Alumni Weekend at Our Lady of the Lake University kicked off with less boosterism and more protest than in years past.
On Friday, students delivered a petition with more than 200 signatures to President Tessa Martinez Pollack. Organized under the banner of “Save the 12,” the students denounced plans by Pollack to eliminate 12 majors at the university.
The move, announced by Pollack on October 25, would phase out majors including art, philosophy, drama, Spanish, Mexican-American studies, and religious studies.
Pollack later emphasized in a heated November 9 forum that departments were not being cut and the liberal arts majors would continue to offered as minors. After years of declining enrollment, the university aimed to focus on “marketable majors,” Pollack said, in a bid to remain relevant.
Not all students are sold on the plan.
“Many of the 12 have low enrollment — in the teens and below,” said biology student Alexa Soto. “However, one major that was cut was human sciences. It had 49 majors enrolled; more than some majors that were retained.”
According to information from OLLU, more students were enrolled in the soon-to-be-eliminated human science major than in untouched programs such as business, finance, professional accounting, nursing, or communication arts.
“Do not get me wrong, I do not think any cuts are justifiable,” said religious studies student Tyler Tully. “But [the administration’s] logic just does not make any sense. Human science has the exact same amount of students now as it did in Spring 2005 and Fall 2009.”
The real concern, according to Tully and Soto, is that the elimination of these majors will lead to the departure of tenured faculty. In its latest efforts at reorganization, OLLU could be mirroring a nationwide trend in higher education as universities seek to downsize the number of tenured faculty they employ to rely more on adjunct professors.
“Instead of faculty who have a vested interest in the university — who have been teaching OLLU students for decades — many classes will probably be taught by adjunct faculty who must work at several different universities to make a living wage,” Soto said.
At the November 9 assembly, many students also struggled to reconcile the decision to eliminate majors in religious studies, Spanish, and Mexican-American studies with OLLU’s heritage as a Catholic institution on the city’s West Side.
“The shift isn't from the liberal arts,” Tully told the Current. “The shift is from gospel values towards market-driven values.”
Read the petition from "Save the 12" asking Pollack to resign.