SOU retrenchment plan threatens the univiersity

As a student I am gravely disappointed — and frankly, disturbed — by the actions of this administration. Upon reading the retrenchment plan and seeing all the majors, minors and programs proposed for elimination, I have to wonder: What will be left?

If the proposal comes through, SOU will no longer be the school it once claimed to be: a liberal arts college that offers diverse programs. Cutting important majors such as art and art history, language and culture, international studies, and physics?! Ludicrous.

It would be a huge mistake for SOU to cut physics as a major — a very difficult, but important and extremely applicable degree to achieve. SOU should be proud to have and keep such a program.

I am a senior at SOU majoring in biology. I have attended SOU since 2010 and since have heard stories of and witnessed some of the degradation of the science department. No more geology department in one of the most geologically diverse areas of the country. No more herpetology for lack of staff. Now potentially no more physics major! On top of that, we may be losing two of the biology department's finest faculty members: Peter Schroeder and Barbara Fleeger.

Is biology as a major no longer important? My personal interest lies in the field of entomology, of which Peter is incredibly knowledgeable. He is passionate about insects and life histories, which in turn inspires me to further my education on the subject matter. I also took biological illustration, another invaluable class, which I imagine will be removed entirely because there is no faculty member that could replace the talents and abilities of Peter Schroeder. The craziest part is, cutting Peter doesn't even save the university money — it may actually be more expensive without him.

Since I am a field biology student I have never had the pleasure of experiencing Barbara Fleeger as a professor, but I have worked with her in the greenhouse where she volunteered her services identifying and labeling unidentified plants. I have, however, heard from countless students who have taken anatomy and physiology that she is the most helpful professor in that subject and it would be a terrible mistake to lose her.

What makes majors and faculty more dispensable than administrators? Is it possible that poor leadership brought us to this stage in the first place? Was there poor foresight during the economic crisis and maybe impulsive spending when enrollment was high? If any of this is a contributing factor to the university's financial crisis, I don't see why students should have to suffer.

The main reasons people choose Southern Oregon University are 1) for its diverse programs and 2) because there are knowledgeable, passionate professors available to teach those programs. Cutting majors and professors should be the absolute, very last resort.

The idea of university houses seems short-sighted; I would never attend this university nor suggest anyone consider applying to SOU if science classes are going to be taught by professors with little to no scientific background, or if higher level subject matter (such as physics, geology, entomology, anatomy and physiology, geography, French, etc.) is going to be taught by general educators. When administrators start sacrificing higher education, they do a grave disservice to students who have invested their time and their money to an institution they expect will live up to certain claims:

"Our academic programs create dynamic environments that engage students in learning."

"SOU provides unique opportunities that transform students' lives."

"We offer a liberal arts curriculum that you would expect to find at a private college."

"Our strong commitment to each student ensures that programs are both academically challenging and personally supportive."

"Through community service, internships, research projects, and highly personalized approaches, an SOU education connects students with dynamic classroom experiences and real-life applications. Our graduates emerge as creative, inspired citizens who help to make our world a better place."

"See for yourself why SOU is truly the public liberal arts university of the West."

These are all quotes from the president of Southern Oregon University, Mary Cullinan, who announced the plan for retrenchment in November of 2013. The diversity SOU once offered is the reason I chose this school. Making cuts to important majors and faculty members will almost certainly decrease the number of prospective students. If there is any chance of approaching these financial issues from a different angle, I urge the administration to do so.

Shannon Davis is a Southern Oregon University student and president of the SOU Biology Club.

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