Dear President Clancy, Provost Levit, and TU Board of Trustees,
We are TU alumni. We graduated in different years with different majors. We wish to add our names to those of others expressing concern over the proposed changes in True Commitment.
We understand that some change is necessary. We share your desire to see TU flourish. However, given the planned severity of cuts in some departments, the novel reorganization of the College of Arts and Sciences, and as yet unanswered questions regarding the methodology of selecting programs for elimination, we cannot have confidence that these announced changes are necessary or advisable.
Our specific concerns are numerous, but the following are the highest among them.
Firstly, the reduction of the philosophy and religion majors into a combined minor calls into question both the future availability of courses in those subjects and also the viability of the Honors Program. Philosophy and religion are foundational subjects, and many students not in the majors take courses in these fields. The planned reduction will presumably narrow the number of course offerings, depriving many students of a critical opportunity to embark on a thorough observation of life itself.
Furthermore, we are concerned that having a single minor will make it difficult to recruit and retain well-respected faculty in these areas.
Additionally, although the University has indicated some intention to maintain the Honors Program, we are unconvinced that it will be viable in coming years given financial cuts to the program itself and the reduction in those departments that provide a disproportionate number of its professors.
Secondly, the evisceration of the Department of Languages and associated interdisciplinary programs is perplexing given the administration’s goal of making TU more prepared for an interconnected and globalized world. Chinese appears to have no backing beyond a minor. Russian appears to be eliminated entirely. Even French and German are apparently losing their upper-level courses beyond study-abroad programs. These language programs are valuable to a well-rounded, globally-oriented student populus.
Our concerns are not restricted to cut programs. The reorganization within the Henry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences into four divisions causes concern about the future goals of more traditional programs. By emphasizing the interdisciplinary aspects of traditional majors and potentially dividing departments into one of four divisions, we are concerned that even those majors that have been maintained will lose their character.
Tailoring these new divisions to “address cross-cutting contemporary issues” might actually make students less prepared for the future. There are indeed new challenges facing humanity. However, emphasizing the contemporary risks neglecting the timeless. Emerging challenges are not isolated from the past and are rarely, if ever, unique. As former students we recognize that our educations benefited from the depth of our classes as well as the breadth.
Furthermore, we are skeptical that the challenges of the 2020s will necessarily be the same as those of succeeding decades. We are concerned that a program immersing students in problems of “the now” will leave students increasingly ill-prepared to confront challenges arising after graduation.
We find the language of the division “Humanities & Social Justice” troublesome. Perhaps it is unintentional, but framing academic disciplines as relating to social justice signals an intent to turn traditional disciplines into mechanisms for pushing a particular agenda. “Social Justice” is an inherently ideological term that we fear will both politicize traditional academic disciplines and encourage the neglect of disciplines not directly related to contemporary challenges.
Finally, because of numerous allegations from professors that the data allegedly supporting the need for changes is inaccurate, we cannot have confidence that these changes are warranted. President Clancy’s statement that the PPRC “wasn’t budget control” and “did not see money at all” only further confuses us as to the motivation behind the cuts.
Had these changes been in place when we attended TU, we believe it would have been detrimental to our educational experience. We are saddened to believe that with these changes, future students, including those outside of the directly affected programs, will receive a lower quality education than we did. For this reason, we urge your reconsideration of the announced changes and a fuller, more transparent engagement with the faculty in order to secure TU’s educational and financial sustainability.
With respect but severe concerns,