Save Arts & Humanities: Ensure Lasallian Education at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Save Arts & Humanities: Ensure Lasallian Education at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

June 11, 2022
Signatures: 1,158Next Goal: 1,500
Support now

Why this petition matters

Started by Ensure Lasallian

We are a diverse group of current students, former students, Alumni, and concerned citizens writing to Father Burns and the Saint Mary's University Board of Trustees in response to the May 10 press release announcing the gutting of the School of Arts and Humanities by phasing out the majors of Actuarial Science, Art, English, History, Human Services, International Business, Music, Music Industry, Spanish, Theater, and Theology programs as well as the subsequent dismissal of thirteen full-time faculty members who dedicated their time and talent to the many students, past and present, who value these majors.

In an interview with Kare 11, Father Burns explained, "In particular, what we looked at is the majors that we are phasing out, are those that really were low-enrolled and also didn't hold great promise in terms of what many families and students want, which is marketable skills and jobs after college.” This statement is offensive to the many alumni who pursued these majors which have led to successful careers. It is also extremely short-sighted.

Time after time, Fortune 500 companies have expressed that STEM is not enough. It is a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) that provides both the hard and the soft skills that allow graduates to become more versatile, and opens up more opportunities for growth in the modern job market. In fact, LinkedIn's 2019 Global Talent Trends report showed that 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers say that soft skills are just as, if not more, important than hard skills. Creativity, persuasion, and collaboration are the top three most in-demand soft skills for companies hiring today.

So we ask: how does removing nearly all of the majors in Arts and Humanities prepare students for a whole life? How does the elimination of these programs make Saint Mary’s University more attractive to prospective students? And how does the absence of these programs make Saint Mary’s University graduates more competitive?

We question if enrollment numbers were indeed a deciding factor in the eliminations. When reviewing reported enrollment numbers from Saint Mary’s University 2020-21 Fact Book, published by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, enrollment in the Humanities has remained consistent for the past five years. The School of Humanities had 199 majors enrolled in Spring 2021. The Fine & Performing Arts majors were enrolled with 66 during the same time.

The report indicates Educational Studies, Secondary Education, Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Management, Marketing, Sports Management, Biology Health Sciences, Environmental Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Technology were under enrolled. What additional metrics were used to determine that these should be kept, and the eleven eliminated programs be discarded?

We fear that the elimination of these eleven majors (which account for nearly one-fifth of the undergraduate population) will only further contribute to the demise of Saint Mary’s University. We are concerned as to how the University intends to fulfill its legal obligation to ensure students are able to graduate when you are terminating their professors next year.

In order to restore confidence in Saint Mary’s leadership team and to alleviate the concerns of many alumni, we promptly request:

  • Thorough insight into the process that led to the decision, including the measurements and metrics used when determining which majors to eliminate.
  • Transparency around the timeline of these decisions - including which faculty were specifically consulted, and if anyone consulted was impacted by these cuts.
  • A public pledge and clear strategic plan to ensure that the values inherent in a Liberal Arts education remain omnipresent without the departments of Theology, Arts, and Humanities to guide it; and that classes in these fields will be available for students well into the distant future; and that those classes be rigorous so every graduate is provided with the gift of a holistic and well-rounded education.
  • Affirmation that Theology, Arts, and Humanities will not be viewed as mere enhancements but as requirements, necessary for the development of the whole human. 
  • A plan for how the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Diversity Cafe, and other Diversity groups on campus will continue to exist and be supported after the faculty that sponsored these groups are eliminated. 
  • In the Lasallian spirit of compassion, and in recognition of the dedication of the eliminated faculty, a promise that those faculty will have tuition waiver guarantees for any of their children wishing to attend Saint Mary’s in the future, as part of their severance package.
  • The school will publicly apologize to incoming Freshman and their families who chose Saint Mary’s based on a desire to pursue the eleven eliminated majors. The school will also promise to make every effort to facilitate transfers to the alternative schools without penalty or additional expense to the student. 
  • Transparency around the salary increase granted to Father Burns amidst a “budget crisis” and “low enrollment” he has overseen.
  • Transparency around the cost of the Saint Mary's University's rebranding taking place during a “budget crisis.”
  • Full transparency on the new diversity landscape within your faculty after the layoffs and how you intend to commit to increased diversity in the future - including race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and motherhood status.
  • To ensure transparency surrounding the process of eliminating majors and the faculty, a removal of all Non Disclosure Agreements and gag orders placed on faculty and staff.

We sincerely pray you will acknowledge that all of our demands are necessary to ensure: Saint Mary’s University’s continued presence as an institution of character and ethics; our University fully lives by and embraces the teachings of St. John Baptist de La Salle; and embodies the professed values Saint Mary’s University wishes to instill in all of its students and graduates.

We look forward to hearing a public acknowledgement and statement soon.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle, Pray for Us!

Live Jesus in Our Hearts, Forever!

“As a member of the Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Community, you are part of the great international LaSallian network. This group of educational institutions distributed around the world is dedicated to quality student-centered education and learning in the Catholic tradition. Here people are compassionate in their dealings with others, dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, and appreciative of art and culture.”
     — circa 1999

Support now
Signatures: 1,158Next Goal: 1,500
Support now