One Step Forward or Two Steps Back? – Pleiad columnist weighs in

When I think about the Albion College I had experienced as a prospective student nearly three years ago, I was constantly intrigued at the endless possibilities the students were offered as part of this academic community. Whether it was going on a personalized tour or glancing through the numerous catalogs and fliers that I was taking, it seemed that there was something for everyone here–an opportunity to excel as a growing individual and pursue anything that gained my interest.

Following the BOT mandate to cut 15 FTE faculty positions, some of those possibilities won’t be around for the next first-year class or the ones following. Yes, Albion College is evolving, but the cuts that have been made recently may impact our institution much more heavily than we had predicted.

This past semester at Albion College has led to significant changes that affect both the faculty and student body. More than anything, one has to take into consideration what was at stake here: departments, majors, minors, academic programs, and -most noteworthy- future opportunities . As a result of the BOT mandate, decisions had to be made and people needed to act (and react)–administrators sent out a notice of 15 FTE faculty eliminations, and students reacted.

It is very profound to see that computer sciences is being eliminated from the college’s curriculum. According to departmental statistics, there were 14 computer science majors and four minors. While this may seem like a low number compared to 173 Biology majors and 90 English majors, you must to consider the world we live in: one that is constantly improving itself by the evolution of technology and the instantaneous exchange of information and data.

Sure, by cutting computer science and other programs, the budget will be saving itself a few bucks, $900,000 to be exact. Yet, isn’t Albion only setting itself back a few steps in terms of thinking of a future curriculum? If the college continues to advertise an education that does not adhere to “the future”, how are we to expect any type of more technologically aware students? Although this is a school that has deep roots in the liberal arts, the future of our college relies on students who think intuitively about a rapidly advancing tech-savvy society.

Other eliminations include the minors of both journalism and dance. If Albion College is an institution that prides itself on tradition and history, then cutting the instruction of the student newspaper that has served for over 125 years will not produce positive effects. What is to come of The Pleiad if students are no longer offerred a range of courses to instruct on how to report in a multimedia field?

Well, look back to 2004 when Pleiad publication guidelines were created by a lawyer to ensure (periodically tested) editorial independence and freedom of speech, and the journalism minor was established to provide Pleiad writers and editors with legal and ethical education as well as editing instruction. However, while the minor itself has been eliminated, the journalism courses on the fall 2010 schedule have not been canceled at time of press.

Obviously, I have a personal stake as an editor at the The Pleiad, and without the encouragement of faculty and incredible instruction that I have received, my summer internship at The Detroit Free Press would still only be a day dream. 

Lastly, I was displeased to find that certifiable physical education will no longer be an option for students to pursue at our institution. As a student in the secondary education program, I can tell you that out of a class of approximately 40 prospective teachers, over a quarter of them hope to teach physical education some day.

In fact, the United States is one of the most obese places on earth—according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20 percent of Americans between the ages of 2-19 are clinically obese—yet Albion College chooses to discontinue certifying prospective teachers in the field of physical education.

Ironically enough, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at Wayne State University in Detroit on May 26; as an advocate for fighting childhood obesity, she encourages a stronger emphasis on physical fitness in schools across our nation. If this is to be done, all colleges and universities (yes, including Albion) should be on board for this effort to ensure a healthier future for our society.

So, where do we go from here?

We endure. It is incredibly unfortunate that students have to wave goodbye to certain classes. The letter we all received earlier this summer asked us to think about how we are to prepare students for the 21st century; yet we can only do that by advancing our knowledge, not taking it away from the lives it will matter to the most.

To me, an institution for higher learning is a place of progression, somewhere that is continuously building programs and enforcing new schools of thought for the evolving young mind. If anything, the last thing that should be cut in a venue of learners is the element that fuels it the most—its thinking.

1 Comment

  1. As an alumni (and RSS subscriber to the Pleiad feed), I applaud you for a well written article. It’s been very interesting to watch this story unfold, especially from the student perspective which the Pleiad has been dedicated to providing.

    I will offer one thing to keep in mind, though,and that is to remember that things change and evolve constantly, especially at an institution with as deep a history as Albion College.

    I was in the Gerstacker program, and as such, spent much of the summer of 1994 on campus taking program classes. There was a stretch where it was overbearingly hot, and at the time, one of the only places to go on campus with air conditioning was the library. I wandered through the stacks looking for something to occupy time, and ended up at archived copies of The Pleiad. I spent hours poring through the old volumes.

    It was so interesting to see the many changes that took place and were documented over the decades, from the physical (buildings being constructed, renovated, or demolished), cultural (co-ed dorms, alcohol policy), and of course academics. Many things that were taught decades ago are no longer taught today. The curriculum has changed and evolved and I can guarantee that those changes, at the time they were introduced, certainly raised doubt and alarm at the time.

    Throughout the decades and the many changes they’ve brought, Albion College has remained committed to providing a world class liberal arts education. I have no doubt that Albion will continue to remain a source of pride for students, alumni, faculty, administrators, and the like.

    Best luck and of course, Go Brits!

    Michael Kobylarz ’96

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