By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — On the heels of an announcement Anderson University made Monday regarding the discontinuation of three major programs, almost 100 students showed up for a forum on the decision.
The school informed students and faculty this week that theater, French and philosophy majors would be discontinued starting next year. Sixteen faculty and staff will lose their jobs. Three-dimensional art will be merged with communications to create a new major.
Many students were shocked and upset about the news, so the student government hosted a forum Thursday with Provost Marie Morris and Brent Baker, the vice president of student affairs, at Reardon Auditorium.
Morris tried to explain why the changes had been made and why those specific majors had been cut. She said it was about finances and about updating priorities.
School officials considered number of students enrolled and graduating in various majors and recommended cuts. Anderson’s board of directors ultimately made the final decision.
“Choosing which majors to cut was a really difficult decision,” Morris said. “We want to keep all the majors. We didn’t want to cut these programs, but they fit the criteria.”
School officials said students currently in those majors would be able to finish their degrees. While classes in those three disciplines will still be offered, a major will not.
Many students said Thursday night that they felt blindsided by the decision. Some argued that, had there been notice that the majors would be dropped, they would have encouraged others to come to AU to major in theater.
Junior Tyler Dague, a journalism and performing-arts major, asked why the school hadn’t let students know their majors were in jeopardy.
“If we had known this was coming we might have been able to get more support,” Dague said.
Baker said he understood the anger from students about the suddenness of the announcement. But he said discussions had been going on for a long time behind closed doors as the school considered whether to cut programs.
Morris noted faculty were aware that few AU students were majoring in the theater, philosophy and French programs.
Baker added part of the reason for those majors losing numbers is more students are going to school to earn job-related majors, such as business.
Dague also asked if more support, in the form of students or money, came whether the programs might be reinstated.
Morris said that was very unlikely, because the decision had already been made. As for money, she said an endowment of about $5 million would have to be raised to keep the program running.
Morris and Baker did assure students that their degrees would not become devalued because the school no longer offered their major.
The theater department was merged with the dance and music majors a few years ago because of the close relationship among the three majors.
While the theater major will not be offered, Morris said classes such as musical theater would still be offered.
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.