Students in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) are concerned about a disturbing trend. At several universities across the country, the popularity of a liberal art’s degree is beginning to decline.
From the University of Minnesota, to SUNY Albany and the University of Florida, administrations are making cuts to programs and re-shaping course structure in liberal arts.
“The limitations on course offerings, where they exist, come from lack of classroom space and lack of funding to hire additional assistant, associate and full professors,” Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Christopher Wickham said.
“These are both issues with a long history and are not a consequence of the current national climate that has led to program closures at other institutions.”
Since COLFA is the largest college with the second largest budget, any cuts would affect smaller departments within the college. Rumors were already circulating about curriculum cuts in the humanities, classics, and foreign language departments for Fall 2011. Some changes in curriculum did occur, but they were driven more by low enrollment than budgetary issues.
“Some programs in COLFA, namely classics and German weren’t graduating enough students,” Dr. Michael Almeida, the philosophy and classics department chair said. “The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in Austin gave us two options: eliminate or combine. Now we have the BA in Humanities and the BA in Classics as Classical Studies in Humanities.”
All majors in the foreign languages have also been combined.
“Students who would otherwise have graduated with a BA in French or German will be able to earn a B.A. in Modern Language Studies and the specific concentrations in the Bachelors of Music will not be listed individually as concentrations,” said Wickham. “The curriculum has changed only a little. So students should prepare themselves for changes in the labeling of these degrees and for minor changes in degree requirements.”
Proposed budget cuts hitting UTSA will generally affect student financial aid and special programming.
“The department merger really wasn’t a budgetary problem,” said Almeida. “The discussion comes up, but we’re always reassured that programs won’t be cut.”
“No faculty are losing their jobs; nobody is being fired; no departments are disappearing,” said Wickham. “There are no cuts to the instructional budget of the college.”
The administration has made efforts in sustaining an emphasis on the college of liberal and fine arts. Rather than cuts to programs and courses COLFA is seeing an opposite trend. Santikos Theaters recently donated $50,000 in scholarships to COLFA while an approval was made for the inclusion of ART 1013 into the core curriculum.
“The college stresses to the upper administration on every possible occasion the need for more faculty and more classroom space,” said Wickham. “There is now an active Student COLFA Council that is in contact with the dean’s office about college matters.”
The COLFA Council recently held a COLFA Funeral on Feb. 21 to raise awareness about the recent cuts to the liberal arts around the country as well as to promote the importance of the liberal and fine arts on campus as well as around the city. Their final meeting will be Tuesday, April 19 at 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Chicano/a Room (UC 2.01.40).
The college of liberal and fine arts’ monthly newsletter, “ILLUMINATIONS,” can be accessed on the COLFA website.