In an Out of Session meeting by circulation, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) board members will decide upon the discontinuation of the Studies in Religion major at the University of Sydney, proposed to take effect in 2025.
The motion is proposed by FASS Dean Professor Lisa Adkins, who recommends that the Undergraduate Studies Committee (USC) “endorse the discontinuation of the Studies in Religion major.”
Professor Adkins cites “staffing and sustainability considerations” as the rationale behind the discontinuation of the major.
The executive summary attests that the discontinuation is prompted by lack of enrolments, stating “the Faculty have identified that the major is unpopular and not attracting sufficient student EFTSL [Equivalent Full Time Student Load] to be sustainable.”
The threat of the University discontinuing the Studies in Religion major has loomed for years, with students testifying to the unique and imperative role of the discipline in fostering nuanced understandings of the global religious landscape.
Honi reached out to Student Representative Council Interfaith Officer, Khanh Tran, for comment on the proposed discontinuation:
“The [proposed] abolition of the Studies [in] Religion major by the University is a major disappointment. If passed, it will seriously damage religious literacy in the public sphere and send a message that one of Australia’s wealthiest and research-intensive universities does not care about religious literacy.”
“With more than half a million in surplus, the University loses nothing in maintaining the major. The proposal smacks of greed and hubris.”
The proposal stipulates that the University will continue to offer the Studies in Religion minor, and that the diminished workload imposed by the majors’ discontinuation will generate time for staff “to concentrate on the minors’ development and promotion.”
However, this sentiment is undermined by the apparent cutting of all RLST units, except the minimum needed to fulfil required credit points for the minor stream.
Students currently undertaking the major will have to liaise with Faculty to determine an “acceptable alternative” third year level unit. The Studies in Religion minor is postured to streamline the “teach-out” of the major, and any other transitional arrangements.
Documentation on the Consultation Pipeline reveals that instead of providing staff and student representatives with the opportunity to challenge the discontinuation at preliminary levels, “the Faculty obtained executive approval from the Chairs of the Faculty’s Undergraduate Sub-Committee and Education Committee, before seeking endorsement from the Faculty Board via circulation,” on account of “the urgency of this proposal.”
The document also appears to be in draft form – comments from staff are still visible, multiple tables which should disclose the amount of students to be affected by the discontinuation are left blank, and the signature of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education) is missing.
As the FASS Board has adjourned for the year, the meeting by circulation containing the proposal will close on the 15th of December. If board members do not contest the proposal, “lack of response by the deadline will be taken as endorsement.”