Arts faculty hit hardest amid budget cuts

SNU+student+Stephanie+Hall+draws+in+her+dorm+room.

Delany Burk

SNU student Stephanie Hall draws in her dorm room.

Delany Burk

In June of this year, Sierra Nevada University significantly downsized its undergraduate staff, reducing the faculty count by nine. This effectively cut around half of the arts and humanities faculty, leaving some students in those majors confused, and somewhat floundering for support. These budget cuts are part of a trend related to declining enrollment going on throughout the United States; as budgets are reduced, and arts and humanities are seemingly always the first departments to receive these budget cuts.
At Sierra Nevada University these cuts have left students in the arts and humanities departments without their previous advisors, struggling to even take the classes required of their majors due to the canceled classes, and just getting generally confused as to why some of their favorite teachers are suddenly gone.
Stephanie Hall, a sophomore English major, said that one of the firings hit her particularly hard because she had built her schedule around being in at least one class per semester with one particular teacher.
“They fired him, no one knows why they fired him, and the person who took over his class didn’t know how to run it at all. He had no plan, he was completely unprepared, I think they had assigned him to that class two days before the class started,” Hall said.
She says that this class that was supposed to be an English class was passed on to a teacher that was not even an English teacher.
“I just want to know the decision-making process on who to fire, and why specifically it was from the arts and humanities departments,” Hall said.
Many classes have been assigned to new teachers at the last minute due to the cuts. Samuel Michael, a senior creative writing major, says that his teacher for one of his required senior classes was not told that he was teaching the class until a week before the start of the short block.
Michael said he has been going through this semester with virtually no clue how to build his schedule because his advisor was never replaced after the cuts to the English department.
“This is my last semester and I needed my advisor to be there,” he says.
Sarah Murray, a Junior fine arts major, says that half of her department got fired, including the department head, and she is unsure of why.
“We lost our only 2D teacher, and the head of the department,” she said.
Murray says she too lost her advisor and was not given a new one. She also says she was planning on only taking art classes this semester, but the firings didn’t leave her with many to choose from. “I really only had five total options, those five, that is my schedule. It sucks that I didn’t have more than five to chose from,” she said.
She said that the cuts hit the art department harder simply because they are more secluded, and more of a collective, or community environment, than most departments.
Before the firings even happened, people in arts and humanities courses sometimes had to take independent study classes to meet specific requirements for their major determined by the school, depending on which classes were offered each year – options for classes for these departments were already limited due to the limited staff. This trend is common in higher education. This year, more than 50 doctoral programs in humanities and social science have decided not to accept incoming students for Fall of 2021, according to a January article from Bestcolleges.com.