By Courtney Klaus, Editor-In-Chief
Newman University made headlines in Wichita last week when rumors began circulating among students, staff and alumni that the school’s music department would be dissolved after the spring of 2021 and some students appeared on local news stations decrying the decision.
But Newman administrators and board members say it’s just not true and that no official decision has been made to cut the program.
Provost Kimberly McDowall Long said this week that the school is still exploring its options to limit costs in fine arts, but as of now, there are no official plans to cut the music department. It could, however, be something the school considers in the future, she said.
Back in May, the instrumental section of the music program, including concert and pep band, were cut.
Director of the Music Department Deanne Zogleman said she was first informed that the entire music department would be closed after alumni started contacting her about a post they saw on social media that said the music program, along with other academic programs, was ending.
“Throughout the day, it became apparent that this was something that had credibility,” Zogleman said. “Needless to say, I was and still am absolutely shocked about this possibility and I am also saddened that being a 15 year veteran instructor here, I would find out this news on social media.”
Long said Zogleman was invited to a meeting beforehand that discussed the recommendations made by the financial task force appointed by the university’s board of trustees. Zogleman said she was unable to attend because of a class conflict and that she has not been contacted by administration regarding the future of her program since.
Music students say they were told during their classes on Oct. 3 that the program would be cut.
Junior Troubadour Keean Bush said he was hurt when he heard the program was ending and said he was especially confused by the decision because of how much the music program promotes Newman.
“We perform at country clubs. We perform at the tree lighting, which is a big thing. We carol for the Salvation Army. We do all these gigs and then to be told, ‘Hey your program doesn’t really matter all that much, you’re more of an expense than a benefit’… It’s like a slap in the face,” Bush said.
Students took to social media, circulating a petition that said, “It has recently been voted on and passed to cut the entire music department from Newman University… Please sign this petition to tell the decision makers at Newman that we do not want to see this wonderful program be thrown out.” The petition exceeded it’s goal of 500 signatures within 24 hours.
TV news stations KAKE and KWCH arrived at Newman the day the petition was posted to interview Newman students. The university then released an official statement to the news outlets, denying that the board had voted to cut music.
“There seems to be confusion on social media about the music program at Newman,” the statement said. “The University has not made any decision to eliminate its music department...It’s simply not true.”
In May, the university created a financial task force with the goal of cutting costs. At the board meeting on Sept. 20, that task force presented its recommendations to the full board of trustees.
According to documents posted on the employee intranet, the original list of recommendations from the financial task force included “Change music minor to a student organization.”
However, that specific recommendation does not appear on the list of task force recommendations that were approved by the board. The recommendation was changed to read “Examine options to control costs in fine arts” instead.
Several students in chorale say they are still upset and believe, based on what they were told, that the music department will be going away.
“They say it’s simply not true, but we know it to be true,” Bush said.
Long said that at this point, since the board was not specific in its recommendations about how to cut costs in fine arts, no official decision has yet been made pertaining to the arts. She also said that the decisions the university has to make regarding the future of the arts at Newman will likely be difficult.
“Anything is a possibility. I will say that the sisters on the board and the chairman of the board and many other members of the board see the arts, all of the arts, as a crucial component to a liberal arts education,” Long said, “and there has been no consensus because that issue has been so painful for the board members to even think about.”
The board of trustees will have its next meeting in February.
A total of 60 different students are enrolled in either chorale, troubadours or private vocal or instrumental lessons. There are currently five music minors.
Music students are working on a production of the musical version of “Elf,” which will premiere near the end of November in the Performance Hall.
PHOTO: Carley Sullivan, Photography Editor