Opinions on the Academy

Each week, the editors will choose an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education.  An interview will be conducted with several CAS professors.  The responses will be posted in this section in a straightforward Q and A layout.

This section is opinion based.

The editors of This Week In CAS are asking that you, the professors of CAS, use this as an opportunity to look outside your department and consider what your CAS colleagues  think about the issues of the academy.

In order to receive more opinions from you, the editors will be posting the question of the week at the end of each Opinions on the Academy.  The editors are asking that you respond with your opinion to thisweekincas@gmail.com.  The editors will post a selection of the opinions that are received.

The first topic is a subject that universities and colleges are dealing with: cutting programs.

Below is a portion of an article found on www.chronicle.com.  Let the editors know how you think universities and colleges should be responding to this topic.

Article link:  http://chronicle.com/article/Program-Cuts-Loom-at-4-Public/125080

On October 1, George M. Philip, president of the State University of New York at Albany, had some bad news. Admissions to five programs—classics, French, Italian, Russian, and theater—would be suspended, effectively killing them. Jobs would disappear university wide, too. By 2012, some 360 positions across the university will have been eliminated, mostly through resignations and retirements, Mr. Philip said. However, he added, “involuntary terminations of employment will be unavoidable.” About a quarter of the total number of the positions lost from 2008 to 2012 will be a mix of full-time, tenure-track, and adjunct faculty jobs, according to university projections. Three-quarters will be professional and support staff.

Since 2008 the university has had to cope with “more than $33.5-million in cuts to its base state tax-dollar allocation, a more than 30-percent decline,” Mr. Philip said in a statement. The shortfall required the university “to rethink, balance, and reallocate resources to support its core academic and research mission,” he said. In a follow-up statement, Mr. Philip said Albany had decided to make the announcement now to allow for more input and to give students and faculty members “as much time as possible to consider their future in the event such plans are enacted.” That suggests the university may be open to modifying its plans.

Jean-François Brière, a professor of French studies, chairs the department of languages, literatures, and cultures, home to several of the condemned programs. The announcement led to an outcry on the campus, he told The Chronicle via e-mail, adding that the move was viewed as an attack on both liberal-arts education and tenure.

According to Mr. Brière, seven tenured positions in French, two in Russian, one in Italian, and one in Latin are threatened, along with the jobs of several full-time lecturers. He and other faculty members issued an open letter decrying the situation, and a Web petition protesting the proposal has attracted more than 12,000 signatures.

Mr. Philip has asked the University Senate to comment on the proposal. Eric Lifshin, a professor in the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, chairs the senate. “This is obviously a challenging time for everybody involved,” he told The Chronicle. “I’m expecting there will be a spirited discussion. I certainly have gotten a lot of e-mails from people.”

Karl Luntta, a spokesman for the university, said the president would take the senate’s comments “under advisement.” Asked whether the decision might be reversed, he said that “the consultation process about the future of the language programs is continuing.”

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  1. TomFoster says:

    My first question is about shared governance – in what capacity were the faculty involved in this decision? While cutting programs is a difficult decision, if the decision is made together, the campus has a better chance to weather this storm.

    Second, SUNY is a large system and I wonder what role it is playing in these decisions. Losing a theater program is a very bad thing, but it becomes a tragedy if every SUNY campus decides to cut theater thus preventing NY students from a public-school option to study theater. Likewise for the faculty: a lost tenure-track position at Albany might be found in Brookhaven, thus preserving tenure.

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