Geneseo funding favors sciences over liberal arts, humanities

With a vote in the future of Western Humanities courses on Wednesday May 3 and a greater re-evaluation of the curriculum on the horizon, it is imperative that Geneseo remembers its mission.

Geneseo must maintain and re-commit to providing a liberal arts education that combines aspects of the natural and social sciences with the humanities. 

Of the 64 SUNY campuses interspersed throughout the state, Geneseo is only one of five colleges—alongside Fredonia, Oneonta, Plattsburgh and Purchase— that explicitly focuses on the liberal arts.

Out of these, Geneseo has the most academically rigorous curriculum devoted to the liberal arts. 

Despite its unique responsibility in offering a public liberal arts education, Geneseo has signaled a shift away from the liberal arts—especially humanities and the arts—over the past decade.

Specifically, Geneseo has allocated millions of dollars over the past 15 years for the construction or refurbishment of buildings such as the Integrated Science Center and Bailey Hall—both buildings that focus almost entirely on natural and social sciences. 

Such disciplines are, of course, essential for a liberal arts education, but while the natural and social sciences departments were being injected with copious amounts of funds, other areas were left behind. 

While Bailey was receiving a $23 million renovation, according to an April 27, 2012 The Lamron article, the administration cut funding to speech-language pathology, computer science and studio art. Similarly, as science students luxuriate in beautifully constructed buildings, history, English and philosophy students languish in decades-old buildings like Welles Hall and Sturges Hall.

A commitment to the liberal arts, of course, does not begin or end with the buildings; this does, however, indicate a concerning funding disparity. This disparity gets wider every day, even outside of Geneseo. 

The SUNY system itself is an organization that has pushed for a shift away from the liberal arts. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, an education specialist, will be replaced by engineer Kristina Johnson in September, according to The New York Times

While Johnson is a seasoned administrator and will likely serve the system well, her selection represents what many college administrators consider valuable nowadays.

Though SUNY has provided extra funding to Geneseo in past years, it has been to emphasize technical skills more than liberal arts values. A recent example of such funding allocation was when Geneseo received money in 2016 to attract faculty for integrative computational analysis, according to The Lamron.

Again, there is nothing wrong with fields like integrated computer analysis, but funding those fields over the humanities and over the arts detracts from Geneseo’s purpose. 

In order to refocus Geneseo’s mission on the liberal arts, curriculum reforms must occur that place a renewed emphasis on the fine arts and the humanities. 

As it progresses, Geneseo must avoid simply accepting that technical skills are inherently superior to skills in less profitable fields. 

Geneseo, as it exists today, is defined by its liberal arts opportunities. It is the best liberal arts school in the SUNY system, and abandoning that credibility would be a disservice to not only those who want a quality and affordable liberal arts education, but also to Geneseo itself.