The Education Policy Committee (EPC) recently voted in favor of continuing the University’s Social Work department. The vote, which ended with ten in favor of keeping it and two in favor of discontinuing it, is a step in saving VU Social Work, which has been considered for discontinuance along with several other programs.
The reason for this vote is believed to be both due to high support for the department by alumni and students and the successes of the program.
“For EPC voting in favor of social work, [it] was initially the rallying support that was there and from a data point perspective. We fulfill all the criteria of a program. We fulfill the university’s submission. It all goes down to the algorithm they use, and it picked out seven majors,” said senior social work major Chloe Cox. “Because by the data, social work is a good program, there was even the conversation, ‘Is social work even eligible?’
According to senior Natalie Kasberger, the Social Work department does not fit most criteria for discontinuance.
“So we have a pretty good faculty-to-student ratio. We’re not a very expensive program. We don’t have any problems with retention and recruitment, really. So a lot of the things that they look at when they’re looking at discontinuance, we just don’t fall into those categories, or don’t have those areas of improvement,” Kasberger said.
Cox and Kasberger are both part of a group called Save VU Social Work Steering Committee that was formed in order to advocate for the Social Work department. The group has since started multiple initiatives to gain support.
“We’ve really been putting a lot of effort into the direct letters to faculty at VU, and that is to explain not only on a personal but a professional level why it doesn’t make sense to discontinue at Valpo. In addition to that, we’ve done the petition. We’ve done the Instagram posts under the handle @savevusocialwork,” said Elizabeth Lewitke ‘11, alumni representative of the Save VU Steering Committee.
Another event that was organized by the committee was the “Stick Your Neck Out for Social Work” fundraiser, in which someone in a giraffe costume walked around the Harre Union and took pictures with students. For every student who posted a picture on social media, the alumni in the group donated $5 to Valpo. Over $1,300 was donated.
“I was thrilled to know that we were getting support. It’s also kind of emotional because we’re fighting for something that would affect a lot of people but then there’s also a lot of people it wouldn’t affect, and the people it wouldn’t necessarily affect are like, ‘No, we have to fight for this.’ So it’s very encouraging,” Cox said.
After the meeting, the EPC sent their recommendation to the faculty senate, who then met with representatives from the Steering Committee on Oct. 21. During the meeting, they discussed discontinuance for seven different majors in total.
The senate later vote ended with 21 in favor of keeping it, zero in favor of discontinuing it and two who abstained.
The final decision on whether the Social Work department will be removed is to be decided by President Mark Heckler and the board of directors. Until then, any students, faculty and alumni are welcome to continue to provide aid.
Kasberger gave another suggestion for showing support.
“Students can also, if they’re not in the social work department or within some of those departments that we have double majors from, if they know that their professor has like, decision-making power on campus, voice your opinion or just support us in whatever way,” said Kasberger.
Lewitke also stressed how important she considers Social Work to be to Valpo.
“I think it’s really important that the Social Work program at Valparaiso is imperative. It embodies the entire mission of Valparaiso University, it contributes financially and it needs the support it demands. So to discontinue that program would not only be heartbreaking; it wouldn’t make any sense,” Lewitke said.