Midland board affirms fine arts cuts

2006-12-11T18:00:00Z Midland board affirms fine arts cutsMELISSA LEE / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
December 11, 2006 6:00 pm  • 

In the face of significant campus protest, the Midland Lutheran College Board of Trustees moved forward Tuesday with plans to cut two fine arts majors and merge a third with another department.

Midland’s music and theater majors and minors would be cut under a board proposal affirmed late Tuesday. Journalism would continue, but it would merge with English to create a dual major.

Those moves would cost six full-time Midland faculty their jobs, a prospect that’s angered the Fremont campus of 932 students and 60 faculty.

In recent weeks, students staged a mock funeral for the fine arts and met with outgoing Midland President Steve Titus to protest the proposals. And Midland faculty on Friday narrowly voted to hand Titus a vote of no confidence, calling for his immediate ousting.

All that had the campus hoping the Board of Trustees would return to the drawing board as the college seeks to cut $1 million from its operating budget, senior Jonathan Hamner said.

Instead, students are planning Christmas-break meetings to discuss ways to save the fine arts, Hamner said.

“We are very surprised (at the board’s decision),” said Hamner, a religion/philosophy and youth and family ministry double major from Grand Island.

“When the entire faculty has voted no confidence, when the students have made their voices heard … Clearly the Board of Trustees did not listen to our voices.”

Board Chairman Sid Dillon Jr. disagreed.

Any student or faculty member can voice an opinion to Richard Green, dean of the college, who in turn relays messages to the trustees, Dillon said.

And the board takes all messages seriously, he said.

“(Students and faculty) are supposed to be working with (Green),” he said. “If a few people feel like they’re not being heard, they’re not taking the initiative.”

Music and theater are being targeted because of low enrollment, Dillon said. But he added no final decisions on academic cuts will be made until next spring.

That allows the campus time to brainstorm other ways Midland’s budget could be reduced, said faculty senate chairman Jim Tremain.

“We’re asking for more time,” said Tremain, a psychology professor and 32-year veteran at Midland. “We’re asking for more ideas.”

Campus morale is low, Tremain said, with many faculty concerned about the leadership Titus will provide before he steps down in May.

“There’s fear. (Titus) is retiring, but we’re making some pretty big decisions before then,” Tremain said.

But the Board of Trustees gave Titus its full support.

“We really have confidence in President Titus and the entire leadership team,” Dillon said. “We want to work together to build a good future.”

Sophomore Sara Whaley is concerned about her own future.

Whaley, a journalism major from Whitehouse, Ohio, called the proposal to merge journalism and English “unreasonable.”

“When you write a story for journalism class, it is different than writing a term paper,” said Whaley, who also has music scholarships and plays in two campus bands.

“That’s why there’s a distinction in the first place.”

The board’s announcement left her worried about her career path.

Her mood?

“Just peachy.”

Reach Melissa Lee at 473-2682 or mlee@journalstar.com.

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