Our Take: WCU – math(+ conference) = ??

On Thursday, Sept. 19, a conference, titled “Mathematics and the WNC Workforce: Voice of Business Leaders,” focused on how vital mathematical skills are to the job force, according to WCU News Service.

Western Carolina University was involved in this conference with Chancellor David Belcher speaking to the group as one of the representatives from the university. Dale Carpenter, interim dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions, and Tony Johnson, director of the Millennial Initiative, also attended on behalf of WCU, said WCU News Service. Johnson and, particularly, Belcher were mentioned repeatedly throughout the campus-wide press release distributed from the Office of Public Relations. Belcher was often quoted from the conference on his thoughts on the importance of math and its education.

For us, this raises a red flag. Let’s backtrack to this past July when Belcher announced the cuts to WCU programs, which were recommended by the program prioritization task force.

Two out of the 10 programs included the master’s in applied mathematics and a master’s in mathematics education. Now, how can Belcher say to pre-kindergarten, K-12 and university educators that they should improve their mathematics education when he axed two of WCU’s programs of the same nature?

To some, master’s programs are not as important as undergraduate programs. At Western Carolina, there are three degrees for undergraduates to choose from in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department: bachelor of science in mathematics, bachelor of science in education in mathematics and second academic concentration in mathematics for three types of education majors. With the cuts, however, students seeking a master’s must look to other universities for those two degrees.

To us, any education program is important, especially when Western Carolina is known as a “teacher’s college.” There was quite a backlash on social networking websites, particularly focusing on the education cuts.

“Big shock that most of the programs are in education,” said a user on The Western Carolinian’s Facebook page. “De-valued across the state.”

“A teacher’s college without mathematics, mathematics education, music and music education… hmm,” posted a male user.

According to Final Report I released in May, the master’s in applied mathematics was cut because the “program does not serve sufficient student populations or demands, and does not demonstrate positive enrollment patterns.” The two mathematics education programs received a category 3 for the same reasons.

Whatever citations the task force presented, we still raise an eyebrow to Belcher standing in front of a room of educators and preaching about the importance of a course of study now missing two components at WCU.

What is your opinion on the matter? Message us on Facebook or send an email to lmenz@westerncarolinian.com whether Western Carolina should have been involved in the “Mathematics and the WNC Workforce: Voice of Business Leaders” conference.