The Threat Against Liberal Arts Studies

Black Woman College Student
I had never given much thought to the idea that my liberal arts program could be threatened to the point of extinction until recently. Sure, Women and Gender studies majors have always had to battle critics within and outside of the ivory tower, but our hallowed seat among the other degree granting departments seem to be fixed. We had won our place fair and square and deserved just as much respect.

We change lives. We equip students with the necessary tools to navigate their present and future environments. We teach students how to be socially conscious about their actions. We teach them how to delve deeper into society’s narratives so as to make more informed rather than superficial decisions. We teach people how to be activists in their communities, on their jobs and in their homes. We teach. We teach. We teach.

Two weeks ago, a normal day as any, I was quietly sipping away at my tall Americano from Starbucks surfing the web for interesting news stories when I came across the following headline at the Huffington Post: “University of Texas, Rick Perry Clash Over Future of Public Higher Education.” “Uh oh. Settle in Alice. This is going to be a good one.”

Twenty minutes later, a rush of emotions had taken over. First there was anger—seething anger. Then disbelief. Silence. Hurt. And finally disgust.

To quickly summarize, Perry argues that in order to make the higher educational system in Texas more accessible—more affordable, measures need to be implemented that would decrease the amount of research being produced by faculty (research that Perry and his constituents argue isn’t top quality) and increase the number of students on campus putting more faculty back into the classroom. By transforming the university into a more factory like institution and increasing educational dollars in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, students will have a far better chance of securing a job.

The problem, however, with Perry’s ridiculous proposal, is that the higher educational system was never meant to be a tool for corporate employment. It was not conceived of or built to be a gateway for commercial exploitation. It was, rather, a place where people could go to further develop their minds and souls at an advanced level. To then go out and secure a job within your chosen field and practice what you had lovingly spent four years academically digesting—was your glory.

With proposals such as the one Perry is trying to implement along with others like Governor’s Rick Scott (R-FL) and Pat McCrory (R-NC), the question surrounding the future of liberal arts studies is at the forefront. All three individuals, in an effort to push their corporate agendas forward, have publicly disparaged liberal arts studies suggesting that they either be subsidized, taught in other states that may deem them more useful, or better yet—taken out of the university system altogether extinguishing their presence. For these narrow-minded, elitist individuals liberal arts programs are nothing more than unnecessary roadblocks to future employment. Or so they believe.

While most of the degrees that we liberal arts fans attain will not yield six-figure salaries, they do, however, carry the essential skills needed to attain employment at all levels of an organization. Liberal arts folks are not just dancing in the streets, protesting in Washington and causing havoc for college administrators on campuses. We are fiercely engaged at every socio-cultural-political level as anyone else who graduated with degrees in the aforementioned areas of science, technology, mathematics and engineering.

The idea that jobs will more easily become available to someone whose degree is in a more traditional field versus someone’s whose not, is just plain STUPID. There is no single avenue one can take to guarantee employment unless, perhaps, it’s through nepotism.

Regardless of what you decide to go after in life, you have the right to do so without being judged, questioned or led to believe that you will not be able to support yourself or your family (should you choose to have one) in the near future. No one has the right to tell you that your degree is a waste of time.


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Alice J. Rollins is an aspiring freelance writer and blogger who holds an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from DePaul University. Her areas of interest include African American women’s spirituality, feminist/womanist pedagogy and politics of migration.

She is currently based in Chicago, IL. Email her at:

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