Their signs, hand-crafted in Sharpie and tattered from the wind, said it all.
“My major matters.”
“IPFW leaders, stop lying to students.”
“Let us learn.”
For two days, IPFW students, faculty, and community members gathered outside of the school’s engineering building, drawing a crowd from the Obelisk to Kettler Hall.
The event, which served as a rally and “teach-in,” was created by faculty and the student group Not in Our Future intended to spread word about the proposed department cuts at the university.
Under the cover of a few tents, students and faculty braved the cold and spoke out against the closing of various majors.
“I was blown away with everything the students had to say,” said Janet Badia, director of the women’s studies program. “It didn’t surprise me students in the affected majors would have a lot to say, but it did surprise me that students who aren’t in those majors could see the way their education was going to be impacted by the changes.”
On Oct. 18, just a week prior to the teach-ins, Carl Drummond, the university’s vice chancellor for academic affairs, announced the closing of 25 departments and majors.
The departments to be cut included women’s studies, philosophy, and geology. The French and German programs were also suspended.
Audrey Leonard, a junior from Columbia City majoring in women’s studies and communications, is one of the students directly impacted by the closures.
Like most of the students in the affected majors, Leonard says she is disappointed in her university.
“The fact that it feels like they’re not valuing certain degrees, that’s the most heartbreaking, disappointing thing to hear,” Leonard says, “especially from a place that’s considered comprehensive.”
Leonard, a member of Not in Our Future, says the group wanted the event to be a teach-in so professors and their classes could come to the event and learn about what is happening on campus.
One of the most challenging things for the student group so far has been getting others to believe them.
“One of my professors used the term, ‘It’s like Chicken Little,’” Leonard says. “You’re saying, ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling,’ but no one believes you. And then the sky is literally on the ground now.”
While the original USAP recommendations to restructure 13 departments came out in June, Director Badia says she was still devastated when upon finding her program would be eliminated.
In fact, she had been working hard to save it.
The recommendation was initially to merge women’s studies with anthropology or sociology, so began meeting with the chairs of both departments to create a new, interdisciplinary unit.
She was later told these plans were not drastic enough.
And Badia fears this is not the end.
“We’ve been talking a lot about the majors that are closing, but I hope people can see the big picture here, because those of us who have been saying this is the tip of the iceberg, we’re not exaggerating,” Badia says. “We’ll see more cuts to the humanities and the fine arts, and Fort Wayne will lose its only comprehensive, public university.”
Steve Carr, interim chair for the department of communication, went up to the microphone several times to speak out against the cuts.
Even though his department was not affected, he says the lack of transparency in regards to IPFW’s budget is frustrating.
He says while the university has made its financial documents readily available, they have not done so with all, including cash flows and how money is transferred between accounts.
“These particular cuts have absolutely no savings. All of the programs either cost no money, so they make their costs back, or they actually make money for the university,” Carr says. “I think a big part of the problem is that these cuts are really not serving a financial agenda, because we don’t even know what the financial is here. They’re serving an ideological one.”
With the cuts officially going into effect place on Jan. 1, Director Badia says she is still working to save the women’s studies program.
“We’re still fighting. I’m not giving up. I know we have lots of support, and I think the Dean supports us existing,” Badia says. “We’re still working to try and make a plan. I think we’re still working to try and make a merger happen. We have definitely not given up.”
But the area by the Obelisk is much quieter now. Messages written in chalk, such as “Save liberal arts” have faded now, but are still visible.