UW-Stevens Point to cut majors

UW-Stevens Point

Preston Pagel

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“I wish you would change your mind. Look at all the students you are affecting and how many students you will lose,” is what Senior Brandy Roberts would tell University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Provost, Greg Summers.

Summers is behind the planned cuts to 13 majors at the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point slated for the 2019-2020 academic year. All of the majors included in the cuts are considered part of the humanities, such as English, the foreign languages, and political science. The school has been hit hard by declining enrollment, years of state budget cuts and a six-year imposed tuition freeze, Greg Summers, provost and vice-chancellor for academic affairs, told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Roberts is planning to attend UWSP as an English Education major, one of the proposed cuts.  English Education, UWSP claims, will remain after the cuts, however the Department of Public Instruction requires teachers to complete a major in their specific subject.

English Teacher Mr. Matthew Cepress noted this.

“The DPI will look at them [Stevens Point] and say that they are no longer able to certify  teachers majoring in the proposed cuts.”

Even if the DPI allowed it, Mr. Cepress still thinks the cuts will affect the teachers since they will have less knowledge of the curriculum they are teaching.

In Mr. Cepress’s opinion, the cuts are sending a message that humanity majors are not as important to our society.

“UWSP is treating all the humanities as second class citizens when they are as important.”

Collin Stafford, senior, was planning to attend to UWSP as a political science major, but that dream may be crushed depending on if his class is affected by the cuts [the university claims that the cuts won’t affect the fall class of 2018-2019, which would leave Stafford and other graduating seniors unaffected].

Stafford may be fortunate enough to not be affected by the cuts, but the same can not be said about the students that want to study to become the next president or Shakespeare.

“You are crushing the dreams of those who want the cut majors as their major. If you were in their shoes what would you do?” Stafford proposed to Summers.

To Roberts, the cuts aren’t just cuts, they also send a broader message about the value of the humanities in today’s society.

“Society has made it seem that if you aren’t STEM, you don’t matter.”

Senior Claire Tomczik originally planned on majoring in Political Science Education, but is shifting away from that due to UWSP’s proposed cuts.

She believes that the pool of teachers coming out of college in central Wisconsin will be most affected by the cuts.

“UWSP cutting majors is going to negatively impact effect the teachers who specialize in these subjects.”

Tomczik has her own questions for Summers.

“I would just ask how this is going to benefit students and teachers? It limits possibilities to students and decreases jobs for teachers at UWSP.”

One Everest student,  will not attend UWSP after being accepted, largely due to the cuts.

“Point used to be known for its liberal arts,” said Senior Rachel Sankey. “I understand they have to make budget cuts. However, the fact that they are even considering cutting my major, it makes me feel as if they don’t care.”

The cuts seemed to be inevitable with politicians on both sides of the aisle devaluing the humanities in one way or another.

President Obama ripped on art history degrees on a trip to Wisconsin in 2014.

“[A] lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career. But I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree,” President Obama said.

Republicans present a similar narrative in regards to the humanities.

In the “Wall Street Journal”, Christopher J. Scalia, an associate professor of English at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, writes, “Dismissing the liberal arts seems to have become a litmus test for conservative politicians…”

He noted the commonly held misconception, even among President Obama, of humanity majors.

Scalia cites a recent study showing that unemployment rates for recent liberal-arts graduates (8.4%) aren’t significantly higher than for recent computer-science, statistics, and math graduates (8.3%). He even adds the statistic that “…humanities and social-sciences majors earn more right after college than students majoring in physical sciences, natural sciences, and math.” [He concedes that science and math majors will out-earn their humanities counterparts as they progress through their careers.]

UWSP cuts have garnered so much attention that national media sources, including the Washington Post, have covered the breaking story addressing that until politicians and society alike understand common misconceptions of humanity majors, Stevens Point will not be the only college/university making these type of cuts.

“Why cut programs even if there are fewer students in these programs compared to others? What makes other programs better than the ones being cut?” asked Senior Alyssa Narlock.

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