Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wishful Thinking: A Call to Arms

Yesterday I got some troubling and depressing news about my Alma Mater. Some majors were being cut, and some professors (all of which I knew and have great esteem for) are losing their jobs starting next year.

This blog was meant to be about Saudi Arabia or my life in the past or something. I was supposed to talk for the next few days prior to my departure of Riyadh about what I would miss about Riyadh and staying here during the summer. I am sorry but I cannot follow my plans. Something terrible has happened to me and literally hundreds of people and I need to talk about it.

No, it's not as life-threatening as war or floods or murder. It is not killing people or making them lose their homes. It isn't an act of God or mutilation; nor is it devastating to our basic needs. What it is instead is the destruction of a past; of memories and knowledge that after this year will no longer be. I am sad and depressed and I need to talk about what has happened.

I went to a small liberal arts college for my undergraduate degree and I will never be sorry for it. The education that I got was larger than I am and much, much better. The people I met who taught me didn't read from textbooks or force me to memorise facts. They made me look at facts and opinions and allowed me to form my analysis in a cultured, intelligent way. I was in small classrooms with no more than 20 students at a time, and the majority of the time there were less than 10 students in my classes. Sometimes, there were only 2 students, as it was especially in my senior year. The professors with whom I had the great privilege to listen to were smart, funny, educated, and inspiring.

At this college, I could pursue a degree in anything I wanted but still take a dance class even if it didn't fit my major requirements. I could sit in on a religion class if I were a business major, or a biology class if we were a performing arts major, and it wasn't just by personal choice; we were encouraged to have a great breadth of learning. We were also encouraged to join clubs and be a part of the small, less than 600 students community. We were inspired to be active members of society and take opportunities to work with a diverse population.

What made me appreciate my education the most was that I could email or visit my professors without any barriers. I have dropped in and talked with them during and outside of their office hours. I have had lunch, danced with, acted with, and sung with several of them, even the school's President. The professors could easily become our friends as well as our mentors. It was the best system I could ever have dreamed of.

I was a crappy student. I'm not an idiot, but due to my own shortfalls I made some large mistakes. If I tried harder to figure out my personal problems, I could have been an excellent student, but I didn't. No matter what, my professors were always there for me. Whenever I gave them a chance to become a part of my life, they welcomed me with open arms. They never, ever held a grudge against me when they really could have. I was always able to have a great conversation with any professor, even if I had never had a class with them.

The idea that some of these wonderful people are not going to be there after this academic year actually hurts. I may have graduated and I may be moving on, but I still love that school and the professors who taught me. I will never forget what they have done for me and I owe them a lot. I want future students to go and experience what I had because I treasure it so deeply.

What upsets me even more, possibly the most out of all this, is that the majors that were cut and the professors of those majors are all related to the arts. There will be no more Music major, no more French major and no more Religion major. They are trying to still offer these courses and have them count towards other majors, but students coming to my school for these majors will not be able to concentrate on the area of study that they want. They will have to leave to study at another school or they will have to settle for second best.

I know that the world is in a financial grave right now, with clods of earth being thrown on it as we speak, but it still angers me that the first thing to be cut from a school has to be the arts. In every kind of school, for every age group, the arts are always the first to suffer. Money is taken away, resources become more limited, and students are less encouraged. The Music program at my college, for example was being cut more and more for years, and the major itself was a concentration of the Performing Arts major - but now it is gone altogether.

Is this the fate of all our schools? I think this arts-belittling mentality is a curse brought upon us by everyone in society. The arts are seen as being of little or no importance to a child's education, and they are never encouraged. Parents scoff when their sons and daughters want to be dancers, artists or writers. People ask "but what are you going to do with your life if you major in Literature?" rather than think about the analysis and cultural information such a major brings to a student. Governments think there is no money in the arts so they cut the community programs.

What is wrong with our world? Ever since the divide between science and art was created by some irritating white people "hard science" was seen as more important than anything else. I don't think this divide should have ever existed - look at what the world has become now! Science and art should always work side by side, not separately and I swear until the day I die I will not budge from this point. I am angry to be living in a world where people do not appreciate both and see how they coexist beautifully and naturally.

We need harmony in our lives and in education through the appreciation for both the arts and sciences. Once upon a time, it was through a thorough liberal arts education that a student would be able to gain this, and gain knowledge that would help them become better people as a whole; better citizens of the world. My college used to be one of the few remaining places. Now, it is going the opposite way, on the path of so many others, by cutting programs and professors who are beloved by the students and who teach subjects that are not appreciated enough. It's not just the fault of the school, but of everyone. We do not place enough importance of a holistic education. Instead, schools are looked at in terms of money and business. Society as a whole looks down on any kind of existence that does not involve making a lot of money. And this is every society, not just American society!

My school was not a business when I got there. It was a place of learning and development. Now, after this year, students who go there are not going to go to the same college I graduated from. Now, I am left here, and I will forever sing for my sister, and to the name we love. It is the name of a college that is slowly disappearing.


  1. I labeled this as awesome, cause it is awesome how you wrote it you hit all the points about everything...but it is not awesome what is happening to our school! :( I love that place and will have very fond memories of how it was...but i don't think i like what it is becoming...its conforming...or at least seems that way.

  2. Thanks so much for saying this was awesome. I know that what is happening is very, very difficult for everyone who has been to Wells and knew it as it once was. I also think that it is conforming and it is not taking into account that there is a whole history that is being destroyed.

  3. What hurt the most was not the declaration of removing the major. Not the list of eliminated professors. What did hurt was seeing a professor I love, care for, respect, and admire turn their back against the school. They won't come back to be an adjunct. They won't go back to give back what the school is threatening to take away. It almost breaks my heart to see their belief in the school crumble. They will make the best of out the year, but they make it so plain that they won't come back.

    To be honest, I want to see if I can arrange something when I graduate. I want that professor to put on my hood, from my alma mater. I may not have been a major in their field, but my heart has always, always, always been there. I walk away with a degree in theater, but I carry with me the knowledge that they gave me. And I want all of Wells to know that I am always part human, and part art. Thespian, dancer, musician, writer in one, I know that in the end, I breathe in music, and breathe out life.

    What would I give to these professors who are leaving us? I give out what I can: my love and admiration. My dedication and devotion. My dramatics and my voice.

    I love music, and deeply in love with it. I'm taking advantage of their last year, and loving the work I do for them. And when they leave, I will know that I will leave with them. But that does not calm the ache in my heart.

    I hate how arts always get gutted. Why must art always get the brute force of cuts? That is always, always, always the case. And the arts are always underestimated. We are important, writers, artists, musicians, and thespians alike! If people do not believe us, they need to look at history. Because in the end... we write history and bring it back to life. We are the ones to remind the world why things happen. We all are the true Historians, and allow History to live. Historians study our traces, and learn to understand the underlying factors of sociology, economy, philosophy, ect. They are the explorers of the mind of history, we become the living embodiment.

  4. This probably won't be as articulate as I'd like. I hate to say this because I watched Professor Penniman's face at convocation last night and it is heart breaking. But, a school for 600 students cannot afford to offer everything. It just can't. They have to do the most good for the most people and that involves cutting programs to keep the school open. I know that it sucks and I know that we love those professors and wish they could stay. It would be wonderful if it were possible as it has been in the past. These programs weren't cut because they are arts, they've been cut according to the lack of majors in the arts. I hate to say it, but most people who are serious about arts (those who would be majors) go to schools for the arts, not small liberal arts schools. Liberal arts schools have of course always provided classes in the arts to have well rounded curricula (as Wells has said it will continue to do), but not always majors, and especially when it can't be afforded. What it comes down to is this: You say Wells was not a business and maybe it feels that way sometimes, but in truth ALL colleges and universities that are not state schools ARE businesses. That is the way in which they operate, and no good business would continue to offer services that are not in demand at a time of economic crisis.

  5. Thank you, both Sea Lark and Alison for your thoughts. I realise now that I would rather hear from the people currently at Wells than the people who have already left, us old timers! I don't know Wells' present context. I will always miss my Wells, and be upset about changes, but I hope that you guys will always love and cherish YOUR memories.

    Much <3 from a sister.