DSU Provost Alton Thompson Leaves University to Advocate for Historically Black Land-Grant Universities

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    At Delaware State University, the decision to invest more heavily in high-growth areas has come at the expense of 23 low-enrollment academic offerings, representing more than a quarter of its offerings.

    The university board voted to “deactivate” the majors starting in the fall, against the recommendations of a faculty and staff committee. The committee had spent more than two years studying the issue.

    School administrators say that the cutbacks won’t result in reduced staff hours or layoffs. The cuts come in response to stagnant state and federal funding. More than a quarter of the university’s $140 million annual budget comes from the state.

    University President Harry L. Williams said, “We have to make the decision in the best interest of our students and the taxpayers of Delaware and the best interest of the university as a whole.”

    According to 2014 Pew Research Center statistics, Millennials are the best-educated generation in history — a full third (34%) have at least a bachelors degree. Despite the increasing normalcy of achieving a higher education, cuts like the ones at DSU limit what students can learn, and a growing national student loan deficit limits options for after graduation.

    Another change is shaking the DSU community. Provost Alton Thompson left the school, shortly after the cuts were announced, although Williams says the two events are unrelated.

    After a tenure of nearly six years at the school, Thompson resigned in order to take a position advocating for historically black land-grant universities. He apparently supported some aspects of the cuts when he served on the Academic Program Prioritization Initiative Task Force. The university is looking for his replacement nationwide.

    More savings are expected to come from administrative streamlining. Currently, there is a hiring freeze in effect, and there will be a reduction in contract employment and technology costs.

    While some members of the faculty regard many of the cuts as a form of housekeeping, some have expressed unhappiness at the changes. Samuel Hoff, a political science professor who also served on the prioritization committee and had previously directed the historic preservation program said that he hoped that the board would allow departments to make their case before total elimination.

    Even the historic preservation program, which commemorated DSU’s involvement with preserving African American heritage, was threatened with elimination in 2005, until the then-President Allen Sessoms came to its rescue.