BYU International Studies Program’s Future Shaky

By Shaughan Sparks, The Daily Universe

PROVO?The new year has begun, but it seems the administration and some faculty members have conflicting resolutions.

The start of a new semester is a time generally thought to be a new beginning, but a battle of words and politics has carried over from the previous year and rages on at the Brigham Young University David M. Kennedy Center for International and Area Studies.

One master’s degree program and two undergraduate majors stand to be dropped from the Kennedy Center. That is, if Associate Academic Vice President for undergraduate education, Noel Reynolds, and his reinvention panel get their way.

But large numbers of students, faculty and alumni are standing up and voicing strong criticism.

In September, the panel was charged with determining which of the Kennedy Center’s academic programs should be continued and which should not.

“It was understood from the beginning we have too many programs for the resources available,” Reynolds said.

The panel spent six weeks investigating half a dozen majors and several minors. But critics say that wasn’t long enough to be fair.

Political science Professor Valerie Hudson said, “The panel conducted no research of its own; there was no gathering of facts, only of opinions.”

The panel recommended discontinuing the master’s program for international and area studies, dropping the popular international studies undergraduate major, which currently serves close to 700 students, terminating the European studies undergraduate major and rejecting the proposed development major.

Any student already admitted to these programs would be allowed to finish under the current requirements.

A copy of the full proposal can be found on the Kennedy Center Web site. A sizable petition against the proposal can also be found there.

Critics not only condemn the panel’s recommendations, but also complain the decisions were made as early as the past spring.

Hudson called the panel’s study “a sham process to legitimize the decision.”

Furthermore, some critics say the panel was unjustly slanted.

“No one who has ever held a position at the Kennedy Center was invited to join the Panel, though several practically begged to do so…” Hudson said.

On the other hand, Reynolds said he requested individuals who would bring mature judgment to the committee but lacked personal stakes in the outcome.

Some students disagreed with the result.

“Students interested in international affairs will be ill prepared to make the difference the world and church need if this major is eliminated and future students are forced into single disciplines,” said Stacie Long, 21, a senior majoring in international studies.

She disagrees with one of the panel’s main arguments that other majors with international emphases can replace the international studies program.

Reynolds will hold an open forum with students Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the Kennedy Center conference room.

Reactions to the proposal will be taken accepted until Thursday. Then on Jan. 15, Academic Vice President Alan Wilkins will issue his decision about whether or not to implement the proposals.