Hundreds protest college's proposal to drop humanities for more practical majors

Hundreds protested at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus Wednesday over a proposed realignment to the school’s majors — dropping the humanities for an emphasis on more practical courses to lead students to sustainable futures.

University officials have proposed cutting 13 majors, mainly in social studies and the humanities — programs with lower enrollment, the school said.

The 13 programs that could be eliminated are American studies, art, English, French, geography, geoscience, German, history, music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology and Spanish.

The university, located about 100 miles north of Madison, also plans to add or expand 16 programs that have a higher demand to deal with declining enrollment and reduced tuition revenue. Those pragmatic majors include marketing, management, computer information systems, graphic design and aquaculture — areas that “have demonstrated value and demand in the region,” according to the school.

The campus — one of 11 campuses in the University of Wisconsin system — is looking to focus on majors that have “clear career pathways,” The Washington Post reported.

“Although some majors are proposed to be eliminated, courses would continue to be taught in these fields, and minors or certificates will be offered,” the school said in a statement, as reported by The Hill.

Political science professor Jennifer Collins told WAOW-TV Wednesday that the reshuffling would change the nature of the university radically and reduce opportunities available to students in central Wisconsin.

Vice chancellor for academic affairs Greg Summers last week said reshuffling resources toward more popular majors is necessary because of increased competition in attracting a declining pool of high school students.

Wednesday afternoon Chancellor Bernie Patterson met the demonstrators, including students, faculty, alumni and others. Patterson said the status quo is not an option to deal with a looming budget deficit projected to be $4.5 million over two years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.