The board of trustees at Western Illinois University recently voted to eliminate four majors -- African American Studies, Women's Studies, philosophy and religious studies. The vote came on a recommendation from the school's interim provost, Kathleen Neumann, who says money had nothing to do with the decision.
On her decision to eliminate rather than combine programs:
"One of the things that they suggested that we consider is to combine philosophy and religious studies. There wasn’t evidence presented that suggested combining two programs that have lower enrollment was going to substantially increase the interest in those programs. There has been some talk about combining areas… but again, if we’re going to do that, we need to make sure that the combination of those areas is going to make a much stronger unit that is going to be attracting more students to it."
On her role in making the recommendation to close these four programs:
"It came from academic affairs, so yes, it came from me, as provost. My recommendation was to retain four of the eight programs that were reviewed by the Academic Program review committee, and to eliminate the other four…. It went as a formal resolution to the board (of trustees)."
On the coincidental timing of her decision:
"I want to be very clear that this elimination of program is not tied to the fiscal crisis. I mean, it’s coincidental timing almost that this is happening…. Back since fall of 2014, we have been saying that we really need to look at all of our programs and make sure that we are using our faculty resources and operating resources appropriately. And even though these four programs are no longer going to be offered as majors, they are all going to still offer minors to students who are majoring in" other areas. All these programs are going to continue to be very strong contributors to our general education offerings. So students on campus are still going to have opportunities to take classes in those content areas. We are not eliminating that content from the university."
On whether faculty will be laid off:
"We have a 12-month notification window if we are going to lay off a tenured employee, so at this point it would be very premature for me to make any announcements about any potential layoffs…. So there won’t be any immediate layoffs.
On whether the elimination of these four programs will save WIU any money:
"Ultimately there will be some cost savings. One thing that will be a little more immediate in terms of cost savings is administrative cost savings…. (Department chairs) will return to faculty. They will go back to nine-month academic-year contracts as opposed to 12-month administrative contracts."
On the factors that influenced her decision to eliminate these four programs:
"Enrollment and degrees conferred. For example, three of those four programs, for the last academic year… only had one graduate each, and the fourth (African American Studies) only had three graduates this last academic year."
On whether it’s fair to expect a program focused on minorities to attract a large number of students:
"Well, again, we have to make sure that we’re offering those majors that ALL of our students are attracted to. We do have to be attentive to that."