In January 2017, ENC made the announcement that three majors would be phased out: theatre, music, and English. I believe the English major should be brought back.
The major, formally known as literatures in English, was last offered to freshmen and transfer students in the 2016-2017 school year. The decision to eliminate the major was met with concern from students and faculty. Former president Corlis McGee sent a letter to students ensuring that the decision was not made in haste, but rather strategic, ensuring resources could be focused on majors that would provide the college with a strong future.
The letter indicated that five full-time faculty members would lose their jobs at the end of the spring 2018 semester. The change also eliminated two tenured female professors, Dr. Karen Henck and Dr. Marianna Krejci-Papa. Dr. Stacey Barker stepped down from her position as the head of the social work department, so effective fall 2018, ENC has no tenured female professors.
Academic tenure is vital to great colleges and universities because it shows a commitment that professors make to the institution. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), tenure is defined as “an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances.” According to the ENC faculty manual, when a department no longer exists, that professor’s tenure also disappears. Having diversity in ENC’s tenured professors looks good for our institution, and as of now, we don’t have any tenured women due to the loss of the English program.
“I remember all the sit-ins [to protest the loss],” said alumna Heather Sluss. “My friend Amber [Ervin] headed a sit-in. There was a lot of anger and confusion as to why the major had to be dropped. That was a fun time,” Sluss said, sarcastically.
From 2014 to 2016, I attended ENC as a social work and crime, law, and justice double major. In 2016, I transferred to Kent State University where I became an English major with a focus on writing. When I decided to transfer back to ENC in 2018, the English major had been eliminated, and I could no longer pursue the educational track I wished. I chose to be a journalism and writing major instead of communication arts because of the writing aspect, but I would much rather be pursuing a major in English, studying classics and literature instead of various methods of communication. I do hope to pursue a career in journalism, but I wish I had graduated with a degree in English because I could’ve taken a different path to get there. An English degree also could’ve afforded me a different career path upon graduation.
Bringing back the major would also allow students to double-major in education or theatre for social justice and English. The creativity coupled with critical thinking shows that those who study English are well equipped for careers in philosophy, religion, art, and history. English majors can end up in writing careers, even if their focus is on literature.
Successful comedian John Mulaney has a bit about being an English major. He says, “I paid $120,000 for someone to tell me to go read Jane Austen, and then I didn’t.” However, when you look at his career path, he wrote for Saturday Night Live for six seasons. He then went on to write for many other shows, including Documentary Now! and Big Mouth. Mulaney writes and performs his own standup comedy and has three Netflix specials. Being an English major can be lucrative.
English majors have an easier time finding jobs after college in 2018, according to CBS News. Unemployment sits at 3.7% currently. English majors have a 29% chance of being underemployed while business majors have a 31% chance. Many students choose to major in business for its profitability, but that’s not what the job market is trending toward.
ENC should push to add more arts majors but perhaps start with English. A proper liberal arts education should be well-rounded, including the type of creativity fostered by a healthy English program. Students who graduate with an English major are valued and have a marketable set of skills that reflect well on the college.