Officially cut programs at Assumption
The most widely contested topic on campus this semester has been Assumption College’s financial state, particularly in regards to academic programs. An email was sent out from President Francesco Cesareo to the Assumption community on Tuesday, October 24 describing the decisions made at the meeting of the Board of Trustees on October 21.
The email announced the Board’s officially decisions as to which programs have been removed from the College. The majors removed are art history, classics, foreign languages, French, geography, Italian studies and studio art. The minors removed are classics, foreign languages and geography. The email assures that “a teach-out plan for the eliminated majors and minors will be developed by the Provost and communicated to students.” The removal of these programs allows for other areas of study to be added to Assumption’s academic programs list, such as data analytics, which has been approved as a major by the Board. The Board also approved steps needed for “the administration to begin the approval processes for a pre-license baccalaureate degree in nursing, cyber security and physician assistant studies.”
According to the email, “these decisions must be understood as part of a larger process that was initiated by the current strategic plan, which included a strategic goal to ‘develop new and evaluate existing undergraduate programs.’” An “innovation team” was created to do just that – look into new programs of study and evaluate the current programs. The team consisted of faculty, who presented several new academic programs, but did not evaluate the existing programs.
Administration was given this task by the Board, at which point a consultant, Stamats, “the nation’s thought leader in higher education integrated marketing,” according to the company’s website. Stamats advertises online, “We’re always looking inside and outside higher ed for concepts and ideas we believe our clients would value, and we enjoy providing fresh, creative thinking on critical issues and sharing those insights with others in the profession.”
The company reviewed all of the academic programs that Assumption to offer while a select group of faculty members was established to complete the same task. This faculty group, an Academics Affairs Advisory group, was comprised of “faculty senate leadership, a faculty representative from the Budget Planning and Priorities Committee and a business studies faculty member. This group unanimously agreed on removal of the majors and minors in art history, classics, foreign languages, French, geography, Italian studies, music and studio art. Several faculty positions were also suggested for elimination by the Advisory group. “While the task given to these faculty members and administrators was a difficult one, it was necessary,” reads the email. The results were brought to the Board of Trustees at the end of the process, and alterations were made to create the current list of removals sent out to the Assumption community.
Assumption College is not the only institution facing financial issues; InsideHigherEd reported that only 34 percent of colleges reached their target number of first-year enrollment this year. The email assured that administration is aware of the controversy of the changes being made to campus.
Head of the art, music and theater department Professor Toby Norris expressed concerns felt throughout the department. “Although the music major and minors in art history, studio art and music are being retained, the department of art, music and theater faces the loss of three full-time faculty positions. I’ve already let the Provost know that with the numbers of full-time staff remaining we will find it extremely difficult going forward to sustain the majors and minors in the department and simultaneously to meet our obligations under the Core Curriculum. I will be meeting with the Provost soon to discuss the future of the department. There are currently 48 students with majors in our department and 33 minors, and all our programs have seen growth over the past two years, so the timing of these decisions is particularly hurtful, as is the Administration’s claim that our programs are ‘of minimal interest to students.’” The “of minimal interest to students” reference that Professor Norris made is quoted from an email that President Cesareo sent as a response to several alumni expressing their concerns about the cuts.
At the end of the message, President Cesareo wrote, “While some may disagree with this approach, I am confident that these changes not only reflect the bold and innovative decision-making required in this difficult period for higher education, but they will effectively position Assumption College to continue providing for many years an education rooted in the liberal arts and the Catholic intellectual tradition as inspired by the venerable Emmanuel d’Alzon. I look forward to working with our faculty on the development of these new, in-demand and exciting academic programs that will provide students more opportunities to pursue knowledge and discover their calling.”
Rebecca Galib, a senior, studies English and music. She is the Opinion Editor of Le Provocateur.