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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Capping majors inhibits academia

    What happened to encouraging students to consider all their options? Students shouldn’t be told they can’t declare a certain major merely because 200 other people are already studying it.

    And yet, in a memo anonymously emailed to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the dean at the Virginia Military Institute proposed an unusual plan to limit the number of students in certain “popular” majors. By forcing students to major in other fields, he hopes to level the distribution of students across disciplines and equalize the workload of faculty members.

    “This uneven enrollment distribution strains resources for the larger majors and underutilizes resources for the smaller ones and prevents effective resource planning,” said Brig. Gen. R. Wane Schneiter, deputy superintendent for academics and dean of the faculty at VMI in the memo. “In the smaller majors, faculty workloads are relatively light, class sizes are small. … The opposite may be true of the larger majors.”

    Schneiter’s plan would tie admission to academic majors, so that an applicant’s chance of admission would be higher if they planned to pursue a less-popular major. Students would be able to transfer to another major after they were admitted, but only if the new major had fewer than 200 students enrolled.

    The institute, a four-year public military college, offers 14 academic majors. The seven most-popular majors account for 83 percent of students. The remaining 17 percent study the school’s seven least-popular majors.

    Putting a cap on the number of students per major makes some sense, but it’s the principle of the matter.

    In an interview with The Chronicle, an unnamed senior professor at VMI explained students’ interests evolve, especially at a liberal-arts college like the Institute. According to an anonymous email to The Chronicle, some VMI faculty members were “outraged” by the memo, likening the dean’s plan to “academic socialism.”

    Students should be able to choose their own future and not be limited because some other majors might have smaller classes.

    The right to a choice should still be there. Taking away that right sounds like something straight from the book “The Giver,” where each student is handed their job regardless of what they might have wanted for themselves.

    Choosing what you want to get a degree in is a big deal, so it must be treated as such. Students must be allowed to decide what direction they want their life to go in.

    Having an enrollment cap on popular majors forces students to pursue a field they may not be as happy or successful in. Policies like this should not be integrated into any university.

    What a student will learn and how it can be applied to jobs is something that educational institutions have to enforce and should encourage.

    Extreme measures, like Virginia Military Institute’s proposal, are completely unnecessary and a personal violation to the personal passions, interests and skills of the future of this country’s workforce.

    -Serena Valdez is a journalism junior. She can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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