Music education major reinstated

April 30, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Mistake in Prioritization and Review process leads to change in decision about major

News | Sarah Boadwine

After re-examining the cost of having a music education major at Bethel, administration has reinstated the previously eliminated major. It was one of multiple majors cut during the prioritization and review process that took place during the fall. Other majors within the music department, such as vocal performance and sacred music, were also eliminated.

The decision to eliminate the major was driven by data that used seven different criteria. According to Barrett Fisher, CAS acting dean, how large the majors are, how many students were majors and the actual cost per credit hour of the majors were the factors most important in making the decision. It was the originally calculated cost per credit hours of the classes within the music education department that led to its elimination.

Originally, according to Fisher, the data that was collected showed that the music department was quite expensive compared to other departments at Bethel, which led the university to reconsider what programs within the department were least cost effective. 

After the cuts were made, many students, faculty, alumni and community members began the Bethel Community Music Initiative. Student musician Michelle Hofeldt explained that the BCMI was started as a way for students to respond constructively to the cuts made in the department.

The BCMI consisted of a representative letter to Bethel’s administration in response to the music department cuts, testimonials from people within the Bethel music community and a request for the reinstatement of the music education major.

“While the music education major was reinstated as a direct result of finding those errors in calculations of the cost, I believe that it was the action and determination of the music faculty and the members of the BCMI, in speaking to support a community they love, that really caused the change,” Hofeldt said.

One of the ways that is used to figure out student cost per credit hour, according to Fisher, is to count up all of the student credit hours. Fisher explained that through this process, he and his colleagues learned that the music department is a unique department when it comes to the counting of credit hours. This is because of the amount of students who partake in ensembles and private music lessons, which can each be taken for one or zero credits, which contrasts highly with the three- and four-credit classes found more prominently in other departments. 

“The reason that music came out so expensive was that they had relatively few students in three- and four-credit classes, and they had a lot of students in the ensembles,” Fisher said. “It turned out that the number of credit hours in ensembles and private music lessons weren’t being accurately accounted for. There actually were more there than our original calculations had revealed.”

Once those credit hours were added, the price of the department changed, which resulted in the reinstatement of the music education major.

“We had a lot of conversations after the elimination of the major about the connections between even a small music education program and the health and well-being of the ensemble," Fisher said. "Even if the ensembles were 80 percent non-music majors, it still was critical to the quality of those ensembles that there be music majors in them."

With the end of the school year creeping up fast and plans for the 2014-2015 year being solidified, the process of eliminating the music education major and reinstating it may have affected the number of students attending Bethel. According to Fisher, there are probably students who had decided to transfer from Bethel after the elimination of the major who won’t change their decision, and there are also students who would have come to Bethel that decided not to for this reason.

Fisher does believe that there is also evidence of students who stuck with their decsion to attend Bethel after the elimination, and there are also students who have decided to come to Bethel since the reinstatement of it.

With the miscalculation that led to the elimination of the music education major came worry about the validity of the decisions to eliminate other areas of study during the prioritization and review process.

“We have checked all of the other numbers, and this is the only place where we have found an error,” Fisher said.

With the reinstatement of the music education major comes excitement, but also the realization of a mistake. According to Fisher, this can go one of two ways. It can either be taken in a pessimistic light and trust might have been lost, or, on the optimistic side, it can raise trust because of the transparency that Bethel took and the action taken in result of the mistake. Fisher hopes for the latter.

“When I met with the department to give them the news, I have never been so happy to say that I was wrong." 

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