Smaller or newer programs like Cinema Studies, Hispanic Studies, and the Theater Department are suffering and many fear that these struggles will increase exponentially in the coming years. Smaller liberal arts colleges are known for delivering a personalized and varied education. Restrictions like these may make Oberlin unable to deliver the education students expect when enrolling.
In 2016, Oberlin enacted a Voluntary Incentive Program to encourage early retirement. As a result, 98 staff members left the college. Many of the recently vacated positions remain unfilled. Further, this program was proposed in addition to a faculty salary freeze. The combination of the two may make it extremely tempting for staff members to retire, or seek employment elsewhere.
The budgetary cuts are felt across campus, but certain departments are faring much worse than others. The Theater department, for example, has been reduced to 4 faculty positions and only two full time professors. Cinema Studies has even resorted to employing high level students to conduct work in place of professors and former graduates. Several of the small departments attribute their lack of funding to their lack of alumni endowments.
Larger more well established departments, such as Chemistry, frequently received donations to help finance research, and department projects. The small departments simply do not have access to a similar support network. As a liberal art student, I expect my college to deliver an inclusive and individualized learning environment.
I rely on my college to employ, and maintain, high level professors. I do not doubt the qualifications of the Oberlin staff, but I am concerned that staff shortages may make it impossible for professors to give me the time or dedication I desire. Further, a liberal arts college has the responsibility to educate its students on a plethora of academic and cultural disciplines. Students should not be limited to studying the subjects with a wealthy alumni base.