Talk is cheap
As the academic program review (APR) continues to be discussed at the university, it raises many questions from students and faculty. A common accusation levelled at the administration is that it wants to cut Fine Arts and Arts and is using the APR to justify these cuts. But does this accusation have any truth to it?
If you directly ask any member of the administration if they support those programs, they will emphatically answer in the affirmative. How else could they answer? They are running this university, so if they outright said they want to eliminate entire faculties, they could incite a riot. A much more true measure of if they care about certain faculties comes from looking at the budgetary decisions that they make in regards to those faculties. Budgets are where universities show what they really care about, so looking at where money is going in the context of how the various faculties at the university are doing financially is a good indicator of what the ‘hopes and dreams’ of the administration are, so to speak.
The Arts and Fine Arts are hurting. It might not be the fault of this administration, but Arts and Fine Arts have often been the first thing to be cut in the past because they are seen as a luxury which doesn’t really constitute a meaningful use of time and resources. While that argument is seriously flawed, it hasn’t stopped the systematic underfunding that these departments have experienced in the past. This round of cuts, we’ve finally reached a breaking point where specific departments are so underfunded that they are going to have to seriously curtail their offerings in classes and might have to eventually fold completely.
A convenient and sinister deflection of administrative responsibility for these cuts is to place the blame on the faculties in question for cuts to specific departments. While it’s true that the Arts and Fine Arts faculties do determine which departments get funding, the amount of money that faculties get from the university for their budgets is still dictated at the administrative level. If there is not enough money supplied from the university to the faculties, those faculties have to impose cuts. While it looks like the faculty is making the cuts, the restraints imposed upon them by the administration are the real source of this austerity. While some cuts might be necessary if the government is not providing enough funding, demanding cuts from departments that have nothing left to cut speaks to a deeper desire to seriously refocus the offerings of the university without admitting that is what is happening.
The impression one forms about the APR, then, is that it has morphed from something potentially positive into a tool to severely limit Arts and Fine Arts on campus. When cuts come to faculties already hobbled by underfunding, it raises questions about where the administration believes the university is really going. When departments like English are saying they might not be able to survive if the administration continues its austerity measures, a simple “we believe Arts and Fine Arts are important” is not good enough to demonstrate a real commitment to those programs. Actually listening and acting on concerns would show a real measure of genuine care.
Photo courtesy realfall2011.dctc.edu