Columbia program cuts require cautious approach

By Editorial Board

Columbia is often lauded by its own administration as the best arts and media college in the country. But according to the academic rankings published in The Chronicle on Feb. 6, Columbia will be downsizing its degree programs in the near future by eliminating portions of several departments. While discontinuing certain degree programs is the most logical course of action for our cash-strapped college, administrators must understand that the consequences of this will greatly affect the college community.

The Radio Department, which has won many accolades and produced top-notch alumni, is just one department that will be more or less thrown out. WCRX, Columbia’s student-run radio station, was ranked in the Washington Post’s top 10 college radio stations in the country. But now that the department’s bachelor’s degree program has been proposed for elimination and WCRX was ranked as “decrease resources,” the station could suffer major setbacks, putting years of hard work at risk.

President Warrick L. Carter and Interim Provost Louise Love, among others, won’t make the final decision until later this calendar year. But every one of the decision makers needs to keep in mind what this will do to graduates in eliminated programs. Coming from a program that has been eliminated gives students’ degrees less credibility. This, in turn, could lead to less than fruitful prospects for graduates searching for jobs. Any employer can easily turn on a computer and find out that the latest Columbia applicant majored in a defunct program.

Eliminating certain departments could also negatively affect enrollment. Consolidating programs and broadening curriculum sounds like a good idea, but many students come to Columbia for the specialized programs that other schools don’t offer. Folding Fiction into the English Department or the Radio into the Television Department could deter prospective students with hearts set on a particular career from attending Columbia.

Not one Liberal Arts and Sciences program was ranked “eliminate or phase out.” But students at Columbia chose this college for the arts, not for math or science. Instead of consolidating degree programs, administrators should think about doing so to the LAS programs.

College officials overbooked themselves and that is why Columbia must now cut programs. No doubt the college doesn’t have much of a choice. But moving forward, Carter and other final judges should keep a broad scope instead of limiting priorities to pure logistics. Change is good, but only when approached with caution.