UW-Superior courses cut because students are incapable of good decisions

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The school believes that fewer options will be better for students, though slashing expenses appears to be an ulterior motive.

The gales of November sweep across the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus with especial brutality this year. But Lake Superior isn't the culprit. The school administration is.

An email this week declared that the university is killing nine majors and 15 minors.

Among major casualties: political science, visual arts, sociology, and theater. Included in the minor programs that the school has decided to suspend "immediately" are journalism, physics, and computer science.  

According to the university, the moves come in an effort to "positively affect student success" and to stop enrollees from "making misguided decisions." 

In other words, the school seems to believe its students can't handle the kind of variety available in adulthood.  

Almost half of the school's 2,500 undergrads are first-generation college-goers, who often "struggle with course selection," read the announcement from spokesperson Jordan Milan. Paring down the number of choices will aid those "susceptible to becoming overwhelmed by large academic program arrays… and help them make more informed decisions."

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UW-Superior administrators unsuccessfully try to explain themselves out of a quagmire Thursday afternoon.

The news blindsided students and faculty, including White Bear High grad Matthew McCoshen. The Lino Lakes native is a junior majoring in history and political science. The latter is one of the programs the school has decided to kill. 

Those already enrolled will be allowed to finish their degrees, but the school won't allow new students to take up the suspended curricula. The university maintains no teaching jobs will be lost due to the "changes to academic programs."

"About 48 hours ago we got the email and there was no information given either to students or staff about any of this happening before then," McCoshen says. "What struck me was it shows the administration doesn't think we're smart enough to make our own decisions.

"My first thought was, 'Am I going to be personally grandfathered into my own program?' My second was about my political science teachers. I was more worried about what's going to happen to them. That's when I found out they were entirely in the dark as well."

Dr. Khalil Dokhanchi teaches political science. He's been a faculty member since 1992. The decision reeks for various reasons, according to the professor.

Why weren't students and teachers consulted beforehand? asks Dokhanchi. What proof is there that offering fewer programs will ensure students don't take extraneous classes? 

He also doesn't believe there won't be a loss of faculty. "They might not lay off faculty because of this, but they are forcing people out," says Dokhanchi. "How is someone supposed to have a job and teach when they don't have any students?"

University spokesperson Milan is quick to point out the school will still offer classes in the various disciplines. It just won't have programs, in which they're concentrated fields of study. While she concedes "there were myriad of factors that led to these decisions,' Milan is adamant that the primary reason for them was "student success, not budget."  

The latest episode looks like history repeating itself at the campus. In 2012, state budget cuts to higher education sliced deep. Among the casualties were fewer classes and faculty departures. Some instructors in the education department, for instance, departed when their class load shrunk.

The institution is currently facing a $2.5 million deficit. And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislature have been systematically cutting the state's education, believing the state's colleges are a haven of waste and liberalism. 

"I think what we have here," says McCoshen, "is a failure of the administration to be honest with us."

 


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