A surprise announcement Monday by Midwestern State University Provost Betty Stewart about changes to MSU's Honors program drew a hostile response from honors students.
Stewart announced that starting in September with the 2013 freshmen, the program would be called the Redwine Scholars Program.
The size of honors-level scholarships will double from $2,000 to $4,000 and, in return, students will be required to complete research or creative projects, among other changes.
MSU will award about 22 scholarships per class compared with the 30 it now gives, she said.
The program will retain its Honors Residence floor in the dorms, but other features of the program will change, she said.
Students argued that the new name wouldn't look as good on a resume as "Honors Program," and objected to being disqualified from other scholarships if they were chosen as Redwine Scholars.
Others worried that tightly designed degree programs like those in engineering, nursing or education might prohibit including new Redwine requirements.
Former Honors Director Mark Farris, who was learning about the program's new thrust along with the students, opposed changes the university was making because they hadn't consulted first with the honors students.
"I spent seven and a half years trying to fix the problems (former MSU President) Henry Moon caused when he changed the Honors Program, and it just about killed me," he said from the audience in a Bolin Hall classroom. "To just decide what it is and inform us what it's going to be did not work in 2001 and won't work in 2013."
Later, Farris posted on Facebook, "MSU Honors Program, August 1964 — Jan. 14, 2013. May she rest in peace."
Current Honors Director Michael Vandehey told students Monday after Stewart's announcement that he, too, knew little about the metamorphosis of the program. "Some of the information I heard tonight was the first time I'd heard it," he said.
One honors student left Monday's meeting early, apologizing for seeming rude. "If you're interested in fighting this, give me a show of hands," he said as he excused himself. Half of the students raised their hands.
"You want to fight receiving a $4,000 scholarship?" Stewart asked.
"It's the community that I had with all these
people," the student said. "You will reduce it and make it less vibrant."
The room exploded in applause.
Stewart answered many of the students' questions with, "We haven't decided on that yet," or, "We're working on that." She said Tuesday she had invited the students in to talk to her and share their ideas about the program.
"We will certainly listen," she said. "I think that they felt that they were losing something. But they're not. They're actually gaining."
Stewart sees the new program as a recruiting tool for new students. The changes have been recommended by a firm that is working with MSU to increase its enrollment, she said.
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