PSU: Stop the cuts, save the programs

Penn State Altoona is facing a devastating 10% cut to the campus operating budget. These cuts will eviscerate the integrative arts program by removing faculty and cutting classes that can be taught next year.

These cuts also make live performances impossible with the loss of technical faculty and staff. The administration is also cutting faculty in Arabic, Korean, Russian, music, theater and communications and is intending to close majors in math, science, political science and integrative arts.

Losing these faculty and programs hamstrings Penn State’s ability to provide well-rounded arts and liberal arts education to students in Pennsylvania.

These cuts run counter to the mission of the university to serve members of the commonwealth, and specifically, to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion. A review of the integrative arts program shows that nearly 40% of students are Black, indigenous and of color. Twenty percent are members of the LBGTQ+ community.

The three languages eliminated encompass all non-European languages currently offered.

What’s more, these cuts threaten Altoona’s small businesses, and women small business owners in particular, as dance studios that Altoona alumni have opened will lose their connection to campus programs.

Why is the Penn State administration cutting these important programs?

We can rule out financial necessity. These cuts are not necessary to the financial well-being of Penn State. Penn State’s multi-billion dollar reserve — that stood at $5 billion in 2021 as reported in audited financial statements — can more than cover any loss in revenue at a campus or in programs that are so central to Penn State’s mission.

Penn State regularly brings in more money than we spend, as we did in 2021, with operating revenue topping operating expenses by half a billion dollars. Our stellar credit ratings reflect our financial strength, (Aa1 from Moody’s and AA from S&P, the second highest on both ratings systems).

The Penn State administration should be proud of our excellent financial stability. Our financial strength fortifies our mission to “promote human and economic development” and to support its “application” in “arts and humanities, and myriad professions,” as our strategic plan states.

If we “embrace diversity and sustainability,” why cut our arts and liberal arts programs and render our performance buildings — including a new dance studio — obsolete?

Faculty and students have not asked for these cuts and were not consulted.

Provost Nick Jones told faculty senators at an April 26 meeting that enrollment woes were to blame for the Altoona cuts. But the administration has also celebrated the uptick in enrollment of under-represented Black, Indigenous, Latinx and first-time undergraduates for the third year in a row. We cannot have it both ways at Penn State by cutting programs that attract under-represented students while continuing to recruit and retain them. These diversity-threatening cuts are being proposed, mind you, at the same time Penn State proudly reports that enrollment in the Penn State is holding steady and outpacing the national average.

These cuts run counter to the diversity, respect and community that define Penn State’s core institutional values. These cuts threaten the very foundation of Penn State’s mission and strategic plan.

These cuts threaten the very vitality that makes Altoona an excellent campus and an excellent choice for students in the commonwealth. Penn State Altoona’s vitality enriches the community of Altoona. Let’s support that.

Therefore, we ask the university to reverse these harmful cuts.

I hope you will join me and the over 500 people who have signed the petition asking the Penn State administration and board of trustees to Stop the Cuts, Save the Arts and Save the Liberal Arts. We ARE one Penn State. … Aren’t we?

Michelle Rodino-Colocino is a contributor to Stop the Cuts and is an associate professor of media studies and women’s gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State, University Park.


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