Anthropology Department: A Fossil of Former Self


By Meghan Adams

The Anthropology Department here at Catholic University has been in existence for 81 years, making it one of the oldest schools of study at the University.

For the past decade or so the Anthropology department has consisted of around 20 undergraduate students. Some years there are a few more and in other years there are bit less, but overall the numbers have remained steady. What has changed is the amount of students who come to participate in the graduate program.

As of this year, there are no students enrolled in the Anthropology master’s degree program.

This trend of low enrollment has been ongoing for the past couple of years. A major reason for this is because Catholic University does not provide funding for anthropology students pursuing advanced degrees. At other schools, students receive free tuition or compensation for working on their research and degree, due to the fact that the work is published under the University’s name and receives the publicity.

Department Chair Jon Anderson says that part of the reasoning behind this is that “The University is pleading poor,” and that they are not the only Liberal Arts department dealing with issues such as this.

The entire department has been facing struggles due to a lack of University funding, causing abrupt changes and inconveniences. This past summer the Sociology department moved from Aquinas into the Anthropology’s space in the basement of Marist Hall. Due to this, the Anthropology staff was forced to move their offices to the much smaller end of the hallway. At the bottom of the stairs there is a colorful plaque pointing visitors to the right to the Sociology offices and on the left is a plain black and white sheet of printer paper with the words “Anthropology Department This Way.”

“When I left the school I had a huge nice office on the other side, and now when I came back this year I’m in this tiny little place which was like our storage and supply room,” said Blenda Femenias, an adjunct Professor in the Anthropology department.

Another difficulty has been that there are only three full-time teachers for the entire department. The university has been relying on hiring adjunct professors to teach single classes and even graduate students from other colleges to teach, rather than hiring a permanent tenured professor.

“I can tell that over my four years here it has been going downhill,” said Meredith O’Connell, a senior Anthropology student. “I still would not trade it for anything though, I’ve loved my classes.”

Meredith also explained that it is difficult for the students as well only having three teachers in the department. “Unlike most other majors, we have to take Senior Comps as well as write a thesis. I am actually having a retired Anthropology professor helping me work on my thesis during her own free time.”

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