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Higher Ed Leaders and U Wisconsin Stevens Point

Our community’s responsibility to stand up to the evisceration of public education.

March 15, 2018
 
 

Does reading about the plan at the University Wisconsin at Stevens Point (UWSP) to eliminate 13 humanities and social science majors make you feel sick to your stomach?

Here is the list of majors on the chopping block:

  • American Studies
  • Art
  • English
  • French
  • Geography
  • Geoscience
  • German
  • History
  • Music Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Spanish

Is there anything that we can do to fight the evisceration of our public institutions?

Do we have any agency beyond our social media outrage?

I don’t know.  I don’t know.

But I do know that I’d like to see some things.

Can we imagine those in leadership roles across the higher ed ecosystem lending their voices in protest to the decimation of the liberal arts at public universities?

Is it too much to expect that presidents of higher education associations, universities and colleges, foundations, consultancies, educational companies, and think tanks to take a stand against the plans at UWSP?

All of us working in the higher education ecosystem should ask ourselves a simple question: Would we want our kids to go to a school where they would not be able to concentrate in any of the majors that might be eliminated from UWSP?

The answer, at least for me, would be an emphatic “no”.

This is not only because I was a history major in college.  Or because my wife, who is now a medical school professor and a pediatric oncologist, majored in English.

The belief that I have in the value of a liberal arts education anchored in the humanities and social sciences comes from a career of hiring and supervising technical professionals.  Invariably, the best hires and colleagues are those with a liberal arts background.

The skills that we need in our employees is an ability to constantly learn.  To work collaboratively.  To communicate effectively.

These are skills that are best gained through a deep-dive into the humanities and social sciences, and a broad liberal arts education.  It is hard to imagine that UWSP will be able to offer this type of education if they go through with the planned elimination of all these majors.

Do the students attending public education in Wisconsin deserve any less than the kids of parents able to afford a private college?

The elimination of the opportunity to major in the humanities is an issue of societal equity.  We should not delude ourselves into thinking that these majors are irrelevant if the goal is employability.  Rather, we should acknowledge that the best education for a lifetime of career options and success is a liberal arts education.

Higher education leaders at every level and in every sector should loudly speak out against the UWSP plan.

We should hold the leaders of the professional associations that we participate in (and pay for membership) accountable for their response to the UWSP plan.  Same goes for those that lead the companies that we do business with.  The foundations that we work with.  And our own institutional leaders.

Our system in the U.S. for supporting public postsecondary education is clearly broken.  This is a failure of public policy that puts all of us at risk, and not just the students who must go into ever larger debt or the educators that must deal with ever deeper cuts.  This is a failure that hurts anyone who will depend on tomorrow’s college graduates to work in our organizations and companies.

Will the shocking news of the elimination of majors at UWSP finally energize the higher education leadership community into some form of advocacy and action?

What can we do as higher education people to stand with our colleagues at UWSP?

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