Cuts to the Music Department have not had the effects anticipated last spring in the wake of an $8.2 million budget gap.
In May, non-music majors, minors or presidential art scholars were restricted from signing up for beginner classes and private instruction courses. This fall any student is eligible to apply to take a music class, but beginner courses are not open to students who have no previous experience and nearly 30 percent of one-on-one instruction has been cut, said Karen Ahlquist, chair of the Music Department.
The Hatchet reported last April that the department would experience cuts in courses and faculty as part of a proposed budget to help make up the $8.2 million gap between expenses and revenue the University faces for the fiscal year 2007, which began July 1.
Instead, the University instituted a plan that only cuts $2 million from academics with half of that amount possibly being re-allocated to University departments following a census by the University next month.
“We are interested in taking steps to ensure this problem doesn’t happen again,” Ahlquist said. “It is a valuable part of an undergraduate education … I understand we won’t replace politics here, but it doesn’t mean GW shouldn’t have a music department.”
Alquist, who is also an associate professor of music, declined to release the exact amount of money in the Music Department’s budget. No professors were released because of the cuts, although most have fewer classes to teach now.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman has approved a new full-time faculty position for the department. The department requested the position through the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, with a deadline of mid-April. Full-time faculty will choose the new professor by the spring semester and they will be given a three-year contract, Ahlquist said.
Although the cuts were not as drastic as anticipated, some said they are still a disappointment.
“Personally, I like to teach beginners,” said Robert Baker, a vocal studies coordinator. “But the University has the right to make that decision.”
Junior Michael Hyland, a journalism major, started taking piano lessons for the first time last year and is now in his third semester of classes.
“It’s really unfortunate that if someone takes an interest in music classes they no longer have this avenue,” he said. “If this had happened last year, I wouldn’t have been able to try.”
To others, the threat of major budget cuts was a catalyst to re-evaluate the department. Music professor Kip Lornell, a member of the academic program review committee, said he favors keeping higher level classes.
“There was too much beginner and not enough advanced training,” he said. “Do we want to give juniors and seniors more classes or teach a physics major piano? What’s our priority?”
Ahlquist agreed that this was the most sensible place to make changes.
“It would be like the Math Department teaching arithmetic,” she said. “Instead, we’re offering more challenges to our top students.”
A placement fair was held last week for students new to the department. Approximately 200 interested students were evaluated and placed into appropriate classes, Ahlquist said.
With a redesigned Web site and improved newsletter to alumni, the department is hoping to attract fundraising and other talented students. Ahlquist is hoping that more publicity and support for the program will help it to grow.
This article appeared in the September 14, 2006 issue of the Hatchet.