AKRON, Ohio - University of Akron students and alumni have started a campaign to save the theatre program after a consultant recommended shutting it down.
A report from Mark Shanda, a consultant from The Ohio State University, suggested that UA shut down the theatre production program by the end of this academic year with the goal of eliminating the degree programs in theatre over the next two years.
Jim Slowiak, a university professor of theatre, said the program is diverse and is an important part of the university and the community.
"To arbitrarily close this program, I think would be a big, big mistake," Slowiak said.
He estimated 30 to 40 students are part of the the theatre program, but the administration contends there are less than 20 students involved.
Eileen Korey, chief communications officer for the university, said a final decision on the theatre program has not been made, but if it's phased out, students already in the pipeline would be given "a customized completion plan" to graduate with a theatre degree.
Several alumni and students have joined the Facebook page, "Save Theatre at The University of Akron." As of Tuesday afternoon, there were more than 1,000 members.
Theatre students also planned a 6 p.m. meeting at Guzzetta Hall to discuss the future of the program.
Corryn Shuler, a sophomore theatre major from Columbus, became emotional as she talked about the possibility of the program going away.
"If the theatre program goes away, I don't know what I'm going to do. Now, what am I going to do?"
I have become aware of questions and concerns about our academic review process and pending recommendations. A regular review process of academic degree programs is normal for all universities as it ensures continued quality and student success.
Here at The University of Akron, our faculty and leadership have worked together since 2005 in an academic review process of the quality of our programs and to identify areas for increased or decreased investment. We have analyzed programs where student demand has declined or market demand for graduates has declined --factors important in determining whether it makes strategic sense to continue to offer a particular degree program or to create entirely new programs.
Over the next several weeks, we anticipate developing recommendations to phase out or "sunset" some programs and invest in others. We may also recommend that some degree programs be integrated into other courses of study. You will be hearing more about these recommendations after the start of the next semester. It is essential to emphasize that at this stage no decisions have been finalized for any specific program.
It should be noted that the elimination of a program does not mean the elimination of an entire course of study or a department or college. It does mean a reallocation of resources in a strategic and thoughtful manner. In fact, the process of academic program review is designed to expand and strengthen areas of study where our students can be successful.
Most importantly, current UA students should not experience any significant change in their pursuit of a degree. Any changes will be phased in over time so that current students can successfully complete their program of study and earn their degree within a reasonable period of time. Students in programs that may be "sunset" or phased out will be provided a customized degree-completion plan.
Recent inquiries to my office have been generated by the release of a consultant's report to the Dean of our Buchtel College of Arts & Sciences. The consultant's visit was done at the request of the Fine Arts faculty and his subsequent report was shared with the faculty in the spirit of transparency. This report is one of many sources of input that will inform recommendations regarding programs in the College. It does not reflect final determinations or decisions.
We understand that change of any kind provokes anxiety. But change also presents new opportunities for many people. We can assure our campus community that diverse voices have been sought and heard in this academic review process, that all viewpoints are being considered, and that decisions will be made in the best interests of the university and the success of our students.