Humanities departments at multiple schools have seen reductions in recent years. At some schools, the departments have been completely cut.

That’s what seems to be unfolding at the University of Kansas today.

The Associated Press reports, via KSN News:

University of Kansas eliminates 2 degrees, 1 department

The University of Kansas says it plans to eliminate two undergraduate programs and an entire department in a cost-cutting move.

Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer told the Kansas Board of Regents Wednesday 15 undergraduate programs did not meet enrollment requirements.

The university plans to discontinue its Humanities department. It also will eliminate degrees in Humanities and Visual Art Education.

This is part of an ongoing trend.

Michael T. Nietzel wrote at Forbes in 2019:

Whither The Humanities: The Ten-Year Trend In College Majors

Labor economists have predicted the need for more college graduates in coming years, citing the upticks in cognitive and technical skills the future economy will demand from workers. Such projections focus not only on the number of needed graduates but also the fields of study that will be most in demand.

How are college students responding to this information? Are they shifting to more occupationally entitling majors as many have suggested? Anecdotal reports suggest the arts and humanities have suffered substantial decreases, but national figures are seldom invoked to back such claims.

The most complete data on the majors of college graduates are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics, which charts the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities in 32 degree fields…

Which majors are the losers, which the winners?

Considering those majors with at least 1000 graduates, nine fields of study experienced decreases in awarded baccalaureate degrees over this ten-year period despite the overall increase in college graduates.

These numbers are telling:

– Education suffered the most dramatic loss, a decrease of 20,021 graduates (19%); not since 1986 have there been so few education graduates.
– English saw a decline of 22% or 12,301 graduates.
– Philosophy and religious studies declined 15%.
– Transportation graduates also dropped 15%.
– Architecture and related fields were down 7%.
– Foreign language graduates were off 5%.
– Liberal arts and general studies had a dip of 3%.

In another 2019 article from Inside Higher Ed, Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt writes:

Academic Prioritization or Killing the Liberal Arts?

Many faculty members consider “academic prioritization” a dangerous buzzword used by college administrators to signal the imminent demise of one academic department or program and the forthcoming expansion of another.

This term is increasingly being employed, in theory and in practice, by administrators at liberal arts colleges and universities across the country to explain or justify decisions to cut certain programs or even entire departments. Such decisions are essentially a death sentence for the liberal arts. It is a simultaneous devaluation of the many underrepresented, first-generation and social justice-oriented faculty (who were hired as a result of various diversity initiatives) who teach in disciplines such as foreign languages, women’s and gender studies, area studies, critical race and global studies, etc.

Silent alarms go off in our heads and red flags begin waving whenever the term is used, because we know such euphemisms usually mean departments that serve the public good, such as the humanities, social sciences and even some sciences like math and physics, are going to be sacrificed for a robust expansion of other job-oriented programs such as health sciences, business administration, sports management and various pre-professional and polytechnic programs that serve the market-driven, neoliberal interests and profit-driven model of education.

Social justice-oriented faculty and people hired through diversity initiatives?

When you put it that way, maybe these cuts aren’t such a bad thing.

Featured image via YouTube.


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