The American Council of Learned Societies, backed by dozens of its member Societies including AFS, has published a statement admonishing leaders at West Virginia University for large program cuts that will destroy broad access to knowledge across disciplines and interdisciplinary areas.
The statement takes aim at the short-sighted view that higher education reform rhetoric focusing on “degrees that lead to jobs” overlook the value of education and research across a range of fields. A 2021 Association of American Colleges and Universities report that surveyed executives from a wide range of industries including technology, finance, and manufacturing revealed, in fact, that employers value liberal arts education.
ACLS leaders wrote: “By proposing major cuts in its undergraduate and graduate programs, including engineering, environmental planning, languages other than English, law, linguistics, mathematics, music, public administration, and theater, the university is denying its students and the people of West Virginia access to the wide range of knowledge necessary to fulfill that mission. The path WVU is treading is unprecedented for a public flagship and dangerous for American higher education and society.”
Interdisciplinary education that includes fields in the humanities and interpretive social sciences is not only marketable, it creates a stronger and more connected citizenry. “The value of study that deepens our understanding beyond the immediate interests of the market has been celebrated by Americans as different as George Washington, who as president advised Congress to invest in “science and literature,” and W.E.B. DuBois, who argued in 1902 that universities must educate for a world larger than the workplace…. DuBois saw efforts to reduce the goal of education to “material advancement” as a sinister bid to “dull the ambition and sicken the hearts of struggling human beings.”
“The gutting of our nation’s public universities must stop. We and many others are ready to help.”
Read the full statement published by ACLS, Fighting for an Ambitious Vision of Public Higher Education in America, that advocates for a broad vision for higher education at West Virginia University benefitting West Virginians and the public good.
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