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New Major Posed After Faculty Reductions

COLA | Photo by Monica Brutto | The Wright State Guardian

Religion, philosophy and classics department struggles through lower enrollment and declining faculty resources; the school continues to attempt to find solutions. 

The situation

According to Dr. Donovan Miyasaki, recent enrollment numbers following the January 2019 faculty strike and retrenchment initiative have led to reductions in faculty. 

“Almost all the changes that are happening are attempts to deal with the fallout of the administration’s previous decision to reduce our faculty by over 100 people,” Miyasaki said. 

WSU enrollment in 2019 was around 14,000 graduate and undergraduate students, now enrollment rests around 10,000 overall students according to recent financial reports. 

Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Gary Schmidt, explained the relationship between declining enrollment and declining faculty. 

“Because of those declining enrollments, there’s a process that’s defined in the collective bargaining agreement with the union to reduce faculty,” Schmidt said. 

This process is in sections N15.1 and N15.4 in the collective bargaining agreement with the WSU branch of AAUP. 

In 2019, the religion department had four full-time faculty members, philosophy had four full-time faculty members and classics had four full-time faculty members.

Currently, there are two full-time faculty members in the religion department, two full-time faculty in the classics department and two full-time faculty in the philosophy department.

The reduction in faculty has resulted in a lack of classes, specifically in the religion, philosophy and classics programs. In the 2018-2019 academic year, the philosophy department offered 69 courses, in spring 2023, only six of those courses are being offered, including independent study and senior projects courses.

Those affected

While staff reduction affects all students on campus, smaller programs, such as those within SHCS, see more changes, Schmidt acknowledged.

“The problem there is that it does indeed negatively impact smaller programs more than larger programs,” Schmidt said. 

Dr. Bruce Laforse, an associate professor in the classics program, commented on the state of the offices in the department.

“Walking around [the offices in the School of Humanities and Cultural Studies], it’s like a desert,” Laforse said. 

The solution

According to Stoker, there are roughly 25 to 30 course offerings between the religion, philosophy and classics departments; however, some offerings are different sections of the same course.

The professors and administration at Wright State are aware of the concerns. The SHCS faculty explained a proposed solution to combine the religion, philosophy and classics programs into one major. This combined major, if approved, is projected to begin in the fall of 2024.

If this proposal is approved, those already attending WSU in the religion, philosophy or classics programs will have the option to continue with the current major requirements or switch to the new “RPC” major.

Dr. Valerie Stoker, the assistant chair of the SHCS and a religion professor, explained one advantage of the new possible major.

“One of our hopes is that this combined major does conduce to building a community of like-minded thinkers amongst the student body and people who are interested in these kinds of really important human existential questions,” Stoker said. 

The specifics with a new potential major

This proposed combined major will allow those going for a degree in any of the three programs to meet the requirements with more ease. Currently, a degree in philosophy requires 11 total philosophy courses, while a degree in religion or classics requires 12 total courses. 

According to Stoker, if these three programs combine, majors will only need to take 12 total major-related courses between all three areas.

Students can choose a concentration or go for a general RPC degree. If the student chooses a concentration, a minimum of five courses in the preferred area of study will be required, along with at least two courses in each of the other two areas.