Cutting down to business; YSU ends six degrees

By Elizabeth Coss

The first week of Youngstown State University’s spring semester will be the last for a handful of majors at the university. 

Six degrees will be sunset this academic semester, and no incoming students will be accepted into the following programs:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Geography
  • Bachelor of Arts in Music
  • Bachelor of Music in Music Composition
  • Master of Music in Music Composition 
  • Master of Music in Jazz Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Education in Art Education

According to the YSU News Center, these degrees will be phased out because of, “low enrollment, limited market demand and/or constrained growth potential.”

While the interdisciplinary studio art and digital media/photography tracks technically are listed to sunset, these programs will undergo restructuring as different majors. 

The interdisciplinary studio art and digital media/photography tracks will be merged to make a new major. The graphic and interactive design track will become its own separate major.

All students enrolled in degrees announced to be sunset will be able to complete their degrees. 

The Academic Senate met Jan. 10 to discuss the sunsetting programs. A special meeting was held virtually to accommodate as many people as possible on short notice. 

Over 250 participants tuned into the informational meeting that featured professor or senator-selected speakers through request only. 

Interim Provost Jennifer Pintar started the meeting by providing data and explaining areas facing cuts, both in programs and faculty.

Pintar said these decisions for program cuts were discussed with chairs and deans beforehand and have been in the talks for the past three and a half years through a review process.

Phyllis Paul, dean of Cliffe College of Creative Arts, said these decisions were not only collaborative but went through a structured process with the provost, deans, chairs and faculty of every college.

“There were a number of people who met with the chairs and the faculty, the deans,” Paul said. “The chairs have been working really well, the faculty and chairs together in collaboration … I don’t want anyone to mistake that because we have an immediate reorganization…on the horizon that this is the only time the chairs and faculty are working to innovate, it’s not. They’ve been doing that continuously and they’ve made some really great progress.”

Brad Shellito, a geography professor, explained geography is more than just its major or students to the Academic Senate. 

“We are frequently offering our courses to a wide variety of other students here at the university. In particular, we’re seeing large numbers of both undergraduate and graduate students,” Shellito said. “We’re really servicing all of these other programs around campus and to aid this the geography program offers four different minors, it has a certificate program in geospatial science and technology, and a graduate certificate in the same.”

The university also announced that no more than 13 faculty retrenchments will take place in the programs being phased out. Pintar said faculty can opt to separate through a Voluntary Separation and Retirement Package. 

Pintar said program cuts can be difficult for many, including the university, and that layoffs can create an uncomfortable situation. 

“This is not comfortable for anyone and we know it’s hard for the faculty. They’re going through a lot right now. It’s their passion, it’s their livelihood and we do feel for them,” Pintar said. “We have to make uncomfortable decisions to make sure the university is viable for a long time.”

Despite the sunsets, plans have been made for 16 new faculty positions available in 10 majors that have seen substantial enrollment and graduation growth in primarily STEM-related majors. 

Four positions will open for chemistry and biology, computer science and cybersecurity, and engineering each. Two will open for nursing, and one will open for exercise science and forensic science.