Pitt's graduate religious studies may end up on chopping block
University of Pittsburgh officials are weighing a proposal to close the school's graduate religious studies program and keep admissions to it and graduate programs in German and the classics suspended.
Pitt, which suspended admissions to the three programs last fall citing declining state subsidies, forwarded new proposals on the programs to Provost Patricia Beeson this month, a university spokesman said.
Similar moves are occurring at universities across the country where administrators are struggling to balance calls to reduce spending and focus on career-oriented programs.
Religious studies in particular have come under greater scrutiny in recent years.
Douglas Jacobsen, a professor of church history and theology at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., said two trends are affecting the field.
“The one is that lots of humanities programs including philosophy and religion are being re-examined because they don't seem to be drawing the numbers of students the more applied programs draw. But the other trend is that colleges across the country are starting to pay more attention to religion as America becomes more diverse,” Jacobsen said.
Mark Juergensmeyer, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and a past president of the American Academy of Religion, said the trend surfaced several years ago when public universities began to see budget cuts.
“It is disconcerting that in a time of budgetary stress, administrators with limited historical understanding have targeted the courageous scholars who uphold this intellectual tradition to satisfy their financial needs. Their short-sighted actions diminish higher education as a whole and warrant resistance by scholars throughout the liberal arts,” he said.
Nancy Klancher, an assistant professor of philosophy and religion at Bridgewater College in Virginia, completed her doctorate in religious studies at Pitt last year.
“I don't think it is a flawed program that deserves to be closed. I wouldn't say it is a reflection of the merit of this particular program. I just look at it philosophically: Funding for humanities everywhere has been cut,” Klancher said.
Jacobsen said religious studies program leaders “need to think about what their role is and publicize it better.”
Pitt officials declined to give details on the latest proposals.
About three dozen students are enrolled in the three graduate programs, and the university will permit them to complete their studies, campus officials said.
“The proposals are being reviewed internally. The proposals will then be brought to the University Council on Graduate Studies for review, most likely at their September meeting,” Pitt spokesman John Fedele said.
A final decision on the programs will follow, Fedele said.
Department chairs in the classic Greek, Roman and Latin studies and religious studies departments did not return calls for comment.
John Lyon, who chairs Pitt's German department, which has a dozen graduate students, said he has yet to receive formal notification of the proposals.
“If it is true that the suspension will continue, it concerns me because it means our program has no future in its current form,” Lyon said. He said the faculty is working on a proposal that will likely be submitted this fall to approve an alternative doctoral program in European culture that would allow students to study in German.
Lyon said undergraduate enrollment in German remains strong and Pitt officials have assured him there are no problems at that level. But he said humanities programs across the country have come under fire as colleges try to balance shrinking public subsidies against a growing outcry for career-oriented education.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Winter weather advisory for Western Pa. in effect until Monday afternoon
- Long-term solution for wastewater disposal eludes shale gas industry
- ‘Line is definitely blurry,’ state police say of dating websites and prostitution
- Lure of tuition aid, gifts draw college students to ‘sugar daddy’ sites
- Homestead struggles to pick up pieces left by devastating fire
- Commander: City police working to improve accountability
- Man arrested in massive Homestead fire
- Newsmaker: Jeff Reinbold
- Tribune-Review photojournalist Goldband wins 1st place in national competition
- Flood victims’ family to receive $1.5M in damages
- Missing Shaler man dealt with family losses