Humanities program might not be in danger

by Krista Poplau

In light of the dissipation of the humanities program during the past eight years, University students are gathering names for a petition to reinstate the department to full capacity.
For the past two days, a full-page advertisement has appeared in The Minnesota Daily calling for immediate action on behalf of the humanities program. The advertisement, authored by University students, was paid for by the program.
But University administrators question whether or not the program is actually in danger of being eliminated, as the advertisement implies.
College of Liberal Arts Dean Steve Rosenstone said no action has been taken against the humanities program since he took over in 1996.
“There has been a tremendous effort over the years to build the humanities,” he said.
Rosenstone said the number of faculty members teaching humanities courses has increased from 191 in 1996 to its current 227.
The University also created the Humanities Institute in 1998 to promote interdisciplinary teaching in arts and humanities, said institute director Dan Brewer.
Students argue that while humanities has increased in various departments, like Rosenstone said, the actual humanities program has dwindled.
The students who sponsored the advertisement say the program is worth preserving as part of the University’s liberal arts curriculum.
English senior Andrew Wiese said the humanities program takes all CLA’s ideologies and brings them together as a whole. By dividing the humanities into separate departments, such as English Literature and Art History, the standards set by the program get lost in the shuffle.
“It would be a shame to see it end,” Wiese said.
History senior Melissa Vette said she wanted to create more awareness about the humanities program by printing the advertisement.
Both Wiese and Vette agreed the main goal is to reinstate the humanities major and department, which were discontinued in 1992.
Rosenstone said if students want to reinstate a humanities major, they should submit a proposal to the Board of Regents.
“The process for creating a major is not an ad in the Daily,” he said.
Professor George Kliger, director of the humanities program, said the program is in a volatile position because of compounded factors.
“The point is it will die of its own accord,” he said.
Kliger said the current program, which only offers a humanities minor, is hindered by the semester system, which requires more time from faculty members than the quarter system. Volunteer faculty members from other departments who teach humanities courses won’t have enough time to commit to both departments.
Also, Kliger said more students focus on their major requirements because a minor is no longer needed for graduation, making the humanities minor useless.
Currently, only six humanities courses exist. Put together, they create the minor program; separately, they fulfill CLA graduation requirements.
“The only reason the program is surviving is for requirement’s sake,” Kliger said.
He said the student responses from the advertisement will play a key role in reinstating the major.

Krista Poplau welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3221.