The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point plans to discontinue some of its academic programs for upcoming semesters. The school announced its plans in a press release March 5, which outlined a draft for a formal proposal.
“Historically these (programs) have declined in the number of students that are enrolled, so that was certainly one factor,” said Nick Schultz, a spokesperson for UW-Stevens Point.
The press release said the proposal to discontinue programs must be reviewed by a campus governance committee, then the chancellor and UW System Board of Regents. Because possible program elimination may result in the layoff of some tenured faculty members, a new UW Board of Regents policy will be followed.
“The administration is essentially attempting to strengthen areas that they believe will increase enrollment for the university as a whole and cut perceived weaknesses,” Michael Olsen, assistant professor of Spanish and applied linguistics, said in an email.
Schultz said the formal proposal is to be prepared by Aug. 1, which is also when the review process will begin.
The press release said UW-Stevens Point faces a deficit of $4.5 million over two years because of declining enrollment and lower tuition revenues.
The proposal will expand or add 16 programs in areas with high-demand career paths while eliminating others.
“Anyone who is in a program currently will be able to complete their program, along with anyone enrolling this fall with those majors,” Schultz said.
The press release proposed discontinuing the following programs: American studies, art, English, French, geography, geoscience, German, history, music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology and Spanish.
“Part of what the college is looking at is combining these programs in a way that has more specific career paths,” Schultz said.
She also said the process in cutting these programs has only just begun, and that change won’t really occur until a year after the formal proposal.
“I was not surprised about some of the cuts, but I was surprised by the cut to the Spanish program,” Olsen said.
He said the news of the proposed program discontinuations arrived in faculty inboxes with the subject line "Reimagining the university."
“I believe it is a true shame that our politicians and our administration ignore the value of language study when there are many cognitive, social and even political benefits,” Olsen said.
He said a cut to the Spanish program would further marginalize one of the few growing subgroups of college students — students with Hispanic or Latinx heritage, who constitute a growing number of Spanish majors.
“There is a great need for Spanish teachers in the secondary schools, but removing the Spanish major will make it more difficult for those schools to find talented teachers to fill their positions,” Olsen said.
Olsen also said discontinuation of the program will contribute to the narrative that universities should solely exist to provide job training.
“I'm confident that I'm not the first to say that higher education exists to provide learning experiences for our citizens to become well-informed, contributing members of society, not robot-like laborers doomed to be misled by manipulative narratives of political overlords."
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