Stony Brook University suspended student admissions into its theater arts, comparative literature and cinema arts departments, and consolidated several language disciplines, in an effort to close a $1.5 million gap in its College of Arts and Sciences funding, university officials said Thursday.
No course changes are planned for the 2017-18 academic year, and students currently enrolled in the suspended programs will have the opportunity to complete their degrees. University officials said fewer than 100 students major or minor in those programs.
“While suspending admissions into programs is an extremely difficult decision, it is important to recognize that if constrained resources were spread over a growing number of programs, all of our programs would be weakened,” said Sacha Kopp, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “That said, we are building resources in key departments that have demonstrated academic and scholarly excellence.”
The cuts to the liberal arts at SBU had become a point of contention, widening the divide between students who say humanities courses are unfairly targeted and the administrators conducting an ongoing review of curriculum and enrollment at the second-largest institution in the state’s public university system.
Last month, during finals week, hundreds of students participated in a campus rally opposing the cuts. They also circulated petitions and launched a social media campaign.
The March for Humanities, organized by the Graduate Student Employees Union, lasted more than two hours, culminating with a sit-in outside of Kopp’s office and chanting in the balcony of the administration building.
Upon hearing the news of the suspended programs, Anna Sitzmann, 28, a philosophy doctoral student who was among the organizers of the protest, said, “That’s extremely disappointing.”
“I can’t say I’m surprised by the move, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the organized resistance to these decisions,” Sitzmann said. “They have only targeted humanities disciplines in these cuts, the reason being that they don’t generate funding. Even if they [university administrators] are only thinking about the budget, they can’t justify these cuts and provide a well-rounded education.”
Students will hold another demonstration against the humanities cuts in August, she said.
Stony Brook has an enrollment of about 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
The university’s total operating budget for 2016-17 was $2.7 billion, according to a spokeswoman.