Vulnerable programs in N.C.

Elizabeth City State University, a historically black college in North Carolina, is likely to eliminate their undergraduate programs in history, political science, studio art, and physics. It’s part of a wave of targeting “low performing” programs across the UNC system. Right now, about 25 programs are expected to be cut, and 22 more to be merged or reduced in size.

Roopika Risam, assistant professor at Salem State University (and Emory PhD ’13) and a trenchant critic of Emory’s “compromise” debacle last winter, found herself in the strange, saddening position of giving a virtual guest lecture in the history department a few days before the proposed closures were announced. She, along with the executive director of the American Historical Association, notes the irony of a historically black college symbolically severing its tie with history.

What we are seeing now, in the threatened cuts at Elizabeth City State University and in the cuts at Emory, is the corporate mentality trickling down through the cogs of administration, past faculty governance, over departments, and into classrooms. This mentality implies that there is little difference between professors offering a history program and teaching history courses. It presupposes that courses are moveable parts that do not need departments or disciplinary formations to thrive.

Some readers may be surprised that physics is on the chopping block at ECSU, as well as several other colleges. Basic research has long trailed behind patent-generating science in terms of institutional support, a consequence of which has been the increasing vulnerability of physics programs. Historically black colleges, subject to more budget strife in general, are at greater risk of losing their pure science programs.

Speaking of professors stranded without institutional support… Emory’s PR department has taken the opportunity to spin a symposium on the 60th anniversary of the ILA and the future of interdisciplinary studies as a celebration.

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