Large academic course cuts at UW-Superior restrict options for students
November 1, 2017
UW-Superior is the latest school in the UW System to undergo a major overhaul of its offered academic programs. The university will suspend nine major programs including journalism, sociology, political science and theater, according to an article from the Duluth News Tribune released Tuesday. A total of 15 minors will also be suspended, including geography and physics.
One of the reasons for the cuts given by Jordan Milan, director of strategic communications at UW-Superior, is that, “Research shows that if you provide too many choices and too many options for students, it can get very overwhelming, which can result in them making misinformed decisions … This often happens with particularly first-generation students, which 46 percent of our student body is first-gen.”
This line of reasoning is problematic for several reasons. First, Milan’s quote suggests that students don’t have the maturity to choose their own paths in life. The point of college, especially for a first-generation student, is to branch out and explore the different career options that the world has to offer.
General education classes, which include subjects like geography, theater and political science, are an important part of a college education. They may not contribute directly to the career path that a student wants to pursue, but what they offer is a broad, general knowledge of the world. These gen. ed. classes also tend to teach skills like basic writing and critical thinking, which contribute indirectly to any major that a student decides to pursue.
Streamlining these options will hinder the forward progress of UW-Superior. Current students will be able to finish off their majors, but anyone new intending to join these slashed programs will have to change plans. For many, this may mean avoiding UW-Superior entirely and going somewhere else. Potential students might even be turned off from the UW System in general and opt to seek education in states like Minnesota.
While this topic mainly affects the students, current faculty at UW-Superior have also been forced out of their specified teaching positions. They aren’t being laid off, but they’re being reassigned to gen. ed. courses that “aren’t necessarily in their area of expertise,” according to Jackie Weissenburger, interim provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs for UW-Superior.
At UW-River Falls, there have been similar cuts in the past. Our campus has a severely diminished foreign language department after the 2016 budget cuts, and class sizes for gen. ed. courses have been on the rise ever since. Our campus stands in danger of repeating UW-Superior’s mistake.
We at the Student Voice urge campus administration to keep these points in mind. Certain programs may not bring in as many students as, for instance, the animal science major, but they are valuable assets to students that may not yet know exactly what they want from their college experience. One of UWRF’s most attractive qualities is that it offers a robust selection of gen. eds, and it needs to maintain these programs if it wants to keep a reputation as a university devoted to the liberal arts.