Side Note

This university doesn’t want any more History or English majors

The chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point is considering eliminating 13 humanities and social studies majors, including history, political science, sociology, and English, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. To fill the gap, the university will replace these fields of study with majors that have what university leaders called “clear career pathways,” like chemical engineering, finance, and marketing.

This isn’t the first time Wisconsin has tried to cut liberal arts spending: In 2015, Republican governor Scott Walker tried and failed to steer the state’s universities away from the humanities in favor of teaching workplace skills. In a budget proposal that year, he attempted to remove phrases like “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” from the university system’s mission statement, replacing them with a line about how higher education should “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

The Old Main Hall at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point

The Old Main Hall at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point

Humanities professors at the university are saying that cutting these programs will actually leave students less prepared for the workforce. “By focusing on preparation only for narrowly defined jobs,” they wrote in an open letter, “Stevens Point administrators risk leaving students with considerably poorer preparation for the full range of careers most Americans will experience in a working lifetime.”

Data shows that low-income students are already less likely to pursue liberal arts or humanities majors — and if more affordable public universities cut such programs, it’s easy to imagine a two-tiered education system where only the private school set will be able to afford learning for the sake of learning.