Editor’s Note: On Nov. 5, the campus community received an email from Provost Christopher Duncan, Ph.D., announcing that due to” efforts to achieve financial sustainability a number of areas in the academic program at Wittenberg are being explored for resizing and reshaping. Still others are being considered by the Educational Policies Committee (EPC) for possible discontinuance.” Open forums were to be held to “solicit comments from members of the campus community.”
This story is part of a series of online-exclusive coverage of each open forum as they occur.
The Open Forum for the Music Department in Ness Auditorium began late on Thursday because extra chairs had to be brought in.
It was standing room only as students and faculty in support of the Music department focused on the role of music in a Lutheran liberal arts education in front of the Educational Policies Committee. It was the first of six to be held in the coming weeks as the EPC investigates departments singled out for discontinuance.
Provost Chris Duncan clarified that in the worst case scenario, the discontinuance of the Music Department would mean the end of music degrees and faculty. In the best case scenario, Duncan said something still had to be done.
Referring to the state of the department in previous years, Duncan said, “Given the situation financially speaking, it is unlikely to continue in that form.”
Corwin Georges, Chair of the Music Department, said that more than just making music, the department focuses on the study of music.
“My heavens, don’t we believe in rigor? More than just doing something, don’t we want to study it?” he asked.
Students and faculty alike, both from within the Music Department and those involved in music stood to offer their opinions. Junior Nathan Mawhirter appealed to the sense of music tradition at Wittenberg. Dylan George, also a junior, noted that the Wittenberg Choir serves as an ambassador to the community by performing in local churches and retirement homes. Olga Medvedkov, a professor of Geography, attested to the ability for music to speak across languages and curricula.
Freshman Brad Hall said he simply couldn’t watch the music department die. “If music goes, I go,” he said.
Dr. Pete Hanson, Chair of the EPC, explained that the reason that the department was on the list for possible discontinuance was the aging facilities.
According to Hanson, the funding for new buildings is nonexistent and Wittenberg would have to reallocate money from another source.
“We don’t have enough money to do what is good and noble and right,” Duncan added, “we only have the resources to do a few good things.”
Many stated concern that the reaction to financial trouble was discontinuance and not downsizing. Tom Taylor of the History department and member of the EPC replied by explaining that there are two separate processes and that downsizing will be happening in addition to discontinuance.
Junior Dorri Jones mentioned that the Wittenberg Choir has the second largest alumni base of any extracurricular activity and they may be a good source for bringing in revenue.
Duncan responded by saying that music wouldn’t disappear from campus, but would be relegated to an extracurricular activity.
At the end of the hour, Hanson wrapped up the forum by asking students and staff to keep in touch. “This is not the end,” he said, “your perspectives are incredibly useful to us.”
Students and faculty can respond in writing to the EPC by going to http://www5.wittenberg.edu/administration/provost/epcfeedback.