Newman University cutting majors, realigning other departments

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

At their September meeting, the board of trustees at Newman University approved cutting four majors and also decided to realign two other departments.

This comes after the board approved cost cutting recommendations from their financial task force. In an update from the university's newspaper, the Vantage, they confirmed the cutting of four majors while realigning theology and philosophy.

"This is scary to many people," said Jose Santana, a student at the university.

No final decisions have been made regarding which majors are going to be cut, according to Clark Schafer, the Director of University Affairs at Newman University, but classes will still be offered for those particular subjects. These changes may not affect Santana directly, but he said he knows friends who major in departments like theology and philosophy, and he worries for their future.

"They might have to end up switching to a different school," Santana said. "So, they won't experience why they came here in the first place."

Employees within the departments listed to be realigned are also having concerns about the potential changes.

"What will this mean for academic freedom?," asked Christopher Fox, a philosophy professor at the university for 15 years. "What will this mean for what we are able to teach the students? What will this mean for Newman University's status as a liberal arts university?"

According to Fox, he was told that the philosophy department was being turned from a major department to a service department. According to the Vantage's conversation with a department official, that means classes will be taught for the specific subject as a prerequisite for other majors, but the subject itself will not offer a major. Fox said he worries that this change will affect jobs, as well as the diverse community on campus that those majors attract.

"We need to have a whole panoply, a whole constellation of ideas represented," Fox said. "A whole set of people here who can connect with different kinds of students."

The Vantage's article also included a document they received from a university official that described what the approved recommendations were for the board of trustees: "Address the workload issue in the Newman Studies Program," "Reorganize theology and philosophy majors to align strategically with the development and expansion of religious studies and Catholic studies," "Reduce number of majors by at least four," "Examine options to control costs in fine arts," and "Reorganize student life and student support services to focus on total student experience," were all mentioned in the Vantage's report.

Clark Schafer said this is all to change their focus to their school of Catholic studies, as well as other classes that prospective students might want to take.

"We're just looking to be good stewards of the revenue and funds that we have," he said.

According to Schafer, the realigning of the departments, philosophy and theology, are to work with the school of Catholic studies efficiently. However, employees like Fox said he believes things are going fine just the way they are.

"This place matters to me a lot," Fox said. "It matters a lot to the people who are here as well, we think we do some things that are pretty special and we don't really want to see those things go away."

The board of trustees is set to meet again in February.