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Marymount University plans to cut several liberal arts majors

The university said its mission is unchanged and they would continue to offer classes in the areas being cut, as part of its core curriculum.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Concerns are growing at Marymount University in Arlington after the school proposed cutting nine majors and one graduate program.

The cut includes bachelor's degrees in theology and religious studies, philosophy, mathematics, art, history, sociology, English, economics, and secondary education, as well as a master's program in English and the humanities, according to a letter from the school. 

A spokesperson for Marymount University said the proposed cuts do not indicate a change in the school's mission, noting the university will  "continue to prepare students for in-demand careers" and offer them an education grounded in the liberal arts. The university plans to reallocate resources from those programs to others that could better serve their students and reflect their interests. 

"As Marymount assesses the evolving higher education landscape, we are called to constantly refine our offerings and approach," the school wrote in a statement. "While these specific changes are not financially driven, they will provide the University the opportunity to redeploy resources to better serve students and areas of growth." 

The university also noted the decision to cut degrees and programs was due to consistently low enrollment numbers and graduation rates, and not for financial reasons. 

However, many students, faculty and alumni are expressing frustration and concern about the proposed changes. 

An online petition on Change.org calling for the Board of Directors to save the humanities major has received more than 1,800 signatures.

"I was shocked because I couldn't see any reason that made sense to eliminate these programs," Dr. Holly Karapetkova, professor of literature and languages, said. "This seems like the wrong moment in our history to start cutting liberal arts and humanities. The lack of diversity of majors on campus leads to less diversity and thought. Having humanities majors, and art majors, and math majors, even if it's a small number, adds tremendously to the wealth of our community."

"My liberal arts degree equipped me for the corporate sector and made me a better citizen," Mike De Robbio added." Any attempt to eliminate these programs is entirely misguided—not to mention that these programs have profitability and high student approval. Dr. Becerra’s elimination of these programs is an affront to the Catholic Church’s impact on the University model. I recommend that the Board of Trustees vote down her plans, and then vote to remove her and search for new leadership. The brand—and future-of the university is at stake."

Director of the School of Humanities Dr. Ariane Economos said faculty proposed an alternative plan that would have combined classes and avoided major cuts, but claimed it was turned down by the president. 

"What does this do to our identity and mission as a university?" Economos questioned. "If we're taking it in a new direction, what is that new direction? We haven't been told what it is. Would we still be a comprehensive Catholic university if we cut theology, English, and math?"

In a statement sent to WUSA9 by email, Marymount said it was  "making changes to better position the university for long-term growth and success," and they feel it's their responsibility to prepare students for highly sought-after jobs.

Students currently in these majors are not affected and their required coursework will be provided as they complete their degrees. 

In a report shared to WUSA9, roughly 90 students would be affected. About 95% of them said they would choose a different university if their major was no longer offered. 

The subjects that would no longer be offered as majors will remain part of Marymount's core curriculum, according to the university, meaning professors keep their jobs for now. 

Students who may not even be in the impacted programs say there is a bigger concern among classmates.

"I would hate to see us lose these important majors." student Grace Kapacs said. "That is the whole foundation for our school. Our school is built on liberal arts so why are we taking it away? Are we going to close? Is my major next?"

Kapacs is helping organize sit-ins as a form of protest on Thursday and Friday when school officials are scheduled to discuss the proposed cuts. A committee will review the proposal on Thursday, and depending on the outcome, the Board of Trustees will take up a vote on Friday. 

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