A longtime Catholic liberal arts university has announced it plans to kill study programs in theology, math, English and more so that it can spend more money on programs that draw more student "interest."
The plan that already has been announced to faculty and students at Marymount University in Virginia would eliminate bachelor's degrees in religious studies, philosophy, math, art, history, theology, sociology, England, economics and secondary education.
The school announcement said it wants to "reallocate resources from those programs to others that better serve our students and reflect their interests."
Constitutional scholar and popular legal commentator Jonathan Turley said the move poses several problems, including that student choices "are not the guide for universities on core academic standards. Universities are places where students come to be educated, not dictate the meaning of education."
Then he noted low graduation rates are problems for the school's admission and education programs.
"Solving low graduation rates by eliminating whole core subjects is like solving a low attendance rates at church by eliminating Sunday services," he said.
The school's chief, Irma Becerra, said, "Over the long term, it would be irresponsible to sustain majors [and] programs with consistently low enrollment, low graduation rates, and lack of potential for growth. Recommendations and decisions on programs marked for elimination are based on clear evidence of student choices and behavior over time."
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Turley noted, "Rather than make the difficult choices to be more competitive as a liberal arts university, Marymount is jettisoning core degrees to play the market. It is a form of academic self-mutilation that cuts away the very degrees that define a liberal arts university. It will prove fatal to the reputation of this university and sever its connection to traditional higher education."
A report from Fox News called the plan "controversial."
"Marymount University's plan has sent shockwaves through the campus community, drawing widespread condemnation from students and alumni," the report noted.
"Cutting portions of the School of Humanities as well as math and art programs would be detrimental to the diversity of our student body," student government president Ashly Trejo Mejia wrote in a letter to the school’s president, Fox reported. "We fear that removing programs will alter the foundation and identity Marymount University was built on."
Marymount was launched in 1950 as a two-year women's Catholic school before it expanded to its current university status. It has, until now at least, some 4,000 students.
Faculty, too, wondered about the school's commitment to its educational mission.
"If they want to change the mission, then say that and say what that change is," Ariane Economos, director of the School of Humanities and the liberal-arts core curriculum, said in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education. "But getting rid of theology and religious studies at a Catholic university, that doesn’t fit with the mission."
Turley explained, "The problem is not the obvious irony of eliminating theology degrees at a university that once prayed for God to 'Direct Us by Thy Light.' The problem is the university is reinventing itself in a new image, but is offering no vision of what that image entails beyond what the market will bear."
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