Earlier this month, Stony Brook University announced that they were planning to modify their humanities department due to budgeting issues. This means that numerous majors will no longer be available to undergraduates, causing many students to speak out against the cuts.
Why are the humanities important?
Humanities programs are centered around the study of human culture through topics such as philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history, and language. The humanities help us understand others through their cultures. This focus of study is important for developing empathy and an understanding of cultural differences among students.
Unfortunately, a shortfall in Stony Brook’s budget is pushing them to make changes to their humanities program.
What’s on the chopping block?
The proposed cuts to the humanities programs stem from the university’s need to reduce expenditures by $1.5 million. Dean Sacha Kopp recently sent an email to departments within the university stating that the budget cuts will affect many of the smaller humanities departments. The email also suggested a possible merger between the European languages, literature, and cultures department, the Hispanic Languages and Literature department, and the cultural studies and comparative literature department.
Additionally, the doctoral programs in cultural studies, comparative literature, and Hispanic languages and literature would be suspended.
After reading the email sent out by Kopp, many Stony Brook students began signing petitions and protesting the changes.
March for Humanities
So far, over 2,000 people have signed a petition opposing the proposed budget cuts, and a rally was put together to support the academic programs that are in danger of being cut. The rally was organized by the Graduate Student Employee Union and lasted nearly three hours. Those who protested marched through campus stopping at Kopp’s office, as well as the Provost and Senior Vice President’s offices.
Both Kopp and the Provost refused to address the marchers.
Losing jobs and value
One of the protesters, a Ph.D candidate and language instructor in the Hispanic languages and literature department, expressed that the proposed cuts were a “complete disregard for research” within the humanities. Such drastic cuts to the department would mean some professors, especially those who don’t have tenure, could be laid off. Others also expressed concern for the future value of their degrees, and how it could impact their ability to find jobs.
The potential changes to Stony Brook’s humanities department could have a serious impact on students currently within those majors.
Hopefully Stony Brook can avoid making the cuts and find a way to preserve the humanities department.
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