EVANSVILLE, Ind. — (AP) — University of Evansville alumni are warning that if the school’s trustees approve a proposal that would eliminate the university’s music department, it would have a harmful ripple effect on southwestern Indiana’s arts and culture.
Alumni fear that eliminating the only music department in the Evansville area would have a long-lasting impact, including forcing high-caliber instructors and performers to move away for work and making it harder for local schools to recruit music teachers.
The music school is one of three departments that would be eliminated under an “academic realignment draft plan” administrators proposed this month. They have said the cuts are needed for the university to remain financially viable in the changing world of higher education.
In total, 17 majors would be cut from the university's curriculum and 35 to 40 faculty would be out of a job, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.
“The ripple effect of this is something we can’t measure right now, but it is going to be something that, as soon as it happens, will be immediately felt,” said Patrick Ritsch, a graduate of the university's music department who is vocal music director at Central High School in Evansville.
Ritsch said the changes may force university faculty members, who some of his students currently take private lessons from, to move away. He said local school systems would also have a harder time finding music teachers without the university's annual crop of new music teacher graduates.
Melanie Baker, a music performance graduate from the university, said churches may also feel the loss of the U of E's music department.
“Churches are always starving for musicians,” said Baker, who is worship director at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Evansville. “They’re always looking for people. They recruit students there all the time to play. That’s going to hurt them even more.”
The academic changes would be implemented in the fall 2022 semester, but the university has assured current students they will be allowed to graduate in their chosen majors.
The university's Faculty Senate voted 14-1 with one abstention on Thursday to express “no confidence” in the university's proposed realignment plan, which will likely go before its board of trustees for approval in February.
The university's president, Christopher Pietruszkiewicz, did not attend Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting. He said in a statement the administration has had “productive private discussions" with faculty and is working “to schedule another meeting to answer questions and hear feedback."