On April 11, the administration of the University of Tulsa shocked faculty, students, and alumni by announcing the elimination of 40 percent of the school’s academic programs. Undergraduate and graduate programs in theater, musical theater, dance, vocal and instrumental music, English, history, philosophy, religion, chemistry, French, German, Russian, Chinese, Greek, Latin, anthropology, mathematics, and many others were axed. The administration has eliminated all academic departments and dumped professors, now stripped of disciplinary protections and powers, into big new divisions, including one called “Humanities and Social Justice.”
Administrators at other colleges and universities have recently cut the liberal arts. But TU is the first top-100 research institution, and the first university with a ten-figure endowment—$1.1 billion, to be precise—to have done so. What is more, our administration did all this under a cloak of secrecy and without consulting faculty.
The restructuring appears, among other things, to be a hostile takeover of the university by some of Tulsa’s richest and most powerful corporate interests. The gory details, already well known to many who follow higher education, are available in my essay “Storm Clouds Over Tulsa” at City Journal. But what that essay doesn’t cover is the wholesale rejection of the ironically named “True Commitment” plan by faculty, students, and alumni, and the administration’s highly authoritarian countermeasures to this rejection.
After the restructuring bombshell exploded in a slick, highly orchestrated rollout on the morning of April 11, students and faculty moved to protest quickly and decisively. That evening, I wrote to about 50 faculty and 500 students and alumni inviting them to attend a meeting in the Department of Languages the following day, and I pasted into the email an unedited version of my City Journal article. When I arrived for the meeting, over 400 people were present. We moved into the old theater next door, and I found myself leading a meeting at which we formulated key strategies for resistance to the restructuring.
In the days that followed, students drafted a petition on Change.org (“Saving the Heart and Soul of the University of Tulsa”) that has 5,600 signatures to date, and formed a Facebook group with over 1,700 members that serves as a vital clearinghouse for information. The College of Law voted almost unanimously—but for one vote by the disgraced president of the Faculty Senate, who was forced to apologize when he said publicly that opponents of the restructuring can “go f*** themselves”—not to implement key features of the “True Commitment” plan next year. The College of Arts and Sciences voted 89-4 not to implement any part of it until it could be thoroughly reviewed by our faculty.
Alumni have papered the administration with heartfelt letters of protest, and produced TUplan.org: a clear and concise summary of what is being done to TU, why it matters, and why we must stop it. Sixteen national scholarly societies signed a public statement urging the administration to “reconsider and rescind” the restructuring.
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I don't know too much of the background to this, but it sounds pretty brutal.