Miami University students push back against plan to shrink the humanities department
Students at Miami University are speaking out after the university's provost announced intentions to shrink the humanities department and combine some of its majors due to low enrollment.
Provost Elizabeth Mullenix informed faculty in the department of the situation before the start of the semester and asked them to help develop a plan to keep some of its humanities majors alive.
Since then, the future of humanities at Miami has remained a mystery, according to students on campus who say they only found out about the situation through the university's student news outlet the Miami Student, which reported on the plan in late September.
The move puts majors like art history, critical race and ethnic studies, and Latin American studies in jeopardy, which inspired students from Miami's Latiné Student Alliance to speak out.
On Wednesday, students rallied on campus and gathered signatures in support of the humanities. Mónnica Gay, an urban planning and social work major, says despite the low enrollment, the university should work to keep these majors because of the value they can bring to a campus' culture.
"Miami really prides itself on a liberal education and producing well-rounded students before they go into the world, but taking away all of these humanities majors, it's getting rid of that well-rounded aspect of our education and getting the chance to explore anything our heart desires rather than something that just makes the schools money," Gay said.
During Miami President Gregory Crawford's State of the University address a few weeks ago, the president highlighted the school's top majors for fall 2023. Finance, marketing, and psychology were the three most popular, with more than a thousand students enrolled in each major. Crawford says those majors are not only popular at Miami but at other schools across the country.
In contrast, some of Miami's humanities majors average less than 10 students enrolled each year.
In order to stay competitive, Crawford says one step in Miami's strategy is to align with what the majority of students are demanding, which could mean eliminating programs with low enrollment.
Still, students like Olivia Thomas, who is pursuing three majors in Latin American studies, international studies, and Spanish, say while small in size, these majors have a huge impact on campus life, especially for minority students.
"A lot of complaints from students within these majors are that these majors, specifically LAS [Latin American Studies] is the only representation that we see of ourselves within the faculty on Miami's campus," Thomas told WVXU. "Miami claims to want to work toward diversity and promote a lot of different viewpoints, but by cutting these they're kind of undermining that message."
Rather than eliminate them, Thomas wants to see the university promote these programs in the same way it does other majors. She says she only found out about the Latin American studies major through word-of-mouth from her professor. She claims if she only paid attention to the university's marketing, she would have never known about it. With some help, she says the humanities can grow at Miami.
"It's kind of a circular issue of 'Oh these are low enrolled, also but we're not going to promote them,' " Thomas said.
WVXU reached out to Provost Mullenix and Miami's communication staff for comment but did not get a response.
Miami University is expected to make a decision on the matter in December.