From Chris Duncan, Wittenberg Provost:
The following provides answers to the most common questions I am hearing at this time as Wittenberg’s chief academic officer. I encourage you to continue to share your ideas, thoughts and concerns with our Educational Policies Committee at:
Why must this happen now?
Our current reality is the result of economic realities facing Wittenberg, the liberal arts and higher education in general. The fact that Wittenberg is willing to look so deeply within itself right now reflects a commitment on the part of the university community to ensure that everything we are doing aligns with our mission across all disciplines while also meeting the demands of future students and creating a sustainable financial model.
How can you call yourself the liberal arts without music and dance?
We know the powerful role music and dance plays in the life of Wittenberg, and we have no intention of erasing that part of our history nor do we want to cease incorporating it into our future. What is being analyzed and discussed at this early stage in our faculty governance system revolves around the degree-granting portions of those programs-- not the Wittenberg Choir and not other opportunities for dance or music we have established, including the Wittenberg Chamber Orchestra, Symphonic Band, or the annual Dance Concert. While we are still in the early phases of this process, we plan to do everything we can to continue to provide high-quality opportunities to engage in music and dance moving forward even if some form of discontinuation were to happen.
How can you think of discontinuing geography?
We clearly recognize the success and impact the geography department has had on alumni and current students, and the important and transformative work in the department. Our conversations around this program and all the programs under review have been undertaken with heavy hearts.
Similar to music and dance, we are simply looking at the degree-granting component of geography and not necessarily the specific GIS-related opportunities the program offers, which have been referenced repeatedly in the communications we’ve received to date. Innovative ideas continue to come to light for how we could possibly merge the GIS aspects with other programs so as to continue to offer such tools for engaged learning now and in the future.
Is there a disconnect between current operations and financial sustainability?
While a number of opinions have been shared around the costs associated with recent renovations, general campus improvement, landscaping as well as whether simply readjusting our investments in these and other areas would lead to greater sustainability, the fact remains that our current reality requires us to do far more if we are to be the mission-driven, student-centered university we purport to be. What we are examining in terms of cost-savings is not uncommon within the liberal arts or higher education. Equally, we are looking at innovative revenue-generating opportunities at the same time. We would not be doing our jobs if we didn’t do both, and we ask that you continue to share your best thinking with us at /administration/provost/epcfeedback.
If I really want to major in a program on the list for possible elimination or take a class in a subject that may be eliminated, what are my options?
As a previous communication noted, any such discontinuances would not affect current students and their ability to complete their degrees at Wittenberg. Should a program be discontinued, yet interest still remains among students for a particular class, Wittenberg has a wonderful partnership with the Southern Ohio Consortium of Higher Education (SOCHE), which would allow students to take a class at no additional cost at any number of nearby participating institutions.
If we all contributed a certain amount to the programs in question, could we change the course of the conversations taking place?
In the conversations taking place within social media, we have seen individuals urge others to join in giving to the university. We applaud those efforts and encourage all our constituents to give to what matters to them at www.wittenberg.edu/give.
What I will say, though, is that to endow even a reshaped music program, for example, would conservatively require a $10 million investment, from which the university would draw 5%-5.5% annually to support faculty salaries, programming, lessons and music ensembles. This would not include facility maintenance. Again, this is just one example. Knowing that the Wittenberg Choir holds a special place in the hearts of alumni, endowing just that would require a $3.5 million investment, a 5%-5.5% distribution rate from which would pay for performance attire, travel, programming, and administrative and faculty support.
That being said, we still run into sustainability challenges and limited growth opportunities. To put it another way, if we were to receive $10 million to support the start of a business school, and we know from research that such a program has the potential for generating far more than the original investment, wouldn’t it make more sense to invest those dollars there, which in turn would allow the revenue generated from such a program to subsidize music and dance, for example, for a generations of students?
Again, these are just some of the questions and some of the thinking taking place as we work through this process.
With Japanese language on the table for review, does that mean you are cutting the East Asian Studies program, too?
Please know that there are no discussions taking place that would eliminate this invaluable interdisciplinary program from the Wittenberg curriculum. While language study is a critical part of the program to be sure, there are other crucial parts of the program coming from history, religion, the arts, other humanities disciplines, the social sciences, as well as communication. The current conversation on campus only involves the study of the Japanese language portion of the curriculum.
What is the actual process for these discussions?
The university has a clear process for carrying out such discussions and making decisions, which involves numerous governance committees, including the Educational Policies Committee, as well as faculty, students, the administration and, ultimately, the Board of Directors. We are now in the discussion phase, and we would welcome your feedback at /administration/provost/epcfeedback.
What should we do moving forward?
While we know that these conversations are difficult, it is in many ways a uniquely Wittenberg enterprise. At many other places where work like this has been done, it has taken place behind closed doors with very limited participation from the community. Here we are asking everyone to participate, and all voices are welcome. For those who have already made their views known, thank you. For everyone else who cares deeply about this university and its academic programs, we ask that you write us through /administration/provost/epcfeedback.
We thank you in advance for your thoughts and for your patience and prayers as we work through these complex, sensitive and important issues in the life of Wittenberg.