Students, alumni upset with Clarke University's plan to cut arts majors

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- Clarke University in Dubuque plans to eliminate some academic majors, including musical theatre and drama. This has angered students and alumni who say the administration hasn't supported the arts.

Clarke University in Dubuque. (Charlie Grant, KCRG-TV9)

The majors Clarke plans to cut are religious studies, environmental studies, Spanish, drama, musical theatre and art history.

Clarke Alumna Megan Schumacher said when she heard the news, "my stomach dropped. I was so upset. And I think I was upset because it made such a difference to me. "

You might not know Schumacher, but if you've seen a performance in Dubuque, you've likely seen her work. She directs the Visual Performing Arts program at George Washington Middle School, is a speech coach at Dubuque Senior High School and is Co-Founder of the Rising Star Theatre Company.

She credits much of her passion and success to Clarke University, where she received her degree in Drama and Speech.

Clarke President Joanne Burrows said cuts were made because of low enrollment.

"The demand in the arts area is not as high as it used to be," she said.

She added, "there are fewer than 20 students in all six programs. And so that’s a small number if you divide six into 20."

However, Schumacher believes this is the result of lack of administration support.

She said, "not for years I don't think they have supported it. And you can tell because no money has been allocated for upgrades to the facilities, to equipment."

Clarke senior and musical theatre major Anna Kluesner feels the same way.

“The amount of support we’ve received overall has been minimal compared to other departments and other activities," Kluesner said.

The department hasn't had proper promotion, she said.

“When we go to recruiting events, it’s just us out there promoting ourselves. We don’t have a school representative with us, so it’s just usually myself and a faculty member promoting Clarke to students," Kluesner explained.

Schumacher and Kluesner believe if the program would have been adequately funded, enrollment would have been better.

"We are a quality department, but if we would've received more funding maybe we could've done other events and stuff like that so our quality would've gone up and that would have attracted more students that way," Kluesner said.

When asked to address concerns about inadequate funding, Burrows said, "there’s not the enrollment there."

"The institution has made decisions over the last four decades that have, if you look at it, in terms of programs that we’ve added, facilities that we’ve added. Could arts feel neglected in that? Perhaps. But the institution is working very hard to make sure that they sustain the institution itself," Burrows said.

She said their health care majors are most popular.

Clarke recently built a football field and will have a team begin competing in the Fall. Many see that as an attempt to boost enrollment.

Burrows said academics and extracurricular activities should not be pitted against each other.

Schumacher said she supports sports and other activities, but feels the administration's focus has been misplaced.

"While football is great, it’s extracurricular. I mean there’s not a football major. There is one for theater and now there isn’t," she said.

Schumacher hopes this doesn't impact the arts in Dubuque.

"I would hate to see this spread out to the entire community because I think Dubuque is so rich in our arts and culture and I would hate to see this spread out to other parts of the community," she said.