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Students respond to prioritization with mixed feelings

Some 50 students are having a hard time adjusting to prioritization. While their counterparts are grateful to graduate before the three to five year effect projection, these students’ majors and their expectations for the future are in the balance.

Prioritization was a two year self-study by the university to cut $2.2 million in campus-wide spending. Two committees were formed to review reports submitted by each department, program or unit of the university and make recommendations to the university Cabinet.

On April 29, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Kerry Fulcher announced via email that prioritization would re-house the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and remove four majors: Theatre, Fashion and Interiors, Romance Languages and Philosophy-Theology, by 2018.

The email further said that other majors will be re-housed, including dietetics, nutrition and food majors, and other courses within majors will be condensed or combined to cut costs. Fulcher said fewer than 50 students would be affected by this change.

For sophomore theatre major Katie Emma Filby, she’s concerned that her college choice will affect her ability to get a job after college.

“Had I known that my university would cut my program at the end of my freshman year, I never would have attended Point Loma to begin with,” Filby said via email. “I do not regret my decision; however, I would greatly appreciate attending a liberal arts university where all faculty value the arts, not just the arts professors.”

Realizing that her junior year will be the first year theatre majors are not admitted to PLNU, she can’t help but thank the professors who changed her life, who are the “most theatrical, accomplished, wildly knowledgeable and beautifully loving people” Filby’s ever met, she said.

“The concept that these professors, who are quite frankly too good for Point Loma, will no longer have committed students to impassion is a disgrace to our school,” she said.

Samantha Peterson, another sophomore theatre major, shared Filby’s sentiment, saying that she too would not have attended PLNU if she had known about prioritization.

“I owe nothing to Point Loma, and all of it to the Salomon Theatre family. I feel very little love directly for PLNU because it is now exceedingly clear that it is a hostile environment to the arts,” Peterson said via email.

Peterson will not attend PLNU next year due to financial struggles, but she sees that as a blessing in disguise. For her, this decision shows where PLNU’s priorities lie.

“God is giving me a way out of this inhospitable environment by taking away my option to continue attending a school where my individual education is not valued in the slightest. To Point Loma, I am worth less than a science major,” she said via email. The italics are hers.

Senior Madison White, a fashion merchandising major, said she’s thankful prioritization hasn’t affected her major classes, but it will affect her future investment in PLNU.

“I think it will be frustrating in the future to refer to my program & major (Fashion Merchandising) for credibility when neither will be an active part of the school,” White said via email. “Although I will have my degree in Fashion Merchandising, it is sad that I cannot come back and invest in a program that has been growing and has had major career success.”

White said she thinks this process will slowly change the dynamics of the program and will keep future students from learning about the strides taken to get the program where it is, connecting with other departments nationwide.

“The announcement of prioritization came as a shock and was frustrating in a time when I saw our department and my major expanding,” White said. “I wish that the students had more in a say in the future of this department instead of it being a surprise. As the President of the Family and Consumer Sciences Honor Society, Phi Upsilon Omicron, It is sad to see the department go.”

Senior Emily Strannigan will also be gone by the time the changes take place, but it’s still an adjustment.

“It’s weird to think that dietetics won’t be an FCS major anymore and that the years after me will have a new home,” Strannigan said via email.

The English Ed concentration to the Literature major had its only fieldwork class removed this year. English professors Phil Bowles and Edie Chapman taught the subject-specific methods course, Methods of Teaching English, for a combined 33 years. Chapman left the school this year after teaching the course for three years. Now, students will simply take a generic methods course or language arts-related course in the School of Education.

“Research has shown that teachers in training need a subject-matter methods course rather than just a course about how to teach in high school,” Bowles said. “My understanding is that the law now requires us to train students in each specific discipline in which they will hold a subject matter competency certificate.”

Two students affected by this change are seniors Chelsie Oren and Kendra Pittam.

Oren was promised she would be placed in a classroom setting prior to starting her credential and receive hands-on experience. She was informed two months before the start of her senior year that the class was cancelled due to low enrollment.

“It doesn’t mean that I can’t do it on my own, but I was supposed to get credit, I was supposed to get guidance, I was supposed to get teaching and all of that is gone.” Oren said.

Pittam tried to remedy the situation, but was turned away from education professors because the classes were already full. She is thankful for the professors who have helped her fill her schedule this semester, but is disappointed because she can’t take an education course before she graduates.

“I wish that the school would have notified me of the cancellation earlier; then I wouldn’t have had as much trouble finding a class to match my unit requirement so that I can graduate on time,” Pittam said via text. “I am very disappointed in the lack of professionalism displayed by the school in canceling the class and making it so difficult to register for a replacement course.”

Now, Oren doesn’t know what she’ll decide to do to fill the credit, just that she doesn’t know who to even be angry at for this quick decision and lack of preparation.

“I don’t even know who I’m mad at because it’s not my department, it’s not my adviser,– I don’t know who to get mad at honestly,” Oren said. “It was completely just pulling the rug out from underneath us.”

Read the faculty and staff perspective here.