Music at Dominican College of San Rafael: a Case Study for Hard Times

Four days after graduation on 22 May 1991 the President of Dominican College informed the Chair of the Department of Music that following the advice of the Strategic Academic Directions Plan Committee, the undergraduate and graduate music majors were to be terminated 25 May 1992. The reasons cited were the 1990-91 departmental deficit of $38,000, the disproportionate size of the music budget in comparison to all the other departmental budgets, demographics, and the quality of teaching in certain areas. Music would continue at Dominican with a chorus, orchestra, and private lessons, and a certain number of units would be offered. One tenured member of the faculty would be retained, the Chair.

The department at that moment was officially "on probation," at least to the press, donors, and alumni, but, in actuality, immediate directions were given by the Vice President for Academic Affairs to dismantle the department, its building, and its equipment, its sweeping away years of tradition, since music had occupied a preeminent place in the institution since its founding by the Sisters of Saint Dominic in the late nineteenth century. Since no official public announcement appeared from the administration, word leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Marin Independent Journal, and the resulting dismay of friends, donors, and alumni of the department was expressed to the Chair who had to respond to the many phone calls and letters.

When the College Faculty returned in the Fall of 1991 and learned of the plight of the Department of Music, they questioned the reasons cited for probation through the Faculty Curriculum Committee. They asked for an alternative plan, and on 31 January 1992 the Department made a proposal to respond to the concerns that had led to its planned dissolution. The administration's reply extended the "probation" until January 1993. The Department of Music in the meantime was not allowed to recruit new students, and those students who attended or who were attending Dominican College as music majors or minors were sent letters from the Vice President for Academic Affairs warning the students that they might not be able to finish their majors. Despite this ban, the department presently has twenty-two declared majors and minors, both full- and part-time.

The revised structure of the department which was approved by the Faculty Curriculum Committee and the College Faculty makes the department much leaner -- reduced courses, direct student payment for applied music in addition to tuition, no musical or operatic productions, no orchestra (this has been changed, since a new orchestra began in October), fewer faculty, a three-year rotation of upper@vision and graduate courses, an operating budget which is one-third less than the one for 1991-92, and courses directed toward the general student and the core curriculum; some courses are dovetailed with courses in Humanities clusters and general education colloquial etc. The B.A., B.M., and M.M. meet the requirements of the National Association of Schools of Music with a reduced number of units, although Dominican is not a member of NASM.

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Last modified on Thursday, 02/05/2013

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