By Tania Krager
There are big changes coming to the St. Kate’s Evening/Weekend/Online (EWO) program. This fall, leaders in the academic and student affairs department approved a proposal to move the College of Applied and Adult Learning (CACL) to the College of Adult Learners (CAL). The EWO program would be moved from the College for Women (CFW) to CAL. Once the EWO program is moved from the College for Women to CAL, it will no longer be exempt from Title IX and will no longer be a strict women’s-only program. The implications of moving the EWO program out of the CFW not only means co-ed enrollment, but also incorporates a year-round academic calendar and both hybrid and online courses.
On Oct. 1, 2015, Dean Anne Weyandt prepared and presented to the EWO board “An Essay Describing the Future Vision for Adult Learning at St. Kate’s.” In it she states, “Changes in the higher education marketplace have directly impacted the vitality of St. Kate’s program for adult working women.” She refers to the decline in non-nursing EWO students from “nearly 700 students in 2007 to 365 in 2015.” Simply put, enrollment levels are not meeting the University’s 2020 Vision Strategic Plan. In an attempt to boost enrollment and remain competitive in the “crowded higher education marketplace,” the EWO program will be moved to CAL and allow the expansion of programs and services to “strengthen our position in the marketplace.”
The EWO community gathered in the former coffee shop area of the CDC on Oct. 10 for a Q&A session with Weyandt. It was clear that students had a number of concerns and issues with the new proposal, and Weyandt did her best to provide a thoughtful response to students’ questions and concerns. At the meeting, the EWO community learned that Provost Colleen Hegranes would present the proposal to the Board of Trustees on Oct. 13 where they would review the proposal and determine the implications of the recommendation in consideration of the University’s mission statement.
The EWO community’s disapproval of the proposed changes became apparent in the petition started by EWO student, Sarah Reynolds, ‘19. Reynolds began drafting the petition following the EWO community meeting, and within 24 hours 250 signatures had been added. “My goal is to make sure that the voice of all EWO students can be heard by providing a platform for them to submit their comments,” says Reynolds. Prior to the Board’s meeting on Oct.13, Reynolds produced a Petition with 648 signatures and 25 double-sided pages of comments from students, faculty and St. Kate’s alumnae. The petition is now up to 816 signatures.
In addition to the petition, many EWO students have taken to the St. Catherine University Evening and Weekend Facebook public group to express approval and disapproval of the upcoming changes. There are also numerous personal stories of triumph and success, as well as an outpouring of love for the EWO community and the experience the EWO program offers to adult women learners.
On Oct. 13, the Board voted to endorse the proposal, concluding that the proposed changes remained consistent with the University’s mission.
Hegranes emailed the EWO student body on Oct. 21 advising of the endorsement, but also recognizing the calls for reconsideration made by EWO students and faculty. Hegranes writes they will “continue to investigate ways to assure continued access for those adult women who prefer to be part of the College for Women,” and she would be working with the EWO Advisory Board in the coming weeks to discuss the next steps.
I had a chance to speak with Reynolds about her thoughts on the Board’s approval and she states that students need to “keep fighting” and keep in mind “this is a decision, not a law; it is reversible.”