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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis 2020 Committee suggests broad academic cuts: Cuts elicit muted community reaction

Published: February 26, 2010
Section: Front Page

The Chopping block: A sign in the window of the Anthropology department expresses displeasure at the Brandeis 2020 Committee’s proposal to terminate the department’s Ph.D. program.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

Despite recent proposals to terminate or restructure 18 academic programs, the university’s students and faculty alike have been relatively accepting of the need for cuts.

Caroline Grassi ’12 said at an open forum for undergraduate students Thursday that she “understands the need to cut.”

“Considering our economic situation, I feel the Committee did a fairly good job,” she said, adding that her understanding comes despite being an Italian major, one of the programs which may terminate in 2015.

Student Union President Andy Hogan ’11 said the tone of discussion about the recently proposed cuts is a drastic difference than he heard from students last year when Brandeis was first reacting to its economic crisis.

“The tone now is much more intimate,” he said.  “There is less antagonism and more discussion and understanding.  Everyone understands that cuts need to happen.”

American Studies Professor Steven Whitfield expressed a similar reaction.  The Committee’s proposal recommending the transition of American Studeis from a department to an inter-departmental program is in fact a reiteration of a proposal from a different university committee last spring.

While last spring’s proposal was met with so much animosity that it was ultimately dropped, Whitfield is more accepting this time around.

“We are glad and gratified by the affirmation of our major, which has been and will be interdisciplinary,” he said.  “We like who we are and we want to stay that way and the proposal endorses that.”

Not all students and faculty feel this way, however, as the university’s Ph.D. and Masters’ students in the Anthropology department expressed a similar opinion in a letter to university Provost Marty Krauss, who must approve the proposals before they are voted upon by the board of trustees.

“We, the M.A. and Ph.D. students in the Department of Anthropology, while recognizing the dire financial circumstances facing Brandeis at this time, respectfully submit that closing the Anthropology Ph.D. program would be a serious mistake and strongly urge that the Provost reconsiders this course of action,” the letter reads.

The students have hung a sign reading “Dept. of low-hanging fruit” to express their displeasure at the proposal.

Director of Theater Design Debra Booth said she is “outraged” at the proposed termination of the Masters’ of Fine Arts of Theatre Design program.

“This plan to eliminate the design program is based on very little understanding of how theater functions and how departments of theater functions and little understanding of the role of production,” she said.  “The interconnected quality of theater is at its very core.  The cuts will affect every theater student, every audience member, not only design students.”

Though she is upset with the cuts, however, Booth too recognizes the need for them.

“I know that cuts are necessary, but if they have to cut theatre, they should have asked us how best to cut theatre,” she said.  “If they had, I think there would have been a different conclusion.”