Luther College Chips

Is this the end of Liberal Arts at Luther College?

Elizabeth Bonin, A&E Editor

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The Merriam Webster dictionary defines liberal arts as college studies “intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities (such as reason and judgment) as opposed to professional or vocational skills.” Luther College’s mission statement says that “As a liberal arts college, Luther is committed to a way of learning that moves us beyond immediate interests and present knowledge into a larger world — an education that disciplines minds and develops whole persons equipped to understand and confront a changing society.” When I compare the definition of liberal arts and Luther’s mission statement to how the college is changing, I fear that the college is becoming a weaker liberal arts institution.

As a high school senior, I was drawn to Luther because of the variety of classes I could explore. Though I knew I wanted to study English, I was excited to take other courses that intrigued me. I did not have to restrict myself solely to English classes. German quickly became one of my favorite classes. While taking Mass Media, I became fascinated with Communications Studies and added a double major. In Paideia 450 I am exploring the ethics of memory and memorials to aid my critical thinking when examining museums, monuments, and general history. I am also taking Nutrition, which has made me more aware of which foods I am consuming and how much. In addition to my major-required courses, I believe exploring outside my double major has helped me become a critical thinker and more aware of the world around me.

Luther is threatening to cut multiple majors that would weaken our status as a liberal arts school. If German, Russian, and the Chinese program get cut, our student body will be limited in terms of the languages we can choose to take. We are limited to explore fewer cultures. If these languages are cut, who is to say languages as a whole will not be eliminated in the future? Intersections is another area that allows students to widen their world view. Dance allows us to explore the world through physical movement. Athletic training gives students a hands-on opportunity to learn about care and prevention of athletic injuries. Though philosophy is not a proposed major to cut, the department faculty has shrunk significantly. If these majors are cut or severely limited, we will have fewer opportunities to practice critical thinking and expand our worldview.

I understand that enrollment is down and therefore the college is struggling to keep certain majors that don’t attract as many students. Yet majors in the sciences — such as neuroscience and data science — have been added to the curriculum. This is not to discredit the sciences. Those majors are vital to our society. But if Luther is adding to the sciences and cutting from humanities and languages, I wonder just how much Luther actually values a liberal arts education. I realize that Luther brings in a great deal of students who are interested in the sciences, so of course the administration wants to capitalize on that. However, a great deal of students also came to Luther because they wanted to take classes outside their major to challenge themselves. Upon hearing about full department and faculty cuts, students may choose a different liberal arts college with more options. Perhaps investing more money in the sciences and cutting humanities is not the surest way to increase enrollment

As of today, I still consider Luther to be a liberal arts college, though perhaps not the strongest. If administration continues to cut humanities while expanding and investing in the sciences, Luther will cease to be the unique liberal arts college it claims to be. I hope those who truly value a liberal arts education will reevaluate options to aid finances and enrollment.

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