CFC Considers Four Faculty Cuts
For the first time since the proposal not to refill the vacated Asian-American History professorship last semester, College Faculty Council and Educational Plans and Policies Committee have identified four more positions that are under consideration for elimination. This decision marks a continued effort to implement the Strategic Plan’s charge to cut seven faculty positions from the College over by 2010.
The positions in question are in the sociology, geology, biology and creative writing departments. All four department chairs are advocating for the positions to be refilled.
Harry Hirsch, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, spoke on behalf of CFC, as individual members are bound by confidentiality.
“As of today, no decisions have been made by CFC which will make the final determination about whether any of these positions will be cut, under procedures adopted in the Fall,” Hirsch said.
These revised procedures require EPPC to analyze each department’s petition for a replacement. That analysis then goes to CFC and to President Nancy Dye for review. The president then meets with CFC to discuss the analyses of the four pending positions.
“We have...forwarded the EPPC analyses to the departments and programs in question for their comments,” Hirsch continued, “and CFC will be meeting later this month with each department chair or program director to discuss the EPPC report and their response.
“Only at that point will CFC make and announce a decision,” Hirsch emphasized.
The position under scrutiny in the sociology department currently belongs to Professor James Leo Walsh, who will be retiring at the end of the semester. Walsh’s specialty is in issues of law, deviance and social control.
“That’s a very important topic within sociology and especially for law and society majors,” said sociology department chair Daphne John. “As a core part of the department it will create a gap. None of us staying on have any training or specialization in sociology law and wouldn’t be prepared to step in. They’ve always been very popular courses.”
John and the department have given EPPC data culled from the catalogs of schools that are considered peer institutions: those on the list of the top 25 liberal art schools and those in the Great Lakes College Association.
“The vast majority of these schools offer courses in sociology and law,” said John.
“I’ve been asked to appear in front of CFC on [April] 24,” John continued. “At that point I’ll be able to provide the council with information about the importance of this position.”
However, the sociology department is in the process of searching for a temporary replacement for Walsh. The position will be filled next year for certain.
Geology Department Chair Steven Wojtal echoed many of John’s concerns in discussing the petrology position.
In regards to the EPPC response to the Geology department’s request to replace Professor Jon Castro, Wojtal said that he and his colleagues were “dispirited.”
“Professor Jon Castro was the only professor who had graduate training in petrology,” Wojtal continued. While he acknowledged that some professors in the department are prepared to teach petrology should the position be left vacant, it would be a challenge, particularly due to the lack of resources to retrain faculty.
“It’s like telling a foreign language professor to take up another language, or a history professor to learn about a different historical era,” Wojtal said.
Wojtal also emphasized the importance of petrology, and the field of geology in general, in defense of retaining the position.
“Where are we going to get our water?” he asked. “Where are we going to put our garbage? What about climate change? These are issues relevant to our society, and students need to understand and think critically about them.
“I know we have a Strategic Plan that we’ve begrudgingly accepted, but if we were going to be strategic here, this is not the position to cut,” Wojtal said.
Spring Chair of the Creative Writing Department Sylvia Watanabe is confident that CFC will renew the half-time poetry position that will be left vacant when professor Martha Collins retires at the end of the year, citing positive feedback fromthe EPPC.
“Creative Writing isn’t having a position cut,” said Watanabe. “We are optimistic that we’ll be getting [Professor Collins’] position back.”
Hirsch responded, “No one from the Dean’s office has any response to Ms. Watanabe’s statement. We neither confirm or deny what she said.”
In reference to the biology position, chair of the Biology Department Roger Laushman said, “David Benzing is retiring and we have requested that the position be returned to biology.”
He had no further comment.