The unspoken truth behind Castleton University’s recent announcement regarding budget cuts in the upcoming academic year is that they will have a disproportionately negative impact on the departments within the humanities.
The university declared a ten percent operating loss for the current year. The loss is primarily due to a steady drop in undergraduate enrollment since 2014—enrollment is down from over 2,000 undergraduates in 2014 to around 1,800 this year. To combat the issue, the university announced a “restructuring” plan, a deceptive word used to disguise the fact that the university intends to strategically purge itself of the areas of study that show, as of recent, less economic benefit—namely, the humanities—while the more popular departments within the applied, formal, and natural sciences will likely emerge from the downsizing relatively unscathed. Faculty layoffs are the first stage of the budget plan, and the layoffs will likely be directed toward the departments with relatively lower student counts, thereby perpetuating the issue of an already disproportionate allocation of interest.
Moreover, the cuts do not end with a depletion of faculty members. The university also intends to reduce its deficit by phasing out 24 of its 79 current majors—a thirty percent reduction in the fields of study offered by Castleton. Again, the humanities will presumably receive the brunt of this reduction. The individual majors within the humanities account for a smaller student body than the applied, formal, and natural sciences, and will therefore be the first targeted both in faculty layoffs and in the eventual elimination of majors.
It is discouraging that President Scolforo—who holds masters degrees in both the humanities and the fine arts—is opting now, in her third month as president, to restructure the university’s budget in a way that will inevitably have the most negative impact on the same disciplines in which she once found interest.
The current restructuring plan also threatens the integrity of Castleton’s title as a liberal arts university. The university is making the statement that it has less interest in the success of students who take up majors within the humanities. Castleton is promoting a future in which the students who enroll—of whom there will be far less if the school eliminates thirty percent of its majors—will not experience the full spectrum of academic disciplines that liberal arts colleges and universities are designed to support.
It will also feel to the students who are currently pursuing degrees in the humanities that they have lost far more than ten percent of the opportunities they are accustomed to receiving from Castleton. Students who encounter faculty layoffs within their departments will find that their learning experiences have become far more limited. And students within departments that are in the process of being phased out will begin to wonder why they attend Castleton University at all.