PROVO Brit Taufer is the first to agree that life changes quickly: One day she had her education as a social work major at Brigham Young University mapped out, the next she was trying to figure out what to do with eight months worth of useless classes.
BYU discontinued the bachelor's degree in social work Oct. 31, the day before applications to enter the major were due. Current social work majors will be allowed to finish their course work, but students who have been preparing to enter the program by taking prerequisite courses and doing volunteer work, like Taufer, will have to choose a different path.
"It's really frustrating," said Taufer, a 20-year-old student from Las Vegas. "I've put tons of time and effort into preparing to be a social work major. Now I might have to start over at a different school."
David Magleby, dean of BYU's School of Family Home and Social Sciences, said the university cut the bachelor's program because there is a dwindling pool of people qualified to teach social work.
The Council of Social Work Education, which accredits BYU's program, requires the school to employ the equivalent of one full-time professor for every 25 undergraduate students and one for every 12 graduate students, according to the council's educational policy and accreditation standards.
There are three people in the country who are enrolled in doctoral social work programs as preparation to teach at universities, Magleby said.
"Presumably, we will need to be hiring new faculty within the next 10 years," Magleby said. "With so few prospective faculty to choose from, the simple answer is we can't keep both the master's and the bachelor's programs."
The master's of social work degree is the most critical to a career in the industry, Magleby said. Although there are some jobs in the field for graduates with bachelor's degrees, he said a degree in a similar social science, like sociology or psychology, would serve students nearly as well.
Some BYU students don't agree.
"BYU's motto is to 'Go Forth and Serve,' and that's exactly what social workers do," said Cole Hooley, president of the Bachelor's of Social Work Student Association. "There's something that's different about social work (than the other social sciences). It sounds a little crazy, but we still think we can change the world."
Hooley heads up a group of students who have banded together to fight the school's decision something that, with the private university's speech restrictions, hasn't turned out to be easy.
The group, which students have dubbed Voices for the BYU Social Work Program, was denied permission to demonstrate on campus.
Students' overtures to meet personally with the university's president were also turned down, Hooley said. Voices for the BYU Social Work Program gathered about 150 letters to present to the president.
"The thing that's hurt the most in this whole ordeal is that nobody consulted the students about this decision," Hooley said. "Now it seems like the avenues we're supposed to access to let our voices be heard have been silenced, too."
University spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said administration denied the students permission to protest on campus because they did not have a faculty adviser. Magleby was also scheduled to field students' questions the same day of the proposed protest, she said, so "it seemed premature."
The formal question-and-answer session with the dean on Nov. 8 did not settle student's concerns, however.
"I think most students came away more frustrated and angry than before," said Sheri Rowley, a second-year master's of social work student who attended the meeting. "We feel like our questions were avoided and they are not listening to what we have to say."
The meeting left students with little hope that the university will reinstate the program, but Rowley said students are not giving up. Voices for the BYU Social Work Program is organizing an off-campus protest to raise awareness about how social workers contribute to the community.Students hope to persuade the administration to push the deadline for applications back to allow current pre-social work majors to complete their course work at BYU, Rowley said. They also hope to change university policy to allow for more student input if a similar situation arises in the future.
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