Classical studies on the chopping block at PLU

A program could be on the chopping block at Pacific Lutheran University. The South Sound school blames low enrollment numbers for the reason it's coming up short in its budget.

Pacific Lutheran University is considering cutting the entire classical studies department due to a budget shortfall.

Professor Eric D. Nelson is one of a handful of Classical Studies professors at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, which encompasses the studies of Latin and ancient Greek and Roman culture.

"Cicero, the great Roman orator said that if you don't know your past you're no better than an infant," said Nelson, who finds classical studies crucial to understanding humanities.

"Whether it’s science or medicine or teaching or rhetoric or writing, it's the basis of all education,” said Zanthia Dwight a classical studies student, "A lot of classics students go into politics and policy making or they go into medical fields or writing."

However, the joint faculty committee at PLU is considering staff cuts as they face a $3 million budget shortfall next school. Faculty Chair Michelle Ceynar said 31 positions could be cut, which would include the entire staff of the classics department.

"We've realized that our faculty is too large for the number of students that we can expect going into the future," said Ceynar.

According to PLU staff there’s been a drop of about 575 students over about 10 years, and they estimate fewer students are enrolling in classics and declaring classics majors.

"It has nothing to do with how important it is as a discipline or how much value our colleagues in the classes, its more looking at what we can sustain, and we just have too many programs, and we need to decide what we can do and continue doing well, so it's tough choices," said Ceynar.

For Nelson, a long time scholar and former PLU student, he says cutting the classics and those who teach it would be heartbreaking.

"It's kind of like you've spent 40 years developing a treasure for somebody that they need and somebody else comes and takes it away,” he said. “The thing that hurts me most is what is going to happen to students later."

Nelson other students, staff, and alumni are writing letters to appeal to the staff committee.

The board of regents will ultimately decide in December which positions will be cut.

© 2017 KING-TV


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