Departed department 

A distinctly funereal feeling swept through the standing-room-only crowd last week when the Wayne State University Board of Governors approved a budget that included elimination of the Interdisciplinary Studies Department. A unique program that helped older students obtain their college degrees for 33 years, the department was passionately defended by its faculty, students and alumni alike, but their pleas and rationale failed to sway board members forced to make cuts because of Lansing’s ongoing budget crisis.

News Hits was skeptical when supporters of the department began telling us that it was being targeted for elimination for philosophical and not fiscal reasons. But as we watched and listened, that skepticism ebbed. Especially persuasive was the contention that the $220,000 cost savings associated with shutting the department and moving its faculty to other parts of the university could end up costing the university many times that amount. According to Roslyn Schindler, the department’s chair, the department brought in about $7 million a year in tuition. How much of that would be lost if those students went elsewhere? No one can say with certainty, but closing the department sure seems like risky business from where we sit.

But that argument’s moot at this point. As Woody Guthrie once sang, "So long, it’s been good to know ya."

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or

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