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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Fine arts major to be phased out

By Jenna Barke
Copy Editor

Friday, March 19, 2004

The interdisciplinary fine arts major (IDFA) has been part of St. Olaf for 23 years. The program integrates music, dance, theatre and art into one course of study and seeks to collaborate between these four disciplines. Over the next three years, however, this collaboration will end as the major is phased out.

Susan Bauer, director of the IDFA program, has known for some time that the change was coming.

"Word has been out for at least a year that St. Olaf needs [to make] cutbacks financially," she said.

Every department across campus was asked to make reductions in teaching time for next year and "agreed to put something on the table," Bauer said. However, in a small program like IDFA, there was little room for loss because "any interdisciplinary program is time-intensive," she said.

The issue of having four disciplines involved in the major has required the assistance for four professors (currently dances Bauer, musics Peter Hamlin, theatres Steven Reiser and arts Matt Rohn) spreading themselves between their home departments and IDFA to keep the program alive.

However, the home departments have been finding it increasingly difficult, Bauer said, to release their faculty for IDFA teaching time. Bauer and the IDFA staff came to the realization in the past year that they were not going to get more FTE or funding in the coming years.

Looking long-term, Bauer said, she and her colleagues realized that the major would not be able to sustain itself amid these financial cuts. Thus, they made the choice to willingly end the IDFA program.

"It seemed to be the right time," Bauer said, expressing a desire for the cut to be done graciously, on the programs own terms. Current majors, including freshmen, will be allowed to finish the coursework and to graduate with an IDFA major. The major, however, will not be offered next year.

Many of the 30 current majors are now wondering what this cut will mean for them. So far, students have bemoaned the departure of a major that they feel captures the mission of St. Olaf.

Ingrid Pharris 04 describes IDFA as "the quintessential liberal arts major," and Annie Lindquist 06 praised IDFA for serving "students whose interests and gifts lie in more than one art form."

Mary Shaffer 07 agreed. "In life, the arts arent in separate little categories. When you dance, it is usually along to music. When you do theatre, you usually have an artistically creative set and costumes. Music, art, dance and theatre are all intrinsically connected, and IDFA celebrates that fact."

IDFA has served majors and nonmajors alike through the years. According to Amy Miller 05, "around 45 people, including lots of first-years" enrolled in the IDFA 174 introduction course to obtain ORC (oral communication) and ALS-A (artistic studies) graduation requirements.

Bauer admitted that it will be difficult to see IDFA leave the campus, and expressed a wish to see more support for similar programs.

"There needs to be a clear paradigm shift in higher education toward interdisciplinary work," she said. Accord-ing to Bauer, programs that link various studies are "unique and necessary  we cant live within our own disciplines anymore."

IDFA students also recognized the nature of collaboration within their major.

"Its a very special and unique thing for students to overlap their interests  to have a place that encourages that," Lindsey Braun 05 said. "Just walking around campus, you can see that people have their boxes. You know who the theater people are ... you certainly know [who the] music [people are] ... but IDFA is a place to go if you dont fit into any of these boxes, per se."

Bauer agreed. "This is precisely why this major was started," she said. [Students need] a credible, viable, vigorous major that honored their interdisciplinary needs."

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