Lincoln University, an HBCU in Missouri, is known for its rich history, founded by veterans from the 62nd and 65th U.S. Colored Infantries who were determined to build a school for African Americans.
However, now, Inside Higher Ed reports, the school's board of curators has voted 4-2 in a special meeting to deactivate the university's history program for three years, against the recommendation of a faculty committee.
“We all feel like this is an ominous, dreadful thing we’re headed toward—the kind of irrevocable change that will prove destructive to the kind of institution we’re supposed to be,” Bryan Salmons, president of Lincoln’s Faculty Senate and chair of the joint department of English, foreign languages and journalism, told Inside Higher Ed.
The site notes that professors at the university are not certain why the history program was targeted. Inside Higher Ed also pointed out that HBCU history departments are known for exploring a broader view of history than what has traditionally been taught at predominantly white institutions, particularly in the past.
“Every supporting rationale that’s been provided and almost every reason that’s been stated is palpably false,” Salmons added.
No faculty committee ever recommended suspending or shuttering the history program.
"This happened at the executive level, and any other way of representing it is misleading," he insisted. Yet a news release announcing the shuttering of the program reads as follows:
Deactivation of a program means students will not be allowed to enroll in the program, but additional time is needed to determine whether the program should be restructured or eliminated.
These curriculum changes come after a thorough review of 11 of the university’s degree programs. … The decision was made based on recommendations of a committee.
A university spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed on Tuesday that the program was targeted because of low numbers of graduates over five years, "low regional and national career demand," and low demand by incoming students.
Lincoln pointed out that the Missouri Department of Higher Education expects undergraduate programs to have at least 10 graduates annually, while graduate programs are required to have at least five.
Although it is true that the history department graduates fewer than 10 students annually, Salmons said that several other programs also don't graduate 10 students per year, and if the university truly applied that standard across the board, only about 16 out of 39 programs would meet the requirement.
According to Inside Higher Ed, other degrees were also cut at the board meeting: the associate of applied science in early-childhood education and the bachelor of music education and bachelor of science with an emphasis in sacred music. However, those cuts have not caused the concern that the elimination of the history degree has.
Courses in history will still be offered as general education requirements, but students will not be able to declare history as a major for now, although faculty will still be needed to teach the courses. University spokesperson Misty Young said, "When possible, attempts will be made to retool faculty."
Young acknowledged that, based on its own history, Lincoln does have a special commitment to history, saying, "We owe it to our founders and our students to continue to rewrite our story so that more history can be made.”
Read more at Inside Higher Ed.