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Worried Anthropology Students Bring Concerns to Trustees

Sehvilla Mann

Anthropology students at Western Michigan University say they fear for the future of their department, though administrators say they intend to maintain the program.

Students spoke Wednesday at a Board of Trustees meeting about what many of them see as a snowballing list of faculty departures, and said they’d heard rumors that the department would close. Graduate student and teaching assistant Deirdre Courtney says the situation has affected students’ morale.

“Not knowing myself about my own security here, and my program, it’s very disheartening for me to stand before students and try to encourage them in their future endeavors,” she says.

College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean Keith Hearit said emphatically that his office has no plans to close the anthropology department.

But Hearit acknowledged that two faculty members have left in the last year, and said “a number” of others have requested reassignment. He wouldn’t say exactly how many, citing ongoing discussions.

“We’ve been working with them certainly on a case-by-case basis, trying to see if we can persuade some, for example, not to go,” he says.

After Hearit spoke, WMU President John Dunn said it was important that fears about a closure don’t become self-fulfilling. Dunn suggested that could happen if prospective students get the wrong idea about the program.

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Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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