The inactivation of some important Liberal Arts programs at McDaniel College has caused great consternation.
Small colleges are facing challenging times. Demographics are working against them along with many other pressures and the administration must put forth strategies to deal with them. Dr. Casey’s letter to students describes new emphasis on programs that he hopes will attract more students and there are many references to statistics, but the one word that I have not seen anywhere is quality.
As the college moves forward with these changes, maintaining the quality of the education that the students receive must remain as important as its survival. I believe that the new focus on STEM, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, and Kinesiology are enhanced by including Liberal Arts in the programs. Art History, French, German, Music, and Religious Studies have been hallmarks that draw students to the college and have been a major factor in its designation as a College That Changes Lives. To weaken them signals a reduced emphasis on Liberal Arts and risks diminishing the reputation for the high quality, well-rounded education that McDaniel has always enjoyed. One does not have to major in these areas in order to develop valuable insights and receive a more complete education from the courses offered in these disciplines.
I have made numerous Jan term trips as a community member, first with Sue Bloom and recently three trips with Dr. Mohamed Esa. This January, I traveled with Dr. Esa and 42 students and community members to Central Europe. Six of those students are German majors or minors. Others have taken related courses with him and some went on the trips just because he and his trips are immensely popular. I have seen for myself that these trips are life-changing for students. I now can take time to enjoy classes at McDaniel. I have taken three classes with Dr. Esa, including his course on the Arab World that I believe should be taken by as many people as possible in order to facilitate an understanding of the issues in the Middle East that affect all of us. That class enriched my world view so much that I have since taken Dr. Esa’s German Cinema class, where I gained an understanding of European history that I had lacked, and then Dr. Esa’s Fairy and Folk Tales class, which is an intensive literature class like nothing I have had before. These courses and many like them are offered not only for German majors, but are there for all students and contribute to the broad education that students have always received at McDaniel. If German is eliminated, these valuable courses will go away.
I do not understand why the German major and minor and all German courses are being totally eliminated when the college is keeping the minors in all the other affected programs (with the exception of Music). I read that the statistics that were used in the decisions do not show any incoming German majors or minors, but after being with the students I have learned that most of the German minors did not decide to do that until after they had arrived at the college and begun taking courses.
My nephew, Matthew Clise, is a perfect example. He graduated from McDaniel with a degree in Music Theory and Composition. He had taken German in high school and as most students do, he continued with German to fulfill his language requirement once he was admitted. After a semester with Dr. Esa and going on a Jan term trip to Germany he added the German minor. Several of his classmates, including Dave Arnold, who is now a successful attorney, did the same thing at the same time.
Why not keep the German minor and give it the chance to grow as is being done with French or Art History or Religious Studies? Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. The college has committed to offering the courses that are necessary for current students to complete their degrees. Since the German classes are taught by a single, energetic professor, why not keep the German minor in place when it doesn’t cost any more to do that?
The courses that are offered in the German program greatly enhance the quality of a degree in business or engineering and give an employment advantage to graduates. German is spoken widely throughout Europe, our third-largest trading partner, and it is the language of STEM.