CAS matters more than UVM believes

Carolynn Van Arsdale

This past Wednesday, when I discovered that my beloved Religion department would be dissolved as a result of the budget cuts to the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS)… my heart fell into my stomach. The Religion Major, along with a long list of other programs in CAS, would be fizzled out, eliminated, and unattainable for future students. Outrage, disappointment, and frustration are just a few ways to describe how my peers and I are feeling at this time, for a multitude of reasons. Outrage, because my favorite professors who have published award-winning scholarship in the field are at risk of losing their positions. Disappointment, because the UVM Administration has justified this proposal as being one backed by serious thought and data collected since 2016, yet faculty, students, and alumni were never asked for their input on the matter. Frustration, because the amazing liberal arts university that I had been so excited to enroll in four years ago is falling prey to the societal standards of success, which prioritizes capital gain over educational excellence. 

I understand that the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted every way of life, every business in our economy and everyone’s future will be forever tainted. That is why it is more important than ever that we protect the humanities and natural sciences, rather than sideline them, to protect the longevity and fiscal stability of this institution. Sure, the Religion Department for the Class of 2020 only had ten graduates, but it is a grave mistake on the part of many in our community to say that this department and the others being cut are “struggling.” A department and degree’s worth should not be measured on enrollment, which is what the UVM Administration has done with this situation. If anything, the measure should be based upon the scholarship that the department is producing, the academic production of its students, as well as the course evaluations that are done each semester for every course at UVM. Essentially, this proposal to cut a multitude of programs from CAS prides quantity over quality. If you are a student who is paying tens of thousands of dollars to come to this university, does this sound right to you? 

I, on the one hand, am far from “struggling.” As I have been applying to positions to become employed after I graduate, I have better understood how valuable my degree is, because of my Religion major. Employers know that I am an excellent writer, editor, researcher, and critical thinker. How I interview lets an employer know that I am a powerful speaker who can lead any work meeting’s agenda. I would not have gained these skills if it were not for my degree in the study of religion, and this is exactly why the University must quickly revoke this proposal to eliminate my major and so many others. 

For an institution that prides itself on being a “Public Ivy,” and a premier research university with a Liberal Arts focus… UVM will no longer be able to brand itself in this way if all of the proposed cuts to CAS are made a reality. Think about how many future students will be put at a severe disadvantage if they attend UVM because they will be unable to have a well-rounded, interdisciplinary education, and a degree that shows it. Every academic discipline matters, whether it is a natural science like Geology, or an area of the humanities such as the Classics.

UVM Administration: beware of the grave mistake you are about to make, for the prestigious stance UVM has worked so hard to attain will cripple down to nothing if we are to sideline these disciplines in this way.