The opportunity to attend smaller classes where students aren’t just numbers in an arena is one of the most appealing aspects of attending a college, rather than a major university. But as the recession continues, the effects are devastating the smaller academic institutions that focus on providing students with a low teacher to student ratio. At Simmons College, an all-male review committee from Deloitte Consulting Group has been called in to review which classes should be cut from the undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences curriculum in order to decrease spending by $7 million dollars. While trimming the budget is occurring at all colleges and universities, Simmons has the unfortunate experience of serving as Deloitte’s first review of an academic institution. As a result, the group’s method of determining what should go has come under intense scrutiny by Simmons students, professors, and alumnae.
According to an October 29th article in the Simmons Voice, Deloitte has recommended evaluating the need for courses that have less than 15 students enrolled, based entirely on statistics from the 2008-2009 academic year. Among the classes that could be cancelled include those that examine the role of gender in economics and politics, as well as a variety of others. At an institution so widely recognized for breeding strong, independent women, the concept of deleting the classes that push boundaries and encourage students to think is a slap in the face. Professor Zachary Abuza of the International Relations and East Asian Studies department hit the nail on the head when he told the Voice, “Do you really want to remove gender and politics at a feminist institution?” Zachary Abuza.
As a 2007 graduate of Simmons College, I attended over 30 classes throughout my 4 years at Simmons. After reviewing my own college transcript, I have determined that about half of the classes I attended were composed of less than 15 students. I have no doubt that my own academic experience was exponentially shaped because I was able to attend these intimate classes where my professors knew me personally, and were able to dedicate their time to helping me succeed. A former political science and public policy major at Simmons, Natalie Kaufman also benefitted from Simmons’ small class size, and now serves as the legislative aide to State Representative Cory Atkins. “Simmons College is known for training talented nurses and scientists, but also for encouraging women, like me, to enter social or political science fields,” Kaufman tells us. “If a women’s college eliminates courses and opportunities that encourage females to become players in traditionally male-dominated fields, how will women maintain their seat at the table?”
Keeping women seated at the table is one of the most vital missions for women’s colleges like Simmons. Consider if women’s college alumnae Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Nancy Pelosi, and Simmons’ own Gwen Ifill were all forced to miss the classes that encouraged them to enter the political realm. Is that a cut we can really afford to make?
A contributing writer for Directory of Boston, Megan Johnson is originally from Connecticut, but has lived in Boston since age 18. She frequently writes for MenuPages Boston, Reinventing Beauty Magazine, Butterfly Diary, SweetTalk on the Spot, and a variety of other print and web publications. You can visit her website at www.meganjohnson.tumblr.com.