Kentucky’s public higher education (HE) institutions are grappling with budget cuts alongside a new performance based funding model as a result of Governor Matt Bevin’s initiatives. Senate Bill 153 presents a comprehensive HE funding model and was enacted on March 21, 2017. Although KY’s pension crisis is typically to blame for HE budget cuts, the restructuring of the distribution of funds and metrics for determining allocations is another factor. When reporting on such issues, supporters are scarce. Those dedicated to the Humanities are especially in opposition and continue to anticipate a dim future.
Leading up to Bill 153, a marked trend to support STEM disciplines ensued while the Humanities programs continued to defend their existence. Primarily, the decision to incentivize STEM and neglect the Humanities is largely due to reports about current wage and employment prospects. Governor Bevins was quoted, “The net result of putting public tax dollars into education is to ensure that we actually are graduating people that can go into the work force.” https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/business/a-rising-call-to-promote-stem-education-and-cut-liberal-arts-funding.html
Following the bill’s passage, Govenor Bevins challenged universities to evaluate the utility of physical structures and academic programs to reconcile the budget shortfall and to prepare students for the 21st century marketplace; however, opponents suggest it is extremely difficult to evaluate programs’ effectiveness in isolation of an overall curriculum that is supported by various disciplines and requisite skills for success and workplace preparedness. Many fear the control that is being exercised outside of the university and resent the micromanagement tactics employed by government leaders. A professor in the University of Kentucky’s college of medicine said, “I think the faculty are responsible for the curriculum, and it’s the faculty that need to guide this. We have committees that evaluate courses, that evaluate programs. We have a career center.” https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/09/14/kentuckys-governor-says-universities-should-think-about-cutting-programs-poor-job
In anticipation of the proposed changes, one university took considerate measures to evaluate efficiency and subsequently eliminated programs: the French program and Theatre among those named. The university’s Council of Academic Affairs (CAA) examined 21 programs. “In October (2016) the CAA whittled the list down to nine programs. Of those nine programs, only one was spared by regents.” http://www.richmondregister.com/news/eku-cuts-french-theatre-programs/article_b2065d62-bb34-11e6-9952-cb73972b1fe8.html
Most recently, Governor Bevin has proposed the elimination of roughly 70 programs; one being the shut-down of the University Press of Kentucky, a prolific and award-winning publisher that chronicles the history and culture of Kentucky. Although this announcement may not be directly related to SB 153, the pending action does reflect another blow to non-STEM disciplines. The press provides publications that occupy a wide range of appeal, not to mention an avenue for scholars to disseminate their work. In fact, a Stanford University professor was quoted, “In many disciplines, publishing a book or two with a scholarly press is a key requirement for tenure. So any shrinkage in potential outlets can have an impact on many academics’ careers.” https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/01/29/kentucky-governor-seeks-kill-states-university-press