Boise State is presently fighting an uphill battle trying to provide a quality education for all of its students, but especially for arts and humanities majors. With STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) having national priority, some students and faculty feel the arts and humanities have been put on the back burner.
“Everybody in the humanities is frustrated here at Boise State,” said Nick Miller, history professor and director of the Arts and Humanities Institute. “I think we perpetuate it by complaining that STEM is emphasized. But what are you supposed to do? STEM is emphasized for reasons that might not be the best.”
The larger issue is our society is not conducive for Boise State to provide the well-rounded education President Bob Kustra is trying to offer. Presently Boise State does not have the means to achieve that ideal. Boise State administration needs to be direct about that with the student body.
The philosophical value and diversity the arts and humanities provide students (and society) do not equate to the economic value of the STEM fields.
“The human experience can’t be broken down into a few equations. Without humanities we lose that greater understanding that can boost a STEM education,” said Crispin Gravatt, sociology major.
The wrong reasons for improving STEM disciplines have gone on too long. Funding and profit should not be the driving motivations behind improving specific disciplines within higher education, but they are. Higher education is considered a product rather than a service. When this happens, the quality of disciplines become unequal.
Boise State is guilty of staying on the STEM bandwagon, but the university does not have much choice.
It is believed that STEM is still in a national crisis; there are too many STEM jobs and not enough STEM graduates to fill them. To fix this, universities, including Boise State, are given incentives like more federal funding to produce more STEM graduates.
For example, the National Science Foundation has awarded Boise State over $6 million for projects in the STEM disciplines since 2004, according to their website. This is from just one national institution.
In contrast, the new fine arts building has a tentative budget of $35 million, but that might change due to state funding being denied for fiscal year 2015. The university has to rely on state approved loan money and private donations, no national institutions.
“One of the overall things I’d like to see is higher standards (of education),” said Jordan Hubbs, English and philosophy double major. “I think that would increase the quality and appreciation for the arts at Boise State. What would it take to make the arts as prestigious as, say, the nursing program?”
Amy Moll, dean of the college of engineering, acknowledged the discrepancy in valuing arts and humanities on a societal level. Moll said she feels Boise State is making an effort to make up for this diminishing societal value for the arts and humanities with programs such as foundational studies and interdisciplinary courses and research projects.
“We could always be doing a better job,” Moll said. “I feel good about the focus on student learning we have presently. All levels of education should be valued more.”
While the ideological value of higher education can’t be forced, it can be encouraged. This issue of STEM priority at Boise State can’t be swept under the rug anymore. Everyone, students and faculty, need to participate in this discussion of quality higher education.