Potential loss of women's studies program at Meredith College

In today's Letters to the Editor of the News & Observer, well-known substance abuse treatment researcher Dr Wendee Wechsberg bemoans the potential cost-cutting of religious studies and women's studies at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC.

The irony: Meredith College is a well-regarded private women's college established by Baptist missionaries.

Meredith counts among its alumnae the journalists Judy Woodruff and Marcia Vickers, Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Sarah Parker, and attorney/former First Lady of New York Silda Wall Spitzer.

Given that her expertise extends from issues of women's substance abuse to international gender issues in HIV risk, Wechsberg writes:

Having been a guest speaker in [Meredith's] women's studies classes for several years, I am truly astonished. Talented and engaging students from diverse backgrounds always challenge me with questions about my research on global women's health. Women suffer disproportionately from poverty, war and disease, and they also provide grass-roots leadership in the struggle to transform these problems.

Within this context, women's studies is an essential major to raise the awareness in this country, enabling Meredith students to harness careers that can make a difference in the world. This major could benefit from adequate resources marketing its value and central role intersecting many disciplines in a women's college. Hopefully, President Maureen Hartford will re-evaluate its impact.

The N&O article by David Bracken which spurred Wechsburg's letter noted that the majors have not been well-subscribed in recent years and leaders have been charged with reforming the programs and making them more attractive to students or potentially face elimination.

Publicizing the fact that internationally-recognized scholars such as Wechsberg lend their expertise to Meredith's women's studies program would be a good start in renewing the promotion of this program.

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I was surprised by the news, as well. I also thought it a shame that they might cut computer science. Seems like women's colleges (I'm a second generation women's college alum) are a great place for women to study non-typical topics, like computer science and economics.

On the other hand, I do understand the need to be smart about distribution of financial resources. Popularity of majors and courses seems to be a good way to make tough decisions.

It is really a shame. How are the sciences doing? After all, they got a new building and expanded their science program relatively recently.

"I can always tell a graduate class from an undergraduate class," observed the instructor in one of my graduate engineering courses at California State University in Los Angeles. "When I say, 'Good afternoon,' the undergraduates respond, 'Good afternoon." But the graduate students just write it