This summer, Goucher announced that it would be phasing out programs that were not popular among the students, reducing the amount of academic majors from 33 to 25. The process came from a decision by Goucher College’s Board of Trustees, which warned that without a cut to costs, Goucher would face financial trouble. Goucher stresses, however, that the college has maintained its “A-“ credit rating after a “very thorough review” by the Standard and Poors this past summer.
The review process involved a team of 13 faculty members, called the Internal Review Team (IRT), who reviewed student data to come to a conclusion. Some of the data was sourced from “course evaluations” submitted in the past three years, which was then analyzed by the IRT and approved by external reviewers. The result was the discontinuation of eight courses as majors. Classes within these disciplines will still be offered.
Responses to the initiative, called “academic revitalization,” range from unsurprised to outraged. In response, a town hall meeting was assembled between President Bowen, the Board of Trustees, a few faculty members, and students. During the student input section of the meeting, senior Langston Cotman voiced his frustration.
“I think looking at data is different from student input…I have heard ‘majors you want,’ I have heard ‘voting with your feet,’ and now I’m hearing in this next process you want to actually hear our voices. I would have loved if you’d started with that.”
Acting President of Goucher Senate Samuel Anderson agrees that Goucher’s primary mistake was one of communication.
“I think that the academic revitalization process was certainly flawed in many stages of communication. This represents an underlying problem that exists here at Goucher and that students are organizing and advocating change.”
Goucher’s decision to phase out certain programs is not unique. According to the Baltimore Sun, seven Texas universities eliminated their physics programs, while the University of the District of Columbia cut 17 of their own programs, including physics, in recent years.
At the town hall meeting, theater professor Michael Curry spoke about his role in the Internal Review Team.
“Nobody on the faculty chose to do this work, we all knew what it meant, but we also knew that it was extremely important for this to happen for the college to survive.”
The immediate threat to Goucher’s survival was left unclear. All that was said in the meeting was that the Board of Trustees felt it necessary to prioritize programs to avoid raising the cost of tuition beyond inflation adjustments. The students, however, still demand that the process be more transparent.
“We need more in-the-moment relational transparency from the administration about decisions being made, as well as their vision for Goucher,” said a pamphlet handed out by student activist Zoe Gilmore. “We need a mechanism for continued transparency.”