Folk department scare brings unease

The first week of classes brought about lots of homework, syllabus read-throughs, and, for the music department, a big scare concerning the future of one of their most beloved departments. Around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4, members of the folk department received an email informing students that unless they were able to find eight students to take the folk ensembles for credit, there would be no folk department for this semester.

This announcement was met with outrage, and students immediately walked across campus to talk with both the President and the Provost, in hopes of a solution. For several students, the folk department was one of the deciding factors in their enrollment at Hope College, and the thought of losing that place to converge and play music with their friends was unthinkable. The folk and jazz departments are also one of the music department’s most popular when it comes to concert attendance, with performances regularly filling up the recital hall, so the prospect of doing away with the ensembles came as a shock to all.

With registration closing at 5 p.m. the next day, the students were scrambling to sign up in time to save their department. Their anger and confusion about the situation prompted an email from Dr. Jonathan Hagood, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning, Associate Professor of History, and Interim Chair of the Music Department. Hagood attempted to smooth things over by explaining that the folk ensembles would still exist as long as there were at least eight students taking the class for credit, and that these changes were happening because Tuesday was the first time that there had been an opportunity for tenured staff to decide how to best incorporate the folk ensembles into the music department since they had been formed in 2013.

This did little to ease the minds of the folk musicians, who were still having a difficult time understanding the reasoning why this change was happening so late into the semester. Since
they had little more than 24 hours to save their department, some students were wondering if perhaps they had been informed of the change so late in the registration period in hopes that they would be unsuccessful in their attempts to find enough people willing and able to add another credit into their busy schedules.

Luckily, the students managed to find 13 people to sign up to take the class for credit, meaning that the folk department will continue on for the semester. Be sure to come out and show your support the folk groups at one of their concerts in Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts this fall.

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