A&S double-major reflects on witnessed protests

As current students protested True Commitment, potential students began to worry. Margaret Laprarie shares her experience.

Picture this: You’re a scared high school senior visiting the college you plan to attend in the fall. You’re not entirely sure what you want to study, but considering a few options; all of them are in the arts and sciences. You’re at the college for an admissions event, with hundreds of other kids and their parents. You’re walking around on your campus tour, and the tour guide (an engineering major who hasn’t been able to speak to any of the arts-related opportunities on campus) gets asked about the large chalk drawings on the sidewalk advertising a “Funeral” taking place on campus that same day. The tour guide stutters a bit; he rushes to tell the group that it’s just a small protest some students are holding because the school has suggested getting rid of a few programs. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, and the tour moves on. But there’s something that seems a little weird about it, and you can tell that the tour guide is working hard to steer the group’s attention elsewhere.

As the day goes on and you move from one event to the next, you start hearing talk of something called “True Commitment.” It sounds like some sort of plan to phase out most of the liberal arts on campus, but you’re not exactly sure because no one will discuss it outright. Every admissions counselor you talk to, every professor, even the President of the University just keeps smiling and telling you how great it is that you’re considering arts management and you’re interested in German. Not a single word about the proposed plan to make German and French majors take all of their upper level courses abroad, and not any mention of all of the liberal arts programs soon to leave the university, according to this “True Commitment” plan.

This is the exact experience I had visiting the TU campus right after True Commitment was announced. When my dad and I returned from Tulsa that evening we started doing some research for ourselves, not convinced that this whole thing was as subtle as the school was trying so hard to make it seem. Sure enough, dozens of articles were already available, and the plan itself was posted proudly on the TU website. So here I was, a senior about to graduate and commit to attending TU in the fall, just now discovering that many of the programs I was interested in might cease to exist in the next several years.

The high school I attended in Oklahoma City was focused almost entirely on visual and performing arts programs, and I spent my years there involved in theater, art classes, choir and seeing my peers at local arts festivals and events. We offered the IB program and all the APs as well, and there was plenty of opportunity if academics were more your speed. At the end of the day, we were an arts school and that’s what I loved so much about being there. Even after I decided that I’d rather participate in IB than one of the various visual and performing arts majors, I loved watching the other students paint murals in the halls, put on musicals and showcase their passions. By the time I was ready to graduate, I had decided that even if I didn’t want to necessarily be the one making the art, I wanted to spend all my time around art with people who cared about it as much as I did. Not to mention my newly developed passion for German culture and art, I also knew I wanted to keep studying the language. While looking at other colleges I often imagined German as my one and only major rather than something I would add on to arts management.

I was already less-than-thrilled to most likely be attending TU, crossing my fingers that I would get off the waitlist at one of the smaller liberal arts schools I had my eye on. But I thought I would be okay at TU; we had had so many visits from them at my high school, I’d even visited the campus once before to attend a dinner for potential students. Why would they spend so much time trying to attract students attending a liberal arts highschool, when several of these programs were about to be cut or significantly changed at their own institution? How soon was this change going to happen? And even if it rolled out over the years I was there and could still get the degree I wanted, what would it look like to hold a degree from a program that no longer existed?

These were questions that I had to keep asking well into my first semester at TU. I was almost positive I wanted one of my majors to be German, but I was waiting to see whether or not I would have to take all of my upper level courses abroad, meaning I would spend at least 3 years in Germany. At that rate, why wouldn’t I just go and get my degree at a German university for free! And what would it be like to participate in a program that the school clearly did not care for much at all?

Luckily, ridiculous changes like this one were abandoned along with the rest of True Commitment, but it didn’t feel great to know that I had chosen a school under the guise that I could get the degree I wanted, only to find out once I got there that that might not be true. It also didn’t feel great to realize how undervalued the liberal arts had become at TU, something that I have continued to experience in my time as a student. Ultimately I don’t regret deciding to attend TU, but I don’t think it is a decision I would have made knowing everything that I know now. I love my programs, my professors, my friends and my peers but I often hesitate to recommend TU to students who want to study the liberal arts. From the moment I became a student and realized what True Commitment actually was and where the priorities at our university most often actually lie, I’ve felt like I have to fight to make sure that people take me seriously. To let them know that even though my majors don’t fit neatly into the four STEM letters and may not put me in a six figure job right out of college, they are just as important as the ones that do, and absolutely worth offering to students both present and future. And not just offering, but nurturing, encouraging and showing the same amount of attention that the other programs are given. I have seen so many improvements in these areas over the last three years, I have even been the one to make a fuss until such improvements are realized, but the ghost of True Commitment seems to still be lingering on campus, and we have a long way to go.

Post Author: Margaret Laprarie