Early this past week, Yeshiva College (YC) Professor of Speech Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg released a YouTube video calling for students and alumni of Yeshiva University to donate their money and their voices to save his “child,” the Yeshiva College Speech Department. Because of numerous budget cuts, the Yeshiva College Dean’s Office has made a number of cutbacks to balance the budget.
YC Dean Dr. Barry Eichler explained to The Commentator that the coming changes are the result of a nine-month undertaking to balance YC’s budget. The Dean’s Office was charged with the task of reducing the College’s academic expenditures by $2 million, a significant portion of the budget, considering that Yeshiva College’s overall budget is less than $12 million. For over half a year, the Dean’s Office, working with other administrators, department chairs and faculty, reviewed how the College used its academic and non-academic personnel in order to determine how departments could utilize their personnel and resources more efficiently.
Until now, the Dean’s Office avoided cutting academics when dealing with the financial constraints, by focusing on only “fringe” expenses, as described by Dean Eichler. But now there is a new reality: Department heads were told that they needed to reduce costs. Budgetary limitations have made it impossible to balance the YC budget without detracting from some of the more peripheral academic offerings of YC.
Speech has not been a requirement in Yeshiva College for years. Dean Eichler explained that SYMS students make up the majority of speech students—in fact, over the last few years, only 11-25% of students in each speech course were YC students. This led Dean Eichler to offer the Speech Department to be a part of SYMS, but they declined the offer. Syms Dean Moses Pava explained that the SYMS faculty voted to get rid of the Composition I, II, and Speech requirements, and to replace them with the YC First Year Writing seminar and a communications course that will be taught by full-time professors instead of adjuncts. To address Dr. Rosenberg’s worry that students will be “unable to communicate” without the Speech Department, Dean Eichler explained that there are resources and workshops on campus, such as the Career Development Center, to help with interviews, and professors can make themselves available to help students with preparing presentations.
The Physical Education (PE) Department of YC will be closed next semester. This had to be approved by the faculty of YC because, until now, it was a requirement for a YC degree. According to Dean Eichler, this will allow YC to save $90,000 annually. While competitive sports teams will still be in full service, PE courses will no longer be offered starting this fall. After this cut, to the chagrin or delight of many students on campus, there is no longer a PE requirement to graduate YC.
For the Theatre Arts academic programs, Dean Eichler conferred with Stern College for Women (SCW) Dean Karen Bacon, to see how Stern has financially dealt with its dramatic extra-curricular activities, such as the SCDS play. Like Stern, the YC plays will no longer be part of the Theatre Arts academic program, which is being cut. The future of YCDS is now within the non-academic budget.
The Music Department offerings have not been curtailed as a result of financial constraints, but fewer sections of “Sense of Music” will be offered because the course will not be a requirement in the new curriculum, which will go into effect next fall. Dean Eichler reassured music majors that enough courses will exist for students to continue to major in music. There will be cutbacks, however, that will affect the architecture and studio art minors. Because fewer art courses will be offered in any given semester, students will need to plan their academic course schedule with more precision, by deciding which course they will take each semester based on a departmental schedule that will include plans for course offerings in future semesters. The details for these schedules have not been finalized as of yet.
Better course planning by the students and department will require students to take care when deciding on their minors in the Art Department. Dean Eichler quipped that consequently, students will be unable to declare an art minor in their senior year.
Dean Eichler stressed that the University is facing difficult times and the graduate and undergraduate programs need to meet budget requirements mandated by the Board of Trustees. According to Eichler, the departments cut by this wave of changes have brought the YC budget to the level required, which should avert future cuts to YC academics.