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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: Arts may be first item on chopping block

    The full scope of the state’s approaching budget cuts have yet to be mapped out at the UA, but we have already seen an inkling of the worst. Yesterday’s news bodes ill for anyone who cares about the liberal arts.

    As the Daily Wildcat reported yesterday, the Fine Arts Library and the Center for Creative Photography library could close this summer, barring an increase in the pertinent student fee. Today, President Robert Shelton announced that three-quarters of the UA’s funding for UApresents would be discontinued. While the UA Museum of Art and the Arizona State Museum would be open fewer days per week, with their outreach and educational activities downsized or outright eliminated.

    Shelton spoke for most of us when he called these “”painful changes that we would prefer not happen.”” With Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium and the UA Mineral Museum closing later this spring, the UA is en route to shutting itself off from the public altogether, drawing in its various arms and retreating into its shell like a startled turtle.

    We’ve seen it time and time again across the country: When schools are faced with large, punishing deficits, the arts are always first on the chopping block.

    The reason for that is obvious enough. In the face of catastrophic budget deficits, justification for saving the arts – as opposed to more “”useful”” departments, like the sciences – is often difficult to articulate. It’s importance isn’t easily quantifiable, and usually doesn’t provide a clear path to careers the way that other departments do.

    In the increasingly career-driven world of education, that often spells doom.

    As Shelton and other UA officials begin the difficult task of deciding where to prune, we urge them to remember that the arts is an inextricable part of what makes the UA a world-class university.

    We are constantly reminded that the UA is a Research 1 university. While that’s true, harping on that fact, and only that fact,ÿ jeopardizes seeing the university as a purely academic institution – dazzling but as cold as one of the geodes we’ll see on display this month.

    The Center for Creative Photography is nationally renowned and we have one of the top dance programs in the country. Can we imagine a football game without the Pride of Arizona striking up the inspiring chords of our rallying song?

    The UA has been thrust into a deplorable situation, and no pleasant outcome is likely to emerge from any plan the administration comes up with. But treating the arts as the university’s most “”disposable”” element would be a terrible mistake.

    They are a precious part of the UA, and should be trimmed with as much care as any other element of our institution.

    The arts, after all, are not merely frivolous activities for students who can’t be bothered to study “”real”” subjects like biology or engineering. They are, as Montaigne put it, “”the arts that liberate.””

    We would do well to keep that in mind as we mull over what to do next.

    Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Cody Calamaio, Justyn Dillingham, Taylor Kessinger, Heather Price-Wright, and Nickolas Seibel.

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