Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Chronicle and a death foretold?

There's a story about the curricular changes going on at VMI in today's Chronicle of Higher Education. (I don't know whether that link works, but I hope it does. The story is behind a paywall, but a friend of mine linked to it on Facebook and I was able to read the whole thing there.)

Here's the part that is freely available:

Virginia Military Institute Considers Limiting How Many Students Can Choose Popular Majors

Virginia Military Institute Considers Controversial Plan to Limit How Many Students Can Choose Popular Majors 1
Virginia Military Institute
R. Wane Schneiter, deputy superintendent for academics and dean of the faculty at VMI, says "uneven enrollment distribution strains resources for the larger majors and underutilizes resources for the smaller ones and prevents effective resource planning."

The dean of the Virginia Military Institute has put forward a controversial and unusual plan that could prevent students from choosing popular academic majors so that the institute can equalize faculty workloads and spread out its 1,500 students more evenly across disciplines. The plan has upset some professors, including one who called it "academic socialism." 

It's a slightly strange story, emphasizing a proposed cap on the number of students who can major in each available subject rather than the prospect of eliminating the BA in Psychology, eliminating the major in English literature (and replacing it with a major in writing and speech), or the alleged fear of tenured faculty members to speak out, which it mentions at the very end. My understanding is that the cap on majors is not likely to make a big difference in practice, although I also think that how, and whether, it works remains to be seen. Interesting to see how what goes on here is perceived by the outside world.

Oh, and to explain my title: there are rumors that all this means the death of English literature at VMI. Of course it doesn't mean that. Only that the study of such literature will no longer be a substantial part of any major here. What part it will have in the curriculum is yet to be determined.

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