Faculty of arts restructuring

At an arts council meeting on Friday it was announced that the university is looking into changing the structure of Laurier’s arts faculty, possibly implementing a honours bachelor of arts (BA) program without a specialization.

There has also been some discussion about certain smaller arts programs changing, raising concerns from students within those programs in question.

“The discussion hasn’t been about merging those programs; what it has been is to change how
those programs are administered,”said vice-president of academics Deb MacLatchy.

“My understanding from what’s being proposed around the interdisciplinary programs is an administrative umbrella.”

Student concern has risen around the fear that their programs may be cut altogether, although administration has assured that this is not going to be the case.

“We’re not going to pull the plug on any student programs that are actually in program now,” said MacLatchy.

“We do have a commitment for students who are in a program … that we find a way to have those students finish the program that they are in.”

When questioned by The Cord about this situation, the acting dean of arts Mary-Louise Byrne explained that the changes proposed would not affect the programs currently in place at Laurier.

“At the present moment medieval studies, cultural studies, women’s studies, North American studies are all programs in the faculty of arts. There are no plans to eliminate them.”

Instead, what has been brought up is the opportunity for a liberal arts program that will allow students who have either not declared a major or who are currently taking a general arts degree to take an honours program.

“Were proposing a liberal arts degree for students who have a 5.0 grade point average right now and are in the general degree program,” said Byrne.

MacLatchy believes that there are students in the arts department who do not want to choose to major in one of the available disciplines, and Laurier currently does not offer a broad-based honors degree for those students.

Within this honours BA students would be able to take a variety of courses from the arts programs without having to choose a specific major.

“It would be a new program unto itself and you can still specialize within that and take courses specific to each of those degrees from before,” said third-year medieval studies and English major Amy Vigliotti.

The confusion surrounding this issue, and students’ fears that their program may be cut, have come from a lack of information passing from administration down to the rest of the Laurier community.

“Because it’s such a volatile subject, we’re dealing with people’s futures and people’s ability to graduate, people are afraid so of course they exaggerate things.

“They worry and things get blown out of proportion,” said third-year medieval studies and English major Ashley Walsh.

This lack of communication and lack of information for students is what they are arguing needs to change.

“There’s obviously a lot of questions that we want to have answered about what … implementing this program would mean,” said Vigliotti.

“What we request is that we get the information as it is coming in so that students can be forewarned about impending change, especially when it affects their entire degree,” said third-year medieval studies and English major Melinda Phelan.

Through the creation of a Facebook group, these students have been working to inform their peers and create discussion about what is happening, how they will be affected and what it will mean for their future at Laurier.

Third-year archaeolog” and medieval studies major Mark Kovacs explained that they have created a student group called the Laurier Arts Action Plan (LAAP) to form an information hub to keep students updated.

They are now working to get booths set up in the coming weeks as well as a forum where students can learn about how their programs might be changing and how it could affect them.

While they are hoping to find answers to their questions, students are not pointing blame at anyone, and they are not protesting the implementation of the program.

“The [university is] trying to make it so that these programs don’t get cuts,” said Vigliotti.

“As much as it doesn’t seem like an ideal situation it’s the best we might have. We have to figure out how were going to work with that situation.”

All quotations from vice-president of academics Deb MacLatchy were taken from a recording of a editorial board meeting between Cord staff and members of university administration on Feb. 9.