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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA must keep humanities intact

The State University of New York at Albany recently announced plans to eliminate degree programs in French, Italian, classics, Russian and theater. When it came time to enroll for classes, very few students opted for these humanities courses, leading the administration to the penny-saving conclusion to eliminate the programs altogether. In a time of financial struggle and seemingly endless budget cuts, universities are incessantly searching for reasons to get rid of “”unnecessary”” classes, staff members and now entire degree programs.

There is a fear, however, that our nation’s thinning budget and lean toward practicality will leave its people dull-minded and uninspired. American universities have always offered the widest range of degree programs and, unlike other countries, have not funneled their students into one field of study. In the past, America stood out as the less practical, some would say, dreamy nation, which encouraged its youth to spend time in “”luxurious”” subjects such as film and art history.

It turns out, however, that “”nations such as China and Singapore, which previously ignored the humanities, are now aggressively promoting them, because they have concluded that the cultivation of the imagination through the study of literature, film, and other arts is essential to fostering creativity and innovation,”” according to a recent article in The New York Times. Humanities courses teach students to invent by exploring their imaginations and encouraging their creativity — a tool that is necessary for the growth of any business.

Without creativity and inspiration from history, art, literature and the like, businesses will cease to grow and change as a result of their mechanical and unimaginative leaders. Studying history and other cultures provides a refined understanding of one’s surroundings and gives way to a more sophisticated mind. Philosophy courses that hone skills in critical thinking, logic and argumentation are “”essential in order to foster healthy debate inside a business world that might too easily become complacent or corrupt,”” the New York Times article reported.

A recent memo sent to the UA from President Shelton in reference to the state’s budget cuts stated, “”Regardless of the … budget deliberations, we are committed to maintain a world-class faculty and to strategically invest in those core areas of greatness that will propel the UA into the coming decades.””

Judging from the UA’s growth toward becoming a solely research-based university, defining those “”core areas”” could result in the elimination of humanities courses. The UA’s downsized library staff and consolidation of libraries is not a positive omen for highly ranked, strong degree programs such creative writing, photography and media arts at the U A. The unsettling reality of rampant budget cuts and the drastic, money conscience changes made by universities requires students to stay informed and defend their programs.

— Alexandra Bortnik is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at

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