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One of oldest women’s studies departments in U.S. on chopping block

Low enrollment, student demand cited in Wichita State program

Wichita State University is closing its women’s studies department, one of the oldest in the country, due to continuously low student interest.

The Department of Women, Ethnicity, and Intersectional Studies will be dissolved and its degree program will be merged with the English Department, according to an action plan approved earlier this month by the Kansas Board of Regents.

“As part of the Board’s academic program review process, this year the six state universities in Kansas collectively looked at 31 programs that didn’t meet at least three of four metrics related to enrollment, graduation, employment and earnings,” regents spokesperson Matt Keith said.

Keith told The College Fix in a recent email the women’s studies department was one of five that Wichita State identified in the review. He said the merger will “maintain the program but reduce administrative costs.”

University spokesperson Lainie Mazzullo-Hart told The Fix in a recent email that, with the merger, “students with an interest in this academic area would still be able to pursue those interests at WSU.”

The action plan states the merger with the English Department “will ensure students’ interest in this area of study will remain a priority and students are afforded continued opportunities for in-depth study of the discipline through the field major … or as a minor.”

MORE: Alabama college offers $75,000 in trade scholarships to women only

Wichita State began its women’s studies program in 1971, according to The Sunflower, the university student newspaper. It is “one of the longest-standing, degree-granting, autonomous Women’s Studies departments in the country,” according to the department website.

Since 2020, the university has been working to address “low enrollment, student demand, and degree production trends” in the department, according to its action plan.

The employment rate and the Student ROI, or median salary five years after graduation, met university metrics, according to the report. However, student demand and degree production did not.

Over the past four years, the department increased course offerings and made other changes to reverse “the downward direction of enrollment numbers,” the action plan stated.

However, these efforts did not result “in an increase of [department] majors and in turn has not increased degree production,” according to the plan.

The Fix contacted Department Chair Robin Henry for comment twice this month by email, asking about the program’s numbers in the last five years and job rates, as well as the need for women’s studies programs. She did not respond.

Inez Stepman, senior policy and legal analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum, said programs like Wichita State’s that “exclusively focused on racial or sexual grievances” have come under more public scrutiny lately.

“[W]e’re likely going to see bureaucratic maneuvering and relabeling of these programs in universities to keep them from any potential investigations or budget cuts,” Stepman told The Fix in a recent email.

“Some of these programs,” she said, “are already unpopular as a pragmatic matter, but I would caution against thinking that they’re ‘useless’ or that graduates of women’s studies or similar programs will be on the unemployment line after graduation.”

“There is a multi-billion dollar DEI industry both in the public and private sectors that provide ample opportunity for lucrative employment for what amounts to preferred ideological classes and enforcers of regime pieties,” Stepman told The Fix.

Meanwhile, Wichita State is expanding other educational areas where there are high job demands, including its physical therapy program, The Sunflower reports.

MORE: University of Utah will close women’s, LGBT centers to comply with DEI ban

IMAGE: Wichita State University/Facebook

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Samantha Swenson is a graduate of Liberty University where she received a BS in law and policy: pre-law. She is attending Widener University Commonwealth Law School in pursuit of a juris doctorate beginning in the fall of 2024.