Back in October, before the campus became a cauldron of student protests and angst-filled town hall forums, 12 members of Mills College’s student newspaper, the Campanil, gathered around a whiteboard for their weekly editorial meeting. As the all-female staff discussed what issues to report on, one student piped up with some important news: A campus-wide announcement was imminent, she said, and it would reveal proposed curriculum changes affecting multiple academic departments. She had been tipped off by staff members who worried that, once the news broke, students would become anxious and have questions. “I saw the faculty come out [of a meeting], and they didn’t look happy,” she reported to her colleagues.
Sure enough, not two hours after the news team wrapped up its meeting, a memorandum was disseminated among the campus community. Titled “Transforming Mills’ Curriculum for the 21st Century” and sent by the school’s departing president, Alecia DeCoudreaux, the email outlined proposed “teach-outs”—that is, closures—of three undergraduate programs. While it also announced the possible creation or expansion of certain programs, mostly in the STEM and education fields, the letter stated, “We must keep in mind that our programs need to operate with greater efficiencies; some will be revised, some will be created, some will grow, some will need to become more efficient; and some will be eliminated or sunset.” Or, in the plain English befitting a top-tier liberal arts college: Here comes the ax.