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Faculty optimistic that 2020 program cuts will not reoccur

Change is consistent in the realm of higher education, and Ohio Wesleyan University is no exception. As universities navigate financial challenges, the fate of various majors and programs are often left undetermined, leaving students and faculty alike concerned about the future.

In a report by Jennifer Shaffer from the Columbus Dispatch, it was revealed that OWU removed 18 majors in 2020, resulting in savings of nearly $4 million. This move, while deemed necessary due to financial strains exacerbated by the pandemic, has had serious repercussions on the university community.

Elizabeth Nix, chair of the Academic Planning and Allocation Committee, acknowledges the difficulties students face in meeting graduation requirements when programs are cut. Of particular concern are majors within the humanities, which are increasingly vulnerable to elimination.

“We regularly get updates about universities that have been cutting programs, and a lot of them are languages, philosophy, and religion, which is very unfortunate,” Nix comments.

Amy Strawser, a German professor at OWU, highlights the challenges faced by language departments. 

“I taught at Otterbein, and they don’t even have a language department anymore,” says Strawser. “Languages have always been undervalued in my view.” Strawser emphasizes that with more colleges focusing on STEM careers and courses, there seems to be a dwindling interest in humanities.

While shifts in programs can be cause for concern, some areas have the potential for growth. The public health program, for instance, is expected to expand as enrollment increases.

Additionally, the university may introduce new courses or modify existing ones to attract more students, employing innovative strategies to bolster enrollment.

Despite apprehensions, the likelihood of OWU cutting a major in the near future appears slim. Dr. Nix suggests that any potential cuts would likely occur due to faculty retirements or leaves, rather than as a deliberate cost-saving measure. She emphasizes that the university is committed to making strategic investments in faculty positions and programs.

While the fear of program cuts looms over OWU and other institutions, there is optimism for the university's future. By addressing financial challenges judiciously and remaining responsive to changing student interests, OWU can navigate these uncertainties while maintaining its academic integrity.

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