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Cutting Academic Programs, Spending on Esports

August 20, 2018

The Ohio conference of the American Association of University Professors sent a letter to the University of Akron on Friday, harshly criticizing its plan to cut 20 percent of its academic programs while investing in competitive online video gaming, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. “It is as though you are saying: Well, we are bored with education so let’s play games instead,” John T. McNay, professor of history at the University of Cincinnati and president of the state AAUP conference, wrote in his letter to Akron’s administration and governing board. “This shows a serious lack of judgment and indicates that you are violating the trust that has been placed in your hands for protecting and enhancing” the university.

Last week, Akron announced that it was cutting 80 degree programs that represent 5 percent of overall student enrollment, including bachelor’s degrees in art history, French, geography, math and physics, to free up funds for other growth programs. Also last week, the university announced that it was launching varsity and recreational esports programs, to be housed in the Drs. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Honors College. “Embracing esports allows the university to continue attracting top students while providing an innovative pathway for students to flourish academically, socially and professionally,” Matthew J. Wilson, Akron’s president, said in an announcement.

Akron’s AAUP chapter said in another statement that while faculty leaders engaged in the academic review process leading up to the cuts, “in an attempt to make it as fair and useful as possible, their criticisms of the process are strong and on the record.” Wayne Hill, university spokesperson, said that that “substantial and meaningful faculty input was obtained throughout the process but, ultimately, it is the president’s responsibility to recommend and the role of the board of trustees to make these types of decisions.”

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