In Memory of the Humanities

The decision made by a number of UW System schools to cut programs could be detrimental to a well-rounded education

More stories from Madeline Peterson


UW-Stevens Point is the most recent Wisconsin public university to announce it’s plans to cut back on several programs in the humanities.

Last week, UW-Stevens Point announced plans to cut more than a dozen programs in the humanities over the next two years. Although this may seem like a notable event in itself, unfortunately it’s just one instance in what seems to be a UW System trend.

Wisconsin public universities, including Stevens Point and UW-Superior, are seeing drastic cuts to programs such as English, history and art in response to budget deficits. While it is necessary for universities to be fiscally responsible, it is not right that these cuts are made at the expense of faculty, students and the quality of a liberal arts education.

One of the many benefits of a liberal arts education is that it produces well-rounded students who use their expertise in a wide variety of subjects to think critically and problem solve. Taking away programs that greatly improve a student’s communication and creative abilities would be hugely detrimental to student development.

Numerous students choose to attend UW schools because they receive a quality education in a setting that is more cost-effective. However, if humanities programs are cut throughout the UW System, students will be forced to choose between undertaking a large amount of debt while pursuing the humanities at a private school, or attend a public school but have to pursue a major that may not align with their interests.

As an English major and Spanish minor, I have a lot invested in the humanities. The decision of schools such as Stevens Point and Superior to cut these programs concerns and upsets me.

One potential reason these cuts are being tolerated might be the societal belief that the humanities do not have as much to offer as STEM fields. Ever since announcing my desire to major in English, I’ve been asked countless times what I’m going to do with my degree. Students are frequently expected to justify their passion for the humanities and are often met with skepticism every step of the way.

Both Stevens Point and Superior have cited low enrollment as a reason for their decision to target the humanities. Although these institutions are acting out of financial need, its concerning that they choose to target a field that produces well-developed students who have long-term success with employment, according to a study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

In addition, cutting these programs will cause numerous tenured faculty members to lose their jobs. Although this won’t happen until 2020 at Stevens Point, this doesn’t change the fact that educators who have shown dedication and commitment to their universities will face unemployment.

It’s becoming increasingly important for young people to become politically active. Being aware of these devastating cuts can hopefully cause students to rally and elect government officials who will respect the UW System and value the humanities. Until then, however, we are left to watch these cuts take place and wonder which university might be next.