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Letter to the Editor

02/02/2011

Dropping Majors? The Wrong Way to Go

Everybody has heard about the cuts they’re making to Bemidji State’s education.  Professors are forced to quit, majors are dropped and subsequently students are booted out the door — usually having wasted several thousand dollars on credits that won’t transfer.  And for a while there was that mysterious “and one other major to be announced at a later time” that kept everyone on their toes with fingers crossed, hoping they wouldn’t be next.

Last Monday started out normal for the students in the Theatre department, not a single one of them aware of what was coming.  As far as they understood it, Theatre was on the ‘safe list’ and wouldn’t be considered during the cuts because of the relatively high number of majors and minors to only two faculty members.  Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.

The majority of Theatre students had just returned from a week-long convention in Iowa, the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF).  Four students were nominated for the coveted Irene Ryan Scholarship, competing with 388 others.  Two of our students made it to the semi-finals and one, Jessie Ladig, was awarded Best Classical Actor.  Spirits were high as the students returned, having just proved that BSU’s Theatre department was turning out students that were as good, if not better than larger universities.

The Directing class at the end of the day on Monday went business as usual while everybody got back into the swing of things.  But as the class ended, Dr. Patrick Carriere shocked the class with a new revelation: Theatre was being cut.  2011-2012 would be the last year and only juniors and seniors would be allowed to finish the education they started.

There was silence for a moment as the students tried to comprehend what was just said.  Then suddenly a flurry of activity and noise as the professor was bombarded with questions.  The most important one was, “Why?”

It was an emotional moment for everybody.  Students in the Theatre department are close, best friends with everybody because of the nature of the work they have to do.  After learning that they would have to abandon the school they loved, the friends they’d made and the work they did, several started to cry.

But there was a question left unanswered. Why? Why was the Theatre department cut?  Not that it’s more important than any other major on campus, but was there absolutely nothing that the school could trim away before they started in on education?  Without Art or Theatre, BSU is going to be losing an integral part of the culture on campus and the Bemidji community will be suffering as well.

No more University Theatre productions.  No more Responsible Men, Responsible Women skits to teach freshmen about drugs and sex.  No more Theatre Unlimited productions or events.  What will the future of the Madrigal Dinners be without theatre students writing or acting in the Masque?  How about community theatre, when there are no more college-aged students to perform during the school year?  And the part that bothers me the most: What’s going to happen to the science or business majors who have always wanted to perform and audition for the shows, even though that wasn’t what they wanted for a career?

I believe that our administration has made a huge mistake in cutting Theatre and Art from our campus.  But the biggest problem is that there is nobody right here that we can complain to.  Sure, President Hanson told everybody about the decision, but the simple fact remains that there is no money.  President Hanson didn’t sit in a high-backed armchair with henchmen guarding the door and a purring cat in his lap, telling the Minnesota legislature that he wanted them to shrink BSU’s budget this year.  He was called in to help figure out how to reallocate the funds we have left to make up for the fact that MnSCU and Minnesota are short changing their students.

I want to know where all that money is going.  Tuition is getting higher and higher, enrollment is actually up and somehow we’re losing money?  Someone is taking that money that we students pay in order to get a good education and putting it somewhere else.  We need to start getting mad.  We need to start demanding to know what’s happening to our money.  We need to write letters, make phone calls, we need to march down to Minneapolis and get in the faces of the people taking our money, not Hanson.

Nobody is safe.  Theatre and Art weren’t.  You aren’t, and neither are your friends. You might think that your major has enough students and won’t be on the chopping block, but are you absolutely sure?  We need to stop all cuts to education because you might be next.

 

Kirsten Wade