Lafayette students may be able to get back to business with a new program under consideration for next year. According to President Alison Byerly, the college has formed an Ad Hoc Committee on Interdisciplinary Business Education to discuss the potential of a new business program at Lafayette.
While a proposal has not yet been drafted, Associate Professor of Sociology David Shulman, a member of the committee, said that it would not be a traditional business major, but rather an interdisciplinary program “that integrates the liberal arts.”
“A traditional major in business administration is different from a potential interdisciplinary program that integrates business and the liberal arts, and the focus here is on the latter option,” Shulman said.
According to Provost Abu Rizvi, the study of business is not new to Lafayette.
“From 1951 onward Lafayette had a department of Economics and Business Administration,” Rizvi said. “The name was shortened to Economics and Business in 1962, and ‘business’ was dropped from the title in 2009. So, since 2009, the major is called ‘economics.’”
According to Byerly, some members of the board of trustees have expressed interest having the major again, but they are not the reason for the college looking into a new program.
“I’ve heard trustees say, more than once… ‘Gee, it would be great if we had more business classes, because I’m sure that would be useful.’ But that’s a matter of their own perspective and opinion,” she said. “They understand it’s not their role to set the curriculum of the college.”
Instead, Byerly said the impetus for proposing the program rises out of the interest of faculty members, who she said teach courses related to business and would like to see a different placement of those courses within the curriculum.
According to Rizvi, student interest also played a role in the talks.
“Students are interested in the topic. So we wanted to explore whether there could be a formal academic program that focused this interest and expressed it as part of our curriculum, whether with a major or in some other way,” Rizvi said.
But some members of the Lafayette community are not on board with the new idea.
Student government president L’Eunice Faust ’17, who was present at the board of trustees meeting when the idea of a potential business program was discussed, said she believes it would be a “disservice to students and faculty” if resources were allocated to a new program, when other programs may be struggling to stay afloat.
Instead, the college should focus on strengthening the programs it already has, Faust said.
For Rizvi, the main objection he has heard to instituting a new business program at the college is its supposed incompatibility with a traditional liberal arts environment.
“I think the main reason that I hear for opposing the study of business is that it is inconsistent with a liberal education; that if you take a liberal education seriously you cannot have students studying business,” Rizvi said. “That’s been the traditional view.”
“There is another way of thinking that argues a liberal education is not defined by a collection of disciplines, but is rather an educational approach, one that aims for close student-faculty interaction in an inclusive and engaging community, promotes immersive and integrative learning involving,” he added.
Any proposal for a business program would ultimately have to be approved and voted upon by the entire faculty, according to Byerly. If the committee succeeds in bringing the program onto campus it most likely will not be enacted until the spring of next year.