Liberal Arts Lament

An open letter to the Board and Senate of Redeemer University, its leadership and to the broader Redeemer University Community.

Sponsored Content: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the editorial perspective of Christian Courier

We, the undersigned, express our disappointment at the recent termination of Redeemer University’s Theatre and French departments and the positions of the faculty who led them.

Redeemer University’s mission is to offer a “university-level liberal arts and science education which is Scripturally directed and explores the relation of faith, learning and living from a Reformed Christian perspective” and “to support research and creative endeavor in this context.” Despite pressure to become like other universities, Redeemer must tenaciously hold to its Reformed roots, which proclaim that every square inch of creation belongs to God, including French and theatre. Having these departments as part of a small Christian college in the first place was prophetic and inspired.

Cutting out these programs represents a significant loss for Redeemer and for Christian church communities across Canada. Current Theatre and French students are prevented from continuing their intended course of studies. Potential applicants are robbed of an opportunity to pursue their areas of interest. Faculty members are losing their livelihoods and years of vocational investment in building up these departments. Patrons of Redeemer’s Theatre productions are losing a distinct cultural voice. Christian schools across Canada are losing access to French teachers trained at a Christian institution. Christian church communities in Ontario and beyond are losing a precious resource of post secondary language and arts training from a distinctly Reformed Christian perspective.

We recognize that this was a difficult, if not agonizing, decision. We think a decision of this gravity warranted broader consultation and more transparency. Could there have been a better way to communicate the news of departmental closures than to embed it in
an announcement about expanding the business program? (“New BBA, Faculty Hiring and Program Restructuring,” April 20, redeemer.ca).

We understand that enrollment in these specific departments was not growing, raising the question of whether it was fiscally responsible to keep them. Could Redeemer have more broadly and aggressively marketed these as the only undergraduate French major available at a Christian post-secondary institution in Canada and the only Theatre major offered at a Christian University east of Alberta? Could not the larger departments, as was done in the past, carry the smaller ones, rather than terminating them and jeopardizing Redeemer’s status as a full-bodied liberal arts institution?

Through its Theatre Arts department, Redeemer offered a program that recognizes that Christians are called to make and change culture. Theatre encourages us to value our bodies. Theatre encourages us to practice empathy through encountering lives different from our own. Theatre teaches presentation skills, marketing and promotion, event planning, the ability to be flexible, how to work as part of a team, and how to be innovative and creative.

Our alumni community includes theatre supporters who didn’t major or minor in Theatre at Redeemer. In addition to alumni with active careers in theatre now, pastors, teachers, missionaries, business people and more have all benefited from the training and intuitive experience they received under the guidance of Professor Raymond Louter and Dr. Sharon Klassen in a space where honest engagement with faith and God was encouraged.

French studies are also crucial in cultivating Christians who have an impact in Canadian society. Discontinuing French limits Redeemer’s potential for shaping leaders in our bilingual nation and limits the options of those who wish to have an influence in public
service. It also hurts Redeemer’s recruitment of students to its Education program and its ability to supply qualified graduates to teach in Christian schools.

We write this letter not only because we grieve but also because we fear the loss of other valuable programs that are key to cultivating well-rounded Christians to be of service in God’s world.

Signed,

Richard Van Holst ’86
Doug Hoogsteen ’89
Michael Van Lingen ’89
Bryan Alkema, ’91
Judith Alkema, ’91
Nancy DeVries ’91
Dr. Maureen Elgersman Lee ’91
Maki Van Dyke ’91
Jeff Kiers ’92
Yvonne de Boer (Horlings) ’93
Andrew Luth ’93
David van Belle ’93
Bernard (Ben) Westerveld ’93
Hanna van Dijk-Alac ’94
Liese (Van Arragon) Van Lingen ’94
Dennis Van Staalduinen ’94
Andrew de Boer ’95
Winston Neutel ’95
Lori Pegg ’95
Joel Bootsma ’96
Bradley Cuzen ’96
Richard Tomlin ’96
Nicole McCabe Brouwer ’97
Chris Davis ’97
James de Boer ’97
Clarissa Dernederlanden Taylor ’97
Deborah Vanderkruk ’97
Sarah Weber ’97
Alicia Looyenga ’98
Sarah de Boer ’99
Jason Hofing ’99
Rachel Hofing ’99
Amanda Kleinhuis ’99
Mike Kleinhuis ’99
Ryan McKenna ’99
Krista (Posthumus) Ritskes ’99
Heather Sinnema ’99
Steph (Cilia) VanderMeulen ’99
Amy Etinger- Seenaraine ’00
Kenneth Dryfhout ’00
Scott Post ’00
Kathleen (Jarvis) Wells ’00
Kristine (Aguilar) Wildschut ’00
Rebecca Bootsma ’02
Anita Brinkman ’02
Dawn Cuthill ’02
Brett Alan Dewing ’02, ’03
Jeff Cullum ’03
Erin Glanville ’03
Brianna Kube ’03
Daniel Irvine ’04
Walter Miedema ’04
Rebecca (Holst) Penfold, ’04, ’19
Timothy Fransky ’05
Henny Hamilton ’06
Amanda Joubert ’06
Amy Belder ’07
Allison Bennink ’07
Stephanie Elgersma ’07
Brittany Groen ’07
Terri Lynn Brunsting ’08
Scott Fairley ’08
Chris Howlett ’08
Sharon Jones ’08
Amy Martisius ’08
Daniel Rusthoven ’08
Ryan M. Sero ’08
Denise Tonna ’08
Jon Reinink ’08, DMin
Aaron Joel Craig ’10
Krista Cranston-Laposi ’10
Stephen Siemens ’11
Heather Cichosz (Westra) ’12
Catherine Hordyk ’12
Jessica Carney Hoornweg ’12
Jessica Marshall ’12
Geoffrey Roome ’12
Lindsay Hoekstra ’13
Catriona Watt ’13
Gregory Beenen ’14
Emily (Groot) Nywening ’14
Bethany Beenen ’15
Rachel (Korvemaker) De Jager ’16
Rebekka Gondosch ’16
Sarah-Ann Wijngaarden ’16
Courtney Phelps ’17
Julia Stephen ’17
Katrina deSchiffert ’18
Stephanie Ten Hove ’18
Rebecca Bokma ’19
Jenna de Boer ’19
Nicole Katerberg ’19
Kirsten Klompmaker ’19
Julia Paddock ’19
Tammy Silverthorn ’19
JoyAnna Bodini ’20
Heather Janssens ’20
Erica Ten Hove ’20
Eveliina Ahonen ’21
Clarissa Giesbrecht ’21
Jewel Klumpenhower ’21
Nathan Lise ’22
Kimberly Lobbezoo ’22
Amy Pardy ’22
Severine Salvador ’22
Joy Louise Semple ’22
Emily Wright ’22
Julia Bakker ’23
Jeremy DeBoer ’23
Jess Hilton ’23
Rowena Hobbs ’23
Deanne Korvemaker ’23
Rachel Ten Hove ’23
Bethany Wiebe ’23
Abigail Bergel ’24
Dimitri Daoulas ’24
Lilly Dettweiler ’24
Seth Schouten ’24
Elizabeth Verwijs ’24
Marnie Goheen
Dennis J. Hassell, Guest Artist ’94
Tom Carson, Frequent Guest Director
Andrew Lakin, Guest Director
Dr. John Byl, Professor Emeritus in Physical Education
Dr. Christopher Cuthill, ’96 and Chair of Art and Design ’03-’17
Robert Di Francesco, Adjunct Professor of Spanish, 02’-06’
Dr. Michael W Goheen, Professor of Religion and Theology ’94 -’00
Dr. Thea van Til Rusthoven, Associate Professor of French, Emerita ’89-’12 (-’17 in the Edu.Dept.)
Harry A. Van Belle, PhD., Professor of Psychology ’82 – ‘92
Harold Kallemeyn, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Faculté Jean Calvin, Aix-en-Provence, France
Dr. Calvin Seerveld, Professor Emeritus of Aesthetics, Institute for Christian Studies

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One Comment

  1. This is merely a symptom of the church withering so quickly now in North America. In a generational change, millions of young adults from Christian upbringings do not find faith compatible with their society or their personal lives. Reducing a “Christian” “liberal arts” college to a business program does not help. The arts largely promote a secular world view, but arts can also be salt and light”: a window, a bridge, a doorway to the Kingdom of God.

    It pains many that CRC has such good theology about the arts (per international authors like aesthetician Calvin Seerveld), but in CRC churches, high schools and colleges it is often quickly reduced to lip service. We are failing our daughters and our sons and grandchildren. They reject the Gospel because they do not see it consistently enacted in all of life.

    “Jesus never went before the people without a story” (Matthew and Mark).

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