A Catholic university in Virginia is under fire from students and alumni for making cuts to its traditional programs to compete with other schools.
Marymount University President Irma Becerra supports a controversial plan to eliminate bachelor’s degrees in theology and religious studies, philosophy, mathematics, art, history, sociology, English, economics and secondary education, as well as a master’s program in English and humanities.
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The student-government president Ashly Trejo Mejia wrote a scathing letter to Becerra.
“Cutting portions of the School of Humanities as well as math and art programs would be detrimental to the diversity of our student body,” Mejia said. “We fear that removing programs will alter the foundation and identity Marymount University was built on.”
Becerra submitted the plan Wednesday and the board is set to make a decision Thursday.
“Digital disruption, economic conditions, and the explosion of low-cost, online course providers have put pressure on universities to reinvent their institutions in order to compete,” Becerra said. “Students have more choices than ever for where to earn a college degree, and MU must respond wisely to the demand.”
She added, “Over the long term, it would be irresponsible to sustain majors [and] programs with consistently low enrollment, low graduation rates, and lack of potential for growth. Recommendations and decisions on programs marked for elimination are based on clear evidence of student choices and behavior over time.”
Ariane Economos, an associate professor of philosophy who serves as director of the School of Humanities and the liberal-arts core curriculum, spoke out against the plan.
“If they want to change the mission, then say that and say what that change is, but getting rid of theology and religious studies at a Catholic university, that doesn’t fit with the mission,” she told The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The majors and programs being gutted will shift funds to “more popular majors and initiatives,” Fox News reports.