Letter: What's happening to UND Honors Program?
To the editor,
We, 53 former students and faculty of the UND Honors Program, have followed the Herald's reporting of the demolition of campus buildings like Robertson-Sayre Hall with a mix of sadness and rage. While the newspaper has explored the historical significance of these buildings, these stories fail to cover more significant news: the in-kind demolition of Honors, an award-winning, 57-year-old academic program formerly housed in the Hall that produced some of the state's most prominent physicians, policymakers, and business leaders.
While "UND Today" has noted "growth opportunities" for Honors, local reporting has yet to explore several questions: Is it true that the program is cutting its Senior Honors Thesis requirement, increasing class sizes, and effectively eliminating student advising and student organizations? Why has the Honors Program seen a 100 percent turnover in full-time faculty and staff since 2017? How will Honors manage its "largest incoming freshman [class] ever," with fewer dedicated faculty? Why are Honors faculty positions being eliminated at the same time as the program is given "a targeted $150,000 space and furniture investment?"
Answers to these questions will tell the program's supporters and alumni if the university is serious about recruiting the best and brightest students and maintaining its position as a top liberal arts institution that we're proud to call alma mater, or if it is ceding its leadership.
After all, the major cutbacks to core programs make it clear that UND is not committed to supporting the core tenets of arts, humanities, and global learning that make a university.
Rather, leadership is working hard to turn UND into a school interested only in oil, big data, and drones.
We understand that North Dakota is experiencing an ongoing budget crunch, and that the cuts noted above have come at the hands of several administrations and state leaders over years.
But we hope that North Dakotans realize that by eliminating the humanities and marginalizing programs that teach students how to think critically and globally, the university is sabotaging itself and the state's economy in the long run. Which part of the university's soul is next to go?
We cringe at the thought that the UND we knew and loved, that helped make us who we are, is becoming, like Robertson-Sayre Hall, a pile of rubble.
Stephanie Lee Foughty
Atle Berglie Johansen
Amanda Licht Jones
Erin Lord Kunz