern languages and literature department, but we also have an ambitious theater arts department that successfully promotes their productions and musicals.
If a university wants to “rethink, balance and reallocate resources,” shouldn’t it look into other solutions rather than diminishing the worthy and valuable role of the humanities department at a university? At UM, we excel and take great pride in these programs – other colleges should do the same.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.