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Catholic university to ax theology, religious studies, economics programs

‘If they want to change the mission, then say that,’ philosophy professor said

A Catholic college is poised to cut 10 liberal arts majors and programs, including theology, religious studies, economics, philosophy and history.

Marymount University in Arlington, Va., has put the programs on the chopping block due to a “lack of potential for growth,” according to a plan submitted by university President Irma Becerra to the school’s board of trustees, Fox News Digital reported, which reviewed the document but did not provide a link.

“Over the long term, it would be irresponsible to sustain majors [and] programs with consistently low enrollment, low graduation rates, and lack of potential for growth,” Becerra stated, according to Fox. “Recommendations and decisions on programs marked for elimination are based on clear evidence of student choices and behavior over time.”

“Marymount will reallocate resources from those programs to others that better serve our students and reflect their interests,” a Marymount spokesperson told Fox News Digital on Monday.

The board will make the final decision regarding the cuts on Thursday, according to Fox.

President Becerra rejected faculty recommendations to keep most of the majors

“The university’s Academic Policy, Budget, and Planning Committee — whose members include two faculty members from each of its three colleges, the dean of each college, and other administrators — first proposed eliminating the nine majors,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reported Feb. 17.

However, many faculty members said the president’s proposed cuts raise doubts about the university’s commitment to the liberal arts, according to The Chronicle. 

Becerra (left) had rejected recommendations from the faculty council to keep seven of the struggling liberal arts majors and modify six, The Chronicle reported. The Faculty Council voted 88 to 49 with seven abstentions to keep seven of the majors.

“True to our mission, all university programs will continue to be grounded in the liberal arts and focused on the education of the whole person,” Becerra wrote in the plan, according to The Chronicle. However, “MU cannot financially sustain offering majors with consistently low enrollment [and] low graduation rates.”

If the cuts are finalized, the programs will be phased out, so current majors will be able to take sufficient courses to graduate, The Chronicle reported.

Faculty, alumni say cuts would constitute negative change to school’s ‘mission’

“The elimination of these programs will harm Marymount’s mission,” according to an online petition started by “Concerned MU Alumni” and signed by more than 1,960 as of Feb. 22.

“Without these traditional majors, many of which are part of and the foundation of a university, Marymount’s decision not only goes against its very mission but also devalues the impact that these programs have had on shaping and guiding the careers of their alumni.”

According to the “Our Mission” section on the school’s website, “Marymount is a comprehensive Catholic university, guided by the traditions of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, that emphasizes intellectual curiosity, service to others, and a global perspective.”

“A Marymount education is grounded in the liberal arts, promotes career preparation, and provides opportunities for personal and professional growth,” it states.

“If they want to change the mission, then say that and say what that change is,” Marymount philosophy Professor Ariane Economos told The Chronicle. “But getting rid of theology and religious studies at a Catholic university, that doesn’t fit with the mission.”

MORE: Liberal Catholic university slashes jobs as enrollment and revenues drop

IMAGES: U.S.News & World Report (MAIN); Marymount University (DETAIL)

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