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Academic Division Prioritization Update

On September 25, 2015, Provost Brandsen provided an update to students on the preliminary recommendations from the Academic Prioritization Task Force:

Dear students,

As you may know, for several years now Calvin College has been working to implement a prioritization plan that will put the college on a sustainable financial footing by the fall of 2017. A number of things have already been accomplished:

  • the college has raised $25 million to pre-pay principal on the college’s long-term debt;
  • the college has sold non-core real estate assets and used these proceeds to reduce principal on long-term debt;
  • the college has implemented strategies that increase revenue; and
  • the college is well on its way to reducing expenses throughout the college in an effort to significantly reduce its long-term debt by July 2017. 

To complete the prioritization process outlined in 2014 for the academic division, I appointed a task force to align faculty resources with student demand and the college’s strategic goals.  The academic prioritization task force included nine tenured faculty members representing nine disciplines working on the academic objectives set forth in the 2014 prioritization plan. The task force collected and scrutinized both qualitative and quantitative data and interviewed representatives of programs under review, while considering the strategic aims of the college. I have received the task force’s recommendations, and I have shared them with several of the college’s governing committees.

Today, the academic deans and I met with faculty in programs who are affected by these recommendations. We have also shared our recommendations with the faculty and staff at Calvin College.  And now we want to share them with you.

I want to be very clear about two things: none of the programs recommended for elimination are being recommended because of quality concerns, and none of these programs are being eliminated because we think they are unimportant. These programs are recommended for elimination based on low student demand, as measured by several metrics. With deep regret, I have recommended that these programs be eliminated: 

  • Architecture Minor
  • Art History Major (retain the Art History Minor)
  • German Major (retain the German Minor)
  • Greek Major (retain the Greek Minor; Classical Studies Major)
  • Latin Major (retain the Latin Minor; retain the Classical Studies Major)
  • Theatre Major (retain the Theatre Minor and the Calvin Theatre Company)

If you are enrolled in any of the programs noted above, you can rest assured that your program will still be available to you. We are committed to teaching these programs to completion for current students and have an accreditation obligation to do so.

And you should know that your advisors and other faculty and staff across campus want to support and help you with good advice during this time. So, I encourage you to talk with them.

Finally, Calvin College is committed to retaining the liberal arts as central to its identity.  We find ourselves currently in a hard spot of needing to better align college-wide resources with demand.  Although the recommendations for program elimination fall on programs in the humanities, languages and arts, Calvin remains committed to these areas and we need now to invest in their reinvention and innovation.

While necessary cuts are being implemented, the college is also committed to restructuring in a way that will enable sustainable growth in the humanities and the arts. In fact, Calvin will not thrive if the only outcome of prioritization is offsetting debt.

Please keep the faculty, staff and students in affected programs and departments in your prayers. We are in the midst of difficult days that will challenge us all as we grieve these separations.

As we pray for our colleagues, we should also continue to pray for the college. I am confident that the college will weather these financial challenges and that Calvin College will continue to serve you well. I pray that God will continue to bless you in your academic passion and that Calvin College will be the place where that passion flourishes and is refined.


Cheryl Brandsen