University to allot more funds to humanities

By MaryCate Most

As part of the administration’s Strategic Plan, the University will begin to allot more funds to the humanities, beginning with a 50 percent increase to the Humanities and Arts Scholar Support program, Chancellor Phyllis Wise said.

In the past, this program has given $1,000 to each professor within Humanities and Arts programs, said dean of FAA Ed Feser. This year, each professor will receive $1,500.

Feser said that although most programs at the University saw their budgets cut over the past decade, cuts to Humanities and Arts has an especially large impact.

“The programs that are able to self-generate revenue, those programs tend to naturally succeed on their own,” he said. “Those that are not able to generate revenue — those whose business model doesn’t generate a lot of overhead and doesn’t generate a lot of flexible funding — rely more on the central funds.”

In addition to the extra funding going to professors under the Humanities and Arts Scholar Support program, Wise also said the University is starting to pay more attention to faculty within the colleges of LAS and FAA.

“We know we have to increase faculty salaries, particularly in LAS and FAA, because we know we haven’t paid enough attention to those faculty,” Wise said at the annual meeting of the faculty on Oct. 29.

This year, FAA and LAS will have the opportunity to start hiring more faculty, which had been cut back severely due to budget cuts, Feser said. In past years, FAA has seen an increase in students per faculty member, a problem that they hope to combat with the additional funding, he said.

Curtis Perry, interim associate dean of LAS, said his college would also likely go through a rehiring process this year.

“We have awesome faculty, many at the associate level, and we don’t want them going elsewhere,” Perry said. “That’s the kind of institutional support that most interests me — not letting our talent go elsewhere.”

If salaries stagnate, Perry said he believes the college’s most valuable employees may find other, more lucrative teaching positions. Feser similarly noticed how a lack of funding could create a decrease in the quality of education at the University as a whole.

“If the University doesn’t want to become bi-dimensional, it needs to counter that so that it doesn’t become just a technical university,” Feser said. “I think the University is recognizing that it wants to be fully comprehensive and that even if you are a major in natural sciences or engineering, you need to have access to the kinds of concepts that are taught in humanities.”

The Office of the Provost will also support two more senior faculty hires this year — one in English and one in philosophy, said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler in an email. These hires are essential, not only for humanities majors, but also for every student’s general education.

“They teach crucial and large numbers of general education classes,” Kaler said. “A major factor is providing courses that fill general education requirements and help students achieve a broad liberal arts education, no matter what specific major they choose.”

Feser is hopeful that by offering students outside of FAA — specifically within Engineering — more opportunities to become involved in the arts, the University will be able to increase support and awareness for their programs.

“The other thing we want to do is integrate arts education and learning with engineering education,” Feser said. “This would help students be more creative in the scientific work that they are doing.”

Perry also sees this increase in support for humanities as a way for the University to reinforce the goals of the strategic plan.

“Probably 90 percent of humanities faculty see their work as related to social equality and cultural understanding,” Perry said. “Having that as one of the Visioning Future Excellence themes gives an indication about what the University is thinking about the humanities.”

MaryCate can be reached at [email protected]