Departments appeal elimination of three majors


Jessica Bonacci and Brooke Williams

On Feb. 24, representatives of the Philosophy, Religious Studies and Spanish departments will appear in front of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee to appeal a recommendation made during the Strategic Resource Allocation (SRA) process.

The SRA report released last semester stated that baccalaureate major programs with low enrollment will be eliminated and offered only as minors, including the Bachelor of Arts programs in Philosophy, Religious Studies and Spanish.

In a Faculty Senate meeting last December, Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D., said this decision will be passed on to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee for further review and that she will honor the decision its members make.

At the upcoming meeting, representatives from each program will make a case to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee for why these Bachelor of Arts programs should be maintained.

Dr. Christa Irwin, chairperson of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, explained the role of the committee in the university.

“The idea behind the [committee] is that it is the venue by which all curriculum is in the hands of faculty,” Irwin said.

The committee, comprised of a faculty representative from each college, student representatives, deans and members of the administration, plays an advisory role.
Irwin said the committee’s decision “should happen fairly quickly.”

According to Dr. John DePoe, co-chair and faculty representative of Philosophy for the Undergraduate Core Curriculum Committee, the recommendation to eliminate these majors lacks sufficient data.

“I believe all three programs will make a number of important points, but the key one probably will be that all of our majors get offered without any additional cost to the university,” DePoe said.

No money would be saved by eliminating these majors because of the way the core curriculum is structured, DePoe said. All students are required to take six credits in the areas of Philosophy, Religious Studies and Foreign Languages, and there are only a few courses required for these majors that are not open to all Marywood students.

“If there ever are classes that are required for our [Philosophy] degrees–I know this is the case for Philosophy and Religious Studies in particular–that don’t get offered as a general course for anybody, we teach them as independent studies, and we do it for free,” he added.

DePoe attributes the lower enrollment numbers for these programs to the many students who double major, as they usually get accounted for in their other area of study.

Like DePoe, Dr. Ann Cerminaro-Costanzi, chairperson of the Foreign Language Department, expressed that the data behind the decision to eliminate the Spanish major considered students’ primary majors and did not paint a “complete picture” of the department.

Although fewer students have a primary major in Spanish, Costanzi explained, a larger number of students with a Spanish minor declare a secondary major after realizing they are only a few classes away from the major.

“There’s a sense that we’re not counting [majors] in the same way,” Costanzi said.

Costanzi said she was disappointed when she learned of the decision to eliminate the Spanish major.

“That was very disconcerting, because that was not the way I had understood the… SRA process would work,” she said.

Costanzi explained that during the presentation to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, the three affected departments and Persico will each have the opportunity to explain their sides of the story.

“I’m hopeful that they will decide to reaffirm the majors,” Costanzi added.

Sr. Mary Ann Zimmer, N.D., Ph.D., chair of the Religious Studies Department, addressed the issue of double majors being counted differently and also shared the importance of religious studies courses.

“In the world we live in, and the variety that we all come into close contact with, I think it would be a disservice to students not to be able to teach them a really sophisticated understanding of the function of religion,” Zimmer said.

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