Philosophy & Other Humanities Threatened at Marymount (updated: cuts approved)

Programs in philosophy, theology and religion studies, history, mathematics, sociology, literature, and art would at Marymount University in Virginia would all be eliminated if a proposal from the administration is approved by the school’s board of trustees.

Marymount’s provost, Hesham El-Rewini, is pushing forward a proposal to eliminate the programs, which have few majors, reportedly on the basis that closing down these programs would allow the university to focus on areas of growth. This proposal was approved by a faculty sub-committee.
In response, the Faculty Council met at the end of January and, objecting to the program closures, passed a modified version of the proposal that would retain the BA in those programs and achieve some cost-savings in how the programs are structured. The student government has also objected to the provost’s proposal.
Marymount’s president, Irma Becerra, has announced that she intends to disregard the Faculty Council vote and present the Provost’s original proposal to the Board of Trustees at their upcoming meeting be next Thursday, February 23rd.
The president’s academic background is in electrical engineering. The provost’s academic background is in computer science.

While all of the details of the program closures are not known with certainty, they would mean that no students could major in those subjects. Additionally capstone courses and senior seminars in those subjects would be unlikely to continue. Jobs may be on the line, too. One faculty member said, “The administration contends that the humanities will continue to be the foundation of a Marymount education. But without a program in which a professor is based, we don’t know what protections our tenure gives us. The faculty handbook specifies that tenure doesn’t protect faculty when a program is retrenched or eliminated.”

The justification for the proposal is unclear, as well. As one faculty member put it, “Our concerns are that eliminating these programs would only harm the institution (since students who want to major in the humanities wouldn’t come here) and there would be no net financial benefit. There are also reputational harms to the institution.”

This post will be updated with further details as they become available.

UPDATE: There’s a petition you can sign asking the board of trustees to “strongly reconsider the proposal to move forward with these program cuts” here.

UPDATE (2/24/23. 3:58pm): According to a faculty member at Marymount, the cuts were approved by the Board of Trustees today. “No more philosophy majors.”

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Carl Sachs
1 year ago

Please consider signing our petition in support of keeping the humanities majors at Marymount!

Rosanna Festa
1 year ago

International crisis.

Fellow Hermeneut
1 year ago

Coming from a Jesuit university, this is deeply troubling. One of the best — if not the best — qualities of my alma mater, Loyola Marymount University, was precisely its Jesuit commitment to providing all students with a rich liberal education much broader than the aims of career training or religious indoctrination. To me, and I suspect many others, eliminating these majors is a clear betrayal of this mission.

Fellow Hermeneut
1 year ago

My mistake — I should have known that Marymount University was founded by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. This was also the case with the Marymount part of LMU before it merged with Loyola in 1968 to become Loyola Marymount University. Nevertheless, this trend in Catholic Universities is deeply concerning.