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The Bridge

Academic Department Restructuring Update and FAQs

A Letter from President Swallow


Dear Carthage students and alumni,

Over the past several weeks, many of us at Carthage have received an outpouring of beautiful messages from you about your education at Carthage. You have written to me, to your faculty, to our department chairs, division deans, and board members in response to my announcement that Carthage may need to discontinue several academic departments and reorganize our departmental structure.

How moving it has been to read your words and hear so many of you explain with such passion and deep understanding the value of the liberal arts at Carthage.

I want to emphasize again that the importance of these subjects and the quality of these departments was never in question — each of the departments we have been discussing ably and innovatively delivered their disciplines. The proposed restructuring was, instead, necessitated by hard financial realities. We must bring faculty expenses in line with student interest and demand, so that Carthage can continue to provide a transformative education for generations of students to come.

I am writing today with an update on our plans. After months of study, weeks of listening, and careful review, we have finalized a plan that will discontinue two of 10 academic departments identified for restructuring.

Beginning this fall:

  • The departments of Classics and Philosophy & Great Ideas will be discontinued as stand-alone departments.
  • Carthage will teach out the classics, philosophy, and Great Ideas majors and minors over the coming years. All current students who have declared these majors and minors will be able to complete their degrees at Carthage, but future students will not be able to major or minor in these subjects. Philosophy courses will continue to be offered through another humanities department.
  • All other departments and programs of study at Carthage are unaffected by this reorganization. This includes the eight other departments originally considered for restructuring: Biology, English, Modern Languages, Music, Physics & Astronomy, Political Science, Religion, and Sociology & Criminal Justice. These will continue as stand alone departments; majors, minors, and courses in these areas will not change.

While I believe this is a good outcome for Carthage and our students, it does come with a significant cost — a reduction in our faculty. In total, 15 tenured professors will be leaving Carthage; all of them are doing so voluntarily as a result of a generous separation package offered to faculty in the 10 identified academic departments. In addition, eight non-tenured faculty positions have been reduced through resignations, expiring contracts, and contracts that the College has chosen not to renew.

I know this is extremely difficult to hear. Carthage is a tight-knit community. As students and alumni, you have formed tight bonds with your professors. They are mentors and friends. As I have said previously, this is a painful process, but one I believe to be necessary to further reduce the College’s expenses, respond to demographic and market forces that cannot be ignored, and position us to thrive long-term as an intentional liberal arts college.

We have put together an extensive FAQs on our website (see below) to help you understand these changes. I will also be holding a virtual town hall meeting for students at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, to talk both about these changes and our return to campus. I will be holding a virtual town hall meeting for alumni at 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13. You are, of course, welcome to attend either or both of those meetings, but I will be focusing my comments for each group. If you are interested in attending, please sign up here; details for the virtual meetings will be sent to you.

The last few months have been among the most difficult Carthage has ever faced, and I know that many of you feel that we are divided as a community. As we prepare for a fall semester amidst great uncertainty, my hope is that we will come together and respond as one to the challenges before us. It is in this way that we can best bring our mission statement — Seeking Truth, Building Strength, Inspiring Service — Together — to life.

As always, I welcome your questions and feedback, and I thank you for your deep devotion to Carthage College.

Sincerely,

John Swallow
President

Frequently Asked Questions


The FAQs below will continue to be updated as we receive questions and comments from our Carthage community members. Jump to …

General Questions


What is happening?

After completing a process outlined in the faculty handbook, Carthage College will discontinue two academic departments and reduce full-time faculty positions by 14 percent in order to put the College on solid financial footing for the future.

Beginning this fall:

  • The departments of Classics and Philosophy & Great Ideas will be discontinued as stand-alone departments.
  • Carthage will teach out the classics, philosophy, and Great Ideas majors and minors over the coming years. All current students who have declared these majors and minors will be able to complete their degrees at Carthage, but future students will not be able to major or minor in these subjects. Philosophy courses will continue to be offered through another humanities department.
  • All other departments and programs of study at Carthage are unaffected by this reorganization. This includes the eight other departments originally considered for restructuring: Biology, English, Modern Languages, Music, Physics & Astronomy, Political Science, Religion, and Sociology & Criminal Justice. These will continue as stand-alone departments; majors, minors, and courses in these areas will not change.

Unfortunately, due to financial challenges that pre-date COVID-19 and are not unique to Carthage, the College did need to reduce its full-time faculty. In total, 15 tenured faculty and 8 non-tenured faculty will be leaving Carthage. Departing tenured faculty are doing so voluntarily as a result of the separation package offered to faculty in the 10 identified academic departments. The non-tenured faculty positions have been reduced through resignations, expiring contracts, and contracts that the College has chosen not to renew. All faculty affected by these changes have been notified.

Why is this happening?

The higher education landscape is changing. Colleges nationwide are facing rising costs, decreasing revenue, and, demographically, a smaller pool of applicants. In order for Carthage to meet the coming decade from a position of strength, we must regularly reassess our academic programs to make sure we are offering degrees that students are seeking, while retaining and building on the College’s strengths.

Since 2013, student enrollment at Carthage has remained relatively flat, but, driven by student demand, we’ve added more than 20 new faculty without reducing faculty in areas of lesser demand. This has led to increased salary and benefit expenses without a commensurate increase in tuition revenue. Current and future financial challenges mean this is not sustainable. The College must bring faculty expenses in line with student interest and demand.

A reduction in the number of tenured faculty is a highly unusual event that must follow terms of employment outlined in the faculty handbook.

Are majors, minors, or areas of study going away?

All majors, minors, and areas of study currently offered at Carthage will continue, with the exception of those offered by classics, philosophy, and Great Ideas. Carthage has decided to teach out those majors and minors due to decreased student demand over the last decade.

Any current student who has declared a major or minor in classical studies, classical foundations, philosophy, or Great Ideas will be able to complete that major or minor and finish their degree at Carthage. Incoming students will not have these majors and minors available to them.

All other majors and minors will continue at Carthage, and students’ paths toward their degrees will not change.

Ten departments were originally proposed for restructuring. Now only two are being discontinued. What changed? And why did this need to happen in this way?

The proposed restructuring of 10 academic departments was a necessary step in a process prescribed by the Carthage College faculty handbook. Due to hard financial realities, the College needed to take steps to bring faculty expenses in line with student interest and demand, balance the College’s budget, and set Carthage on sound financial footing for the future.

There are specific guidelines regarding faculty governance at Carthage that must be followed when eliminating tenured faculty positions. Those guidelines are outlined in the faculty handbook. According to this process, the President must recommend specific departments for discontinuation, establish advisory committees for each identified department, and secure the support of the Board of Trustees.

Once this process began, the College was able to achieve the needed reduction in faculty across these 10 departments through voluntary separations by tenured faculty and contract changes for non-tenured faculty.

The quality of these departments, or their ability to ably and innovatively deliver their disciplines, was never in question.

The Liberal Arts at Carthage


Will Carthage still be a liberal arts institution?

Absolutely. Carthage has always been, is, and will always be a liberal arts institution. We will continue to offer courses and majors across the liberal arts and sciences, and all of our students will continue to fulfill their general education requirements in these liberal arts. The College has evolved in dramatic ways over its 173-year history in order to better meet the needs of students and the world. This evolution continues.

While the departments of Classics and Philosophy & Great Ideas will be discontinued and their majors and minors phased out, Carthage will continue to offer courses in philosophy, as well as courses in the full breadth of the humanities. The Division of Arts and Humanities offers courses and degree programs in art and art history, Asian studies, communication and digital media, English, modern languages, music, religion, theatre, and women’s and gender studies.

This restructuring recognizes that over time, students are electing some majors over others, and we must ensure that we match the number of faculty to the number of students taking courses and programs. This is part of the continual evolution of Carthage’s academic offerings, which ensures we are offering degrees students are seeking while remaining true to our liberal arts core.

The phasing out of majors in classics, philosophy, and Great Ideas reflects what has already happened due to student interest: Less than 1 percent of our students declare majors in those fields, and only three incoming students have indicated an interest in majors in those fields. To be good stewards of tuition dollars, we must ensure that we do not continue to staff majors that students are not pursuing.

Student Impact


How will these changes impact current students and their programs of study or progress toward their degrees?

Majors, minors, and courses of study in all areas of the College will largely remain the same. All current students will continue to progress toward their selected degree without interruption.

Students with declared majors and minors in classical studies, classical foundations, philosophy, and Great Ideas will also continue their studies and complete their degrees at Carthage. Changes to these majors and minors will only impact future students.

Of course, there is a difference between saying a student’s program of study will not be impacted by these changes, and saying a student will not be impacted. We know that our students will feel the impact of any reduction of our full-time faculty. Our students form tight bonds with their professors; that’s part of what makes Carthage special. Carthage students’ relationships with their faculty mentors are incredibly important.

This change will be felt on a personal level for everyone at Carthage, which is why these decisions were so difficult. But they still needed to be made. Carthage must take steps now to align the number of faculty teaching our academic programs with the level of student interest. These changes are necessary so we can continue to meet students’ needs and advance the programs students demand.

How will these changes impact fall classes?

We anticipate minimal and manageable impacts on fall classes as a result of these changes. Some of your courses, due to faculty departures, may be taught by a different faculty member or instructor. Class schedules will be updated in the coming weeks, and you will be notified when those changes happen.

It is not unusual for course schedules to change in August, and even for instructors assigned to courses to shift. This year is already quite unusual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as always, Carthage will prioritize our students’ needs. Any necessary changes will be communicated to students and faculty in a timely manner.

How will these changes impact the incoming Class of 2024 and future students?

Because most majors, minors, and courses of study will largely remain the same — and will continue to be offered long into the future — we anticipate minimal impact on our incoming students, both those joining us this fall and future classes. However, future students will not be able to major in classical studies, classical foundations, philosophy, or Great Ideas. There are currently three incoming first-year students who have expressed an interest in majoring in one of those areas, and our Admissions representatives have already been in touch with those students to tell them about this change.

Will this affect the name of my degree or what it says on my diploma?

No. All current students will continue to progress toward their selected degree without interruption, and the name of the degree will not be changed.

Will it be harder to get into classes, or harder to graduate on time?

No. Carthage has always worked to ensure our students get into the classes they need to graduate on time and we will continue to do so. In fact, Carthage recently implemented a Four Year Graduation Guarantee for students entering Carthage as freshmen in Fall 2020. Carthage faculty will be teaching one additional course per year, as determined by the provost to meet student needs.

Will some classes no longer be offered?

The College’s course offerings have always changed each semester, with new courses added and other courses falling off the schedule due to low student demand or a faculty member’s teaching schedule. There may be some electives in a very specific topic that will no longer be offered because that faculty member has departed, but we do not anticipate significant changes to most courses. The College has also announced a changed policy regarding the regular faculty teaching load, increasing it by one additional course per year. This will enable the College to offer the same number of courses.

Has Carthage reorganized departments or phased out majors before?

Yes. Carthage College regularly assesses the majors and minors we offer, and over the College’s history, new majors have been added while other majors have been phased out or changed/renamed as a program evolved. Departments and divisions have also evolved over time.

For example, Carthage used to offer a major in information systems, which was administered through a Business Administration Department. That major is no longer offered, and in 2014, the Carthage Business Administration Department evolved into two departments: the Management and Marketing Department, which offers majors in management and marketing, and the Accounting and Finance Department, which offers majors in accounting and finance.

Carthage used to have six different academic divisions: Education, Fine Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. In 2015, those six divisions were restructured into the three divisions we have now: Arts and Humanities, Natural and Social Sciences, and Professional Studies.

The Classics major was new to Carthage in the 1996-97 academic year, while the Great Ideas major was introduced in 2004-05.

Faculty Reductions


How many faculty positions have been reduced, and when will students know which faculty have left?

Fifteen tenured faculty and eight non-tenured faculty will be leaving Carthage. The departing tenured faculty are doing so as a result of a voluntary separation package offer. The non-tenured faculty positions have been reduced through resignations, expiring contracts, and contracts that the College has chosen not to renew. All faculty affected by these changes have been notified.

The Registrar regularly updates courses for each semester. The fall schedule will be updated in the coming weeks. If you have questions about a specific course, please talk to your department chair or the division dean.

What happens if my faculty advisor / senior thesis advisor is no longer at Carthage?

If your advisor has left the College, your department chair or divisional dean will be in touch with you. Your department chair will work with you to find the best faculty member to advise you as you complete your studies or senior thesis at Carthage.

How are research projects, SURE projects, and J-Term study tours affected by these changes?

Undergraduate research experiences and J-Term are hallmarks of the Carthage experience, and these opportunities will continue. If you were part of an ongoing research project with a faculty member who is no longer at Carthage, please talk with your department chair or division dean. J-Term 2021 travel will depend on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the College will keep students updated as J-Term nears. The Summer Undergraduate Research Experience will continue in summer 2021. Look for those opportunities and applications at the beginning of the spring semester as always.

Carthage prides itself on small classes and strong mentoring relationships between students and faculty. How can we reduce our full-time faculty and still offer those to students?

Students will continue to see small classes and strong mentoring relationships. Reducing faculty in areas of reduced student demands and asking faculty to teach one more class a year will ensure that classes are small and that faculty continue to mentor students.

How does reducing faculty and reorganizing departments save the College money?

The difficult decision to reduce the number of faculty positions will enable the College to reduce salary and benefit expenses over time, so that our expenditures become more in line with student interest and tuition revenue. As the salary and benefits of our faculty and staff are over 50 percent of the College’s budget each year, the savings is significant. A reduction in the number of tenured faculty is a highly unusual event that must follow terms of employment outlined in the faculty handbook.

What other cost-saving steps did Carthage take before reducing faculty positions?

Carthage has taken many steps to reduce expenses. We would not be reducing faculty positions unless these reductions were necessary to ensure the long-term financial stability of the College.

Like colleges across the country, Carthage is facing very serious financial challenges due to the changing higher education landscape — challenges only accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting shut-down of the College’s residence halls, conference centers, and on-campus activities led to losses in the millions of dollars, and required the immediate implementation of cost-saving measures over the last five months. Those measures included staff layoffs and furloughs, the suspension of employer contributions to retirement accounts, and 10 and 20 percent cuts to executive salaries. Carthage previously announced plans to reduce all non-compensation expenses collegewide by at least 10 percent.

Other challenges predate the pandemic and are not unique to Carthage. Colleges nationwide are facing rising costs, decreasing revenue, and, demographically, a smaller pool of applicants through at least 2026. At Carthage, student enrollment has remained relatively flat over the last decade, but driven by student demand, we’ve added more than 20 new faculty without reducing faculty in areas of lesser demand. This has led to increased salary and benefit expenses without a commensurate increase in tuition revenue. This imbalance simply must be addressed.

If Carthage needs to reduce faculty, why does the College continue to spend money in other areas, such as athletics, renovations in Lentz Hall, and a new Aspire Center?

Carthage must make strategic decisions to ensure the overall health and vitality of the institution and to maintain the high quality of the student experience. Our Athletics division serves nearly 800 student-athletes, or a third of our student population. The Aspire Program will support every Carthage student and graduate for decades to come.

Students will see renovations in Lentz Hall when they return to campus this fall. Destructive flooding in January 2020 destroyed the building’s mechanical room, requiring a new HVAC system, ceilings, and lighting throughout the building. These renovations happened this spring and summer, and as much as 75 percent of the cost will be covered by insurance.

The new Aspire Center and fourth floor remodeling was paid for by a generous gift from the Tarble Family Foundation — a gift made specifically for this purpose. Donations made to Carthage are often assigned to specific improvements or funds and cannot be spent elsewhere.

FAQs for Classics, Philosophy, and Great Ideas Students


I’m a classics, philosophy, or Great Ideas major. What does this mean for me?

You will continue your coursework at Carthage, and progress toward your degree without interruption. All current students who have declared a major or minor in classical studies, classical foundations, philosophy, or Great Ideas will be able to complete their studies at Carthage. This change impacts future students. Incoming and future students will not have these majors or minors available to them.

What does this mean for my fall classes?

Some of your courses, due to faculty departures, may be taught by a different faculty member or instructor. The course catalog and your schedule will be updated in the coming weeks. For additional questions, talk to Corinne Ness, dean of the division of Arts and Humanities.

Will future students be able to study classics, Great Ideas, or philosophy at Carthage?

Carthage will continue to offer courses in philosophy, but incoming students will not be able to declare a major or minor in philosophy. Carthage will begin to phase out its courses in classics and Great Ideas. The Division of Arts and Humanities will continue to offer a broad range of courses and degree programs in art and art history, Asian studies, communication and digital media, English, modern languages, music, religion, theatre, and women’s and gender studies.