The University of Missouri-St. Louis is considering eliminating several academic programs and investing in others as it retools in an era of budget cuts and declining enrollment.
Undergraduate majors that might be dissolved include anthropology and theater and cinema arts. A masters in communications and media studies and doctorate in political science could also go away.
“I think it’s very sad right now, actually, for us as faculty, for myself as chair and also for our students,” said Felia Davenport, chair of the Department of Theatre and Cinema Arts.
UMSL published a report Monday making recommendations for its academic departments, as ordered by University of Missouri System President Mun Choi last year. UMSL and the entire UM System are struggling financially because of several years of decreased state funding and slipping enrollment.
UMSL formed a committee in October to review each department’s cost to the school, compared with the number of students successfully earning degrees. The St. Louis campus underwent its own staff and budget reductions before Choi’s mandate.
Kristin Sobolik, UMSL’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said in a letter to the campus she’ll review the report and meet with the school’s budget and planning committee before weighing in on the recommendations.
In the letter, Sobolik called the report an “intensive review” aimed at “transforming UMSL into a model metropolitan institution clearly focused on student success.”
Through a spokesman, she declined to comment further.
The theater and cinema arts program was established two years ago to focus more on social justice in arts, Davenport said, after other arts programs on the campus were cut, including dance.
Davenport said the program is still important by providing a different outlet for arts than programs at other regional colleges and universities.
“What we bring (to the table) is so unique that unfortunately I believe that the students in the St. Louis area and Illinois area that are coming into the program are going to suffer,” she said.
But the major has lost students, from 34 down to 20. And it’s losing $270,000 a year, according to the UMSL report.
Other programs could be merged. Military and veterans studies could be combined with sociology to form a social sciences department. The masters in public policy administration would be folded into the political science department.
Choi has pushed the UM System since taking over to invest more in academic programs that can generate revenue for the university, such as through research grants. UMSL is proposing investing more in its nursing and computer science programs, among others.
The university will hold forums to discuss the proposal from 1 to 3 p.m. on April 13, for faculty and staff, and from 9 to 11 a.m. April 19 for students.
Final decisions on programs’ futures will be left with campus administration.
Editor’s note: The University of Missouri Board of Curators, which also governs UMSL, holds the license to St. Louis Public Radio. The station is editorially independent.
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