After student protests ensued at UW-Stevens Point, the university announced last week that a counterproposal is being drafted to address a controversial plan which would eliminate 13 humanities majors while adding or expanding 16 STEM programs at the school.
UW-Stevens Point students participated in a protest and sit-in on March 21 where they gave a letter to Chancellor Bernie Patterson asking for a task force to draft a counterproposal.
The university accepted their request and their shared governance group, UW-Stevens Point Common Council, has tasked the Academic Affairs Committee to draw up a counterproposal — which looks to cap the humanities cuts — by early May.
After initial pushback from faculty and staff, Patterson wrote a piece in the Stevens Point Journal to justify the university’s proposed cuts.
In a statement about the original proposal, UW-Stevens Point would shift resources from programs with lower enrollment to expand programs with “high-demand career paths” to try and maintain enrollment. Coupled with a $4.5 million deficit and less state funding, Patterson said in the op-ed that the university has done all it can — with the exception of cutting programs — to deal with the debt.
“We have implemented cost-savings, increased workloads, raised class sizes, reduced administrative spending, and nearly eliminated budgets for supplies, equipment, technology and facilities,” Patterson said. “We have restricted travel and professional development, reduced students activities, and declined for years to invest in salaries for our faculty, 95 percent of whom are paid below national averages.”
However, Patterson’s article was not enough to satisfy faculty, staff and students. Although the campus’s College Republicans chapter supported the university after the initial announcement, shortly after the article, over 20 national societies penned a letter in opposition, calling on Patterson to reconsider the plan, humanities degrees have comparable employment and job satisfaction rates, according to the data from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“Access to humanities studies is essential for all students, no matter their career paths, as is the opportunity to major in these disciplines,” the letter stated. “It is deeply misguided to eliminate humanities majors based on an inaccurate presumption that they do not prepare students for high-demand careers.”