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Hey Pennsylvania: Don’t we need the arts?

“There’s no business like show business,” we sang, “like no business I know.” As a member of Mansfield University’s elite group of singers, The Mansfieldians, I was filled with pride as we packed the auditorium. Our 28 performers sang and danced like clockwork and I have seldom felt such a sense of teamwork.

As a high school student looking to go to an affordable, quality college, I quickly opted for a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) school. My interest in vocal arts drew me to Mansfield, one of many PASSHE schools with an exceptional music program. I don’t remember looking at the curriculum much, but the numerous choirs, bands and theatrical groups got my attention. Not an exceptional student at the time, I stayed in school because the choir program fulfilled my need to express myself and fit in.

Today, I am a professor of communication at another exemplary PASSHE school, Lock Haven University, and I am sorry to be witnessing the sad, underpublicized truth: arts programs are being eliminated across the state. Today’s students will not have the option of majoring in music, art or theatre at Lock Haven University as these programs — as well as 11 others — are being dropped.

The impact on students will be severe. Many students find much-needed stress relief from expressing themselves through art. Performance teaches critical workplace soft skills like teamwork, discipline, creativity, and self-analysis. Employers know this and they favor candidates who are well-rounded.

Those of us who work for PASSHE understand the delicacy of our financial situation, but consider this: Every dollar spent on higher education yields $11 for Pennsylvania. It’s an investment, not an expense. Why are we getting rid of programs that increase our marketability and value to the residents of the Commonwealth?

Pennsylvania needs well-rounded, intelligent, creative workers to sustain us in the coming years.

As a citizen of Pennsylvania, you have the power to make this happen. Write to Dan Greenstein, PASSHE’s chancellor; Cynthia Shapira, chair of the Board of Governors; or even Governor Wolf. Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers. Tell them you are against stripping our state universities to the bones. Tell them now, before it’s too late.

Constance G. Reece lives in Muncy and is a professor of communication at Lock Haven University.

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