By Isabella Cigna
In the midst of the college’s recent financial difficulties, the St. Michael’s Board of Trustees voted to discontinue the classics major, the classics minor, and the Italian studies minor said Registrar David Barrowclough. To maintain a large part of the classics department, the Board of Trustees approved the Latin major and minor as an adjustment to the classics major and minor, phasing out Greek.
The class of 2017 has three students in the classics major, three in the classics minor, and one in the Italian studies minor, Barrowclough said.
The board also approved an education studies minor, and American studies minor. “If the college had unlimited financial resources and unlimited interest by the students to take a wide variety of courses, it would be hard to argue that we shouldn’t offer Greek,” Barrowclough explained. “But in this current climate, and based on what our students are interested in, hiring a new Greek instructor is perhaps not the best use of resources.”
“At first, of course I felt upset, but I hope it’s just temporary,” said Ziteng Yang ’20, philosophy and classics double major. “How can you divide these two, Latin and Greek, apart?” The classics major involves a full year of Greek and a full year of Latin, then four more reading courses in either language.
If a major or minor is discontinued while a student is still enrolled in it, the Registrar “works on a case-by-case basis with the student and faculty to find a pathway to complete that major or minor,” Barrowclough said.
Yang said he sees immense value in studying the classics, but that “[the decision] is quite rational and correct. It’s practical.” He continued, “[The college] makes their decisions depending on the students and what kind of areas or classes they want to study.”
Barrowclough explained that the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee (CEPC) reviewed all majors and minors last year, considering criteria such as the number of recent graduates, enrollment in the program’s courses, retirement of faculty, and how the program generally fit in with the college.
“Through a series of open meetings, a final list of majors and minors to potentially discontinue was voted on by the Faculty Assembly,” Barrowclough said. The final vote was from the Board of Trustees.
“The decision was with sadness and regret, but this is what we think makes most sense,” said Professor Ronald Begley, chair of the classics department. He explained that the upcoming retirement of Professor Conley was a major factor leading to the decision to discontinue classics, and add the Latin major.
“It’s just not feasible for the college to replace him,” Begley said. “The college has had to make hard decisions… they’re just trying to make the best of it.” Begley stressed how supportive administrators have been throughout the process.
“This is a new chapter, but I just hope that sometime in the future, maybe a new set of circumstances would create an opening for people to be able to study Greek as well,” Begley said. He said that an independent study and/or classes at the University of Vermont would be available for students who still wish to study Greek. Yang said he plans to explore these options.
The college’s catalog 60 years ago had 13 different majors, all of which still exist in some form, Barrowclough said. Today, there are a total of 36 majors.
Minors that have been eliminated in the past include Russian, which ended in 2006, as well as international business, finance, management, marketing, and information systems, all of which ended in 2010.
The physical science major was discontinued in 2009, but other than that, Barrowclough said, “we have been far more likely to evolve majors or add majors than to discontinue majors.”
The new Latin major is an example of this. “It might be small, or just a few people, but it’s still very important,” said Yang of the new major.