I am distressed by virtually every proposed element of the West Virginia University “Academic Transformation” as announced by the University on August 11. These proposals include the elimination of the MS and PhD Mathematics programs; the discontinuation of all World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics programs; the elimination of the MFA Creative Writing course; and many more harmful cuts and reductions across faculties.
I understand that the cuts proposed may not be the changes that are ultimately made (or not made). However, I am troubled – no, alarmed – that these departments and programs represent the administration’s starting point. Indeed, it raises the question: if this is where you are beginning, then where will you eventually finish? How many letters will be removed from STEM? How much will the worldview of students shrink as their access to foreign languages and cultures is reduced?
I am a native West Virginian and Appalachian, and the first member of my family to go to college straight out of high school. West Virginia University was the site of my cultural, philosophical, and intellectual awakening. This awakening would later give me the confidence to migrate to Australia and immerse myself in another culture (indeed, to find my place in that culture). It would also see me pursue an MBA and PhD; see me dedicate myself to a thoughtful life of intention and purpose. In short, it made me a better and more worthwhile person; a person capable of critically participating in a democratic society.
A significant component of this awakening was my participation in the Pride of West Virginia Marching Band for all four years of my time in Morgantown. Many of my friends in the band studied within the fields that will be most affected by your proposed cuts. Being amongst such a diverse cross section of ideas meaningfully contributed to my education. Your proposed cuts will reduce this diversity. Further, cuts to the Music Department (as have been proposed) might eventually put the existence of the Marching Band itself – a singularly important point of pride for the University and state – in jeopardy.
Appalachia is known for, if not defined by, its unique and insular culture. However, the latter point need not be a component of Appalachian identity at all. Through many generations, Appalachians have become insular as a response to the relentless attempts of external agents to act upon Appalachians without their consent (let alone their input). Your proposed cuts are only the most recent example of Appalachians being acted upon by those who manifestly do not have their best interests at heart; those who are not acting in good faith. That you are doing so from the helm of West Virginia’s flagship university is the rubbing of salt into a generational wound deeper than any coal mine.
The proposed cuts that have been outlined must be reconsidered in line with the mission of the University. I urge you to do so with input from the entire WVU community. West Virginia University is the front door to the world for its students – please do not close it.
Dr Greg Joachim
Class of 2006 (BS Econ)