Geneseo fails as true liberal arts college

As an institution, Geneseo holds itself to a series of standards considered liberal arts. Its mission statement describes Geneseo as a public liberal arts college that combines a “rigorous curriculum, transformational learning experiences, and a rich co-curricular life to create a learning-centered environment.” In recent years, however, Geneseo has strayed from these values to disproportionately emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics—ultimately discouraging students from engaging in a variety of disciplines.

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a “liberal education” must provide students with broad knowledge, helping them “develop a sense of social responsibility … strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.” Although the general education and Geneseo breadth requirements—which include both natural and social sciences, arts and humanities—establish the university as technically liberal arts, recent actions have indicated otherwise.

Geneseo’s speech-language pathology department closed in May 2014 due to budget cuts from a decrease in state funding. The computer science and studio art departments also closed, but a recent approval of $249,000 in funds will allow a revival of faculty with experience in integrative computational analysis. Assistant Director and Manager for Systems and Networking and Research Technologist Kirk Anne told The Lamron that focusing funds on this program would offset the loss of that computer science major.

No recent funding has supported any restoration of speech-language pathology or studio art, however. The creation of a Critical Language Consortium, funded by a grant from the State University of New York Investment and Performance Fund, looks promising, but the program—which was a collaboration between Geneseo, SUNY Brockport and Monroe Community College—was piloted this semester by Brockport and MCC, not Geneseo.

Geneseo’s increasing distance from the arts and humanities is evident not only by the allocation of funds, but also the general disparity of building space and quality across campus. The Integrative Science Center—an addition to what was once Greene Hall—provides students and faculty with extensive classroom and laboratory space. Bailey Hall—which finished renovations in 2014—also offers brand new facilities to departments in the social sciences—such as sociology and geography.

I am not saying these buildings are unnecessary or excessive—they allow for meaningful growth within those departments—but the difference in quality between these facilities and those of political science, for example, are astounding.

The political science and international relations departments congregate in the basement of Welles Hall—a former elementary school—or the single hallway of Fraser; two entirely different buildings with little more than a doorway connecting them. Classes in English, communication, foreign language and humanities are also held in these buildings.

“It’s like a hand-me down,” international relations and sociology major junior Sana Ansari said. “Welles is the worst. It’s pathetic because we’re paying for this, but my high school was nicer. It makes it harder to learn.”

Ansari questioned the funding behind the new College Stadium when the conditions of a student’s learning environment appear so neglected.

With Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement & Talent Day approaching, it is crucial to understand the importance behind an emphasis on and appreciation for all fields of study, not just those in STEM.

Geneseo administration and faculty must actively fund and support the arts and humanities or the university’s mission statement will become illegitimate.