Students, professors and alumni petition to keep the arts programs at UNL
On Sept. 3, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green sent out an email to all university students and staff that detailed the proposed budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal of $22.56 million in reductions includes:
-Faculty positions (including filled/vacant positions and expected gradual reduction)
-Staff positions (including filled/vacant positions and expected general reduction)
-Voluntary full-time employment reduction and moves to non-state aided funding
-Reduction in University Libraries content and collections
-Graduate student and student worker budget
-Elimination of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design that is housed within the College of Education and Human Sciences, both the undergraduate and graduate programs.
-Elimination of the undergraduate dance program within the Glenn Korff School of Music in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.
-Elimination of the Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management program within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. There is a Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management program within the College of Education and Human Sciences, which will continue.
-The Intercollegiate Athletics Administration specialization within the Master of Arts in the College of Business will be temporarily discontinued.
Despite there being multiple proposed cuts, the loss of both the dance and TMFD programs has sparked outreach from the students within the programs and supporters of the arts programs.
“The dance program itself was not informed before everyone else was. We found out with the rest of the UNL population which kind of sucked,” said Vanessa Reiser, a senior biology major and dance minor from La Vista. “I would say I was very sad and then angry really quick, just because we were not warned beforehand that it was going to happen.”
The cutting of arts programs is something being seen across the nation, not just at UNL. With UNL cutting its dance program specifically, it leaves no other college or university in Nebraska where a student can major in dance. At the University of Nebraska-Kearney and Creighton, a student can minor in dance, however. This also leaves Nebraska as the only BIG Ten school without a dance program, which will force students interested in this area of study to go elsewhere for their secondary education.
“I think it is not surprising. It sucks, but it’s not surprising because even out of all of the fine arts, dance seems to go first. I don’t know why that is,” Reiser said.
The Academic Planning Committee will be holding hearings on the proposals in September and October. The planning committee is a university-wide group that consists of a variety of faculty, staff and students that are responsible for formulating and recommending academic and planning goals for UNL. It is a chance to let the campus community engage and voice any concerns. In November, the committee will make its final decision on the cuts.
The proposed cuts do not affect the current students as they will get to finish their degrees. This means that once the UNL class of 2024 are seniors, they will be the only students in that degree.
“Throughout my time at UNL, the College of Education and Human Sciences and fashion merchandising have been the best part of my college experience as far as classes go,” said Samantha Sogge, a senior TMFD major from Eagan, Minnesota. “I feel like the professors care about me as a person and cared to get to know me and go out of their way for me. That is how a lot of arts departments are.”
A petition was launched to show support for the loss of the program and the arts in Nebraska. The petition has a little over 5,600 signatures from students, professors, alumni and other supporters.
A decrease in interest in these programs has been seen across the country as arts programs are continually cut.
“I think the arts students are strong willed enough that we’ll come back and fight back,” said Leyten Morley, a junior children, youth, and family studies major and dance minor from Lincoln, Nebraska. “I think with our generation and as generations continue that people are finding the arts more and more important….I hope that people will see the importance of the arts and sign petitions and help us out. I hope that it comes to light and people fight back.”
October 16, 2020 Update:
Through mass amounts of support for the UNL dance program, the program is no longer being cut. The program will now be funded each year through a $180,000 fund coming from the re-alignment of endowments from the Christina M. Hixson and Lied Foundation Trust, created in 2000, through the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. The Friends of Dance group is also committed to raising $50,000 annually to support the dance program.
Students, faculty and alumni are still petitioning for the continuation of the Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design program through the College of Education and Human Sciences. As of Oct. 14, there were about 70 people to speak against the cutting of the program at the Academic Planning Committee hearing for the proposed budget cuts made by Chancellor Ronnie Green. Results for the decision of this program are not yet publicized.