On arguably the busiest weekend on campus, a student group at Elizabethtown College plans to call attention to a rift it says the college created after it announced the elimination of some liberal arts programs and staff.
The Elizabethtown Student Advocacy Group is organizing a “peace walk” Saturday, on Homecoming weekend, starting at noon. A dozen or so students, alumni and community members are expected to walk from Leffler Chapel and Performance Center to the Baugher Student Center.
The event, organizers say, is to open up a dialogue between college administrators and students over budget cuts.
“The community at large is so fractured, and it’s been really hard trying to have a conversation about these budget talks without this weird tension,” said Caitlin Olivas, a senior majoring in political science and philosophy.
In June, then-President Carl Strikwerda announced that Elizabethtown would eliminate its theater and philosophy majors, as well as minors in theater, peace and conflict studies, and film studies. It would also furlough seven faculty and instructional staff members on July 1, 2020, and eliminate seven additional staff positions.
Strikwerda said at the time that deposits for incoming first-year and transfer students had been lower than projected, despite lowering tuition for the 2019-20 school year from $46,940 to $32,000.
The college also announced several new in-demand programs focused on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.
College spokeswoman Keri Straub said in an email the college remains committed to providing students with a “balanced offering of both liberal arts and professional programs.”
“As we’ve shared previously,” she added, “we had to make these difficult decisions and this is a lingering effect of changes made over the summer in order to plan for our College’s long-term sustainability. We are no different than many colleges and universities across the country today, all of which are looking closely at the reallocation of resources.”
Still, Olivas said the college’s actions have “created this atmosphere where STEM students and humanities students are butting heads quite a bit.”
Olivas’ group is asking the college to hire a full-time theater director, a full-time peace and conflict studies advisor, invite students for feedback regarding the school’s future, increase transparency and reaffirm its identity as a liberal arts college.