Discourse / Letters / January 27, 2016

Minors added based on student interest, but expansion sometimes slow

I am writing to offer a perspective that may help students to understand how new minors are structured into the curriculum.  The editorial in the Jan. 21 issue of TKS seemed to offer the perspective that new minors might be diverting resources from existing programs that might be more deserving of being developed into majors.  Of course, the privately held view that any academic department or program is more deserving than another is always subjective.

Typically, when minors are proposed, they usually are created out of a collection of existing courses, with the possible addition of another course or two that will be taught by existing faculty.  It is very rare for a new minor to include hiring of additional faculty.  The recent approval by the faculty of the new minors in health studies and statistics will not entail any new hires.  

Journalism was an instance in which the faculty agreed that this was an academic discipline worth adding to the Knox curriculum and worth growing.  At the time, an opportunity arose by which Knox could secure the services of a prestigious journalist and the program was born via two courses.  Over about 10 years and with the success of and student interest in the program, more courses were added and that position was regularized and continues to be one faculty position in journalism. As student interest grows, it is possible that the program will become more competitive and eventually become a department with more faculty lines.

When dance was developed, it began as two courses (one of which was Rep Term’s movement course), and evolved to three courses more or less housed in the department of theatre.  The position initially was an adjunct position teaching those three courses.  As the program began to grow, that instructor’s course load was incrementally increased until full time was achieved and the institution converted the adjunct position to ladder rank faculty status.

Both journalism and dance represent instances in which a program is grown slowly over time and out of fewer courses than could constitute a minor.  Of course, it could be the case that the addition of those faculty lines might be perceived as diverting resources from other deserving programs and disciplines.  No minor is added to the curriculum wholesale and with new faculty lines to serve it.

Dance may well be on the threshold of becoming a major, but establishing minors, even self-designed minors (or majors), in other disciplines in no way diverts resources from that program, as no resources are utilized to create those minors (or majors).  It is very likely that the eventual move of dance to CFA will position the program for another growth spurt, as improved facilities are likely to draw more students.  

Ultimately, the institution has to examine broad data that pertains to all of the disciplines to determine curricular need, since we cannot grow every program equally (as much as we would like to). Need is always a moving target, as it is relative to educational trends and shifting student needs and expectations nationally.  There are departments that have had proposals for a new faculty line in the queue for hiring consideration for several years.  Ultimately, it is a case of establishing institutional priorities that have long term implications and sustainability. As small programs become more established over time, they inevitably put more pressure on the institution for resources, as demonstrated by the history of the programs in dance and journalism.  

This is a slow process and one that often feels imperceptible, but institutional history demonstrates that change does, indeed, happen.  

Best regards,

Liz Carlin Metz

Smith V. Brand Distinguished Professor of Theatre


TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  curriculum Knox College letter to the editor Liz Carlin Metz minors

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