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EDITORIAL: The College of Abandoned Arts

Both IU and society are to blame for CoAS budget shortfall



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When it comes to money troubles in today’s America, the arts seem to be the first to go. And it appears IU fails to deviate from this trend as well.

In a recent article, the Indianapolis Star reported that IU’s College of Arts and Sciences will have a budget shortfall of $4 to $8 million for the next academic year. Such a decrease could result in a hiring freeze and slashing some graduate courses.

The school’s dean, Larry Singell, told the Herald-Times he attributed the loss of funds to the increase of incoming students who’ve accumulated enough AP credits to avoid taking general education classes. Singell also stated growth for school’s like the Kelley School of Business and School of Public and Environmental Affairs could also be determining factors.

Those of us here on the Editorial Board find that answer a little hard to swallow.

First, students have been taking AP courses for years. Why would this suddenly cause a budget problem when this trend is nothing new?

Another issue is the claim that popularity among other schools has created a lack of enrollment in courses in Arts and Sciences. The simple solution would be to develop the reputation of the college rather than giving it a blasé, well-it-is-what-it-is sort of treatment.

If the college had an advertisement campaign half the size of Kelley’s, it’s unlikely such a setback would have ever occurred. If you don’t mention the Mark Cubans of Arts and Sciences or quote an excerpt from Forbes, how is any potential student supposed to take your program seriously?

No one is claiming that Kelley and SPEA aren’t worth their praise. But there are other schools, and if IU puts all its money and interest into one or two of them, there’s obviously going to be deficits elsewhere.

What incoming freshman is going to want to explore Arts and Sciences if they’ve never heard of it and they have no idea how great it is? Unless they already know they want to enter the college (and really, who actually knows the major they’re going to graduate with before coming to college), they’re highly unlikely to pursue these courses.

The Editorial Board believes this budget trouble has more to do with our collective cultural view of the arts and what it means to be a student of Arts and Sciences.

We constantly praise those who succeed in “professional” careers, such as the ones offered in Kelley and SPEA, as intelligent. But let’s not forget that the college offers more majors than just folklore and ethnomusicology and Jewish studies. Psychology, history, human biology, chemistry and physics are also lumped in there, to name a few.

But the running belief is the college is full of majors like fashion design, and since when is a course about race in the media going to help a Kelley grad?

Parents brag about you to their dull colleague if you’re considering law school or if you want to be an anesthesiologist. No one wants to hear Janice blab in the break room about her son, the creative writer.

At family gatherings, reunions with high school pals and even random interactions with strangers where you mention in passing that you’re majoring in gender studies, you’re met with opposition. You’re constantly reminded that a degree in classical civilization is a waste of time.

The problem is, those who don’t major in these “artsy fartsy” studies deem them useless, void of potential and a future career, and nothing could be further from the truth.

When the arts aren’t seen as a place of opportunity for successful careers or a space of sustenance, it isn’t supported in our education systems. The college is not an exception to this rule.

If we want to fix the budget, we have to change our outlook.

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