- Trustees at Marymount University, a Catholic liberal arts college in Virginia, voted for nine majors.
- Some of the majors that will no longer exist are English, Mathematics and Theology.
- A student told Insider that the university is ignoring students’ concerns about the decision.
A small liberal arts university in Northern Virginia has come under scrutiny from students and faculty alike after it announced it was removing nine common majors from its offering to better prepare students for “in-demand careers.”
Marymount University’s board of trustees voted unanimously last month to remove nine undergraduate majors and one graduate program from the Catholic university’s offering. Subjects affected include undergraduate degrees in English, history, math, art, economics, philosophy, secondary education, sociology, and theology and religious studies, a spokesman for the college told Insider in an email.
Nicholas Munson, Marymount University’s communications director, said the 20-0 board vote was averted by “definitive research” which found the majors all had consistently low enrollment and graduation rates among students.
There are 74 students in the 10 programs, 22 of whom will graduate in May, Munson said. Current students majoring in these subjects will be treated as grandfathers and allowed to graduate with their chosen degree, and courses from the cut majors, particularly in liberal arts, will also remain part of the school’s core curriculum, Munson added.
According to Marymount’s enrollment numbers shared with Insider, none of the majors currently have more than 15 students enrolled, and at least two — theology majors and secondary school — have zero students. The university enrolls about 4,000 students on its Arlington campus.
But despite low enrollment numbers among majors, students at the university have so far reacted with outrage and anger over the cuts, which Grace Kapacs says sophomore contradicts the school’s founding mission as both a religious institution and liberal arts university.
“No one seems happy or satisfied with the decision,” Kapacs, a 19-year-old communications major who has spearheaded an opposition campaign involving protests and social media activism, told Insider. “Nobody had hinted that we would cut something as big as majors.”
Faculty, alumni and students — from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats and anarchists, Kapacs said — protested ahead of the Feb. 24 board meeting in hopes of influencing the decision. Kapacs said that while it is unclear whether or not the university leadership is convinced of the protest, it is important to get their message across.
And although many of the protesting students are able to complete their degrees, concern is about what lies ahead, Kapacs said.
“They’re more concerned about the future and what it’s going to be like… It’s also their legacy,” Kapacs said.
Kapacs said the majority of the campus community only learned of the proposed losses a week before the board’s final decision, and students are frustrated by the lack of clarity about where all the money for all lost majors will be allocated.
Munson said the changes to the school’s offerings weren’t “financially motivated, but the university plans to reallocate resources from the slashed programs to others that “better serve our students and reflect their interests,” though he didn’t offer details on exactly where that’s the case newfound money would go.
Kapac says students and faculty don’t feel like their concerns are being heard, and the campus community has drastically changed as a result. Kapacs described it as “negativity in the air”.
In a campus-wide note obtained by Insider, university president Irma Becerra assures students that despite the changes, the university is acting in the students’ best interests.
“We are not eliminating the humanities or social sciences from our curriculum, nor are we turning our backs on our Catholic traditions,” Becerra said in the nearly eight-minute message. “But on the contrary.”
Becerra also predicted that other liberal arts colleges like Marymount would make the same “difficult decisions” in the future. In recent years, the decline in liberal arts majors has become a worrying issue as the number of students pursuing liberal arts degrees nationwide has declined.
However, for students like Kapacs, these majors are still worth getting.
“When you have someone who is into something, they feel passionate about it, they love it,” Kapacs said. “You never want to say goodbye to something you love.”