December 12, 2008

English Dept. Responds To Cappy

The battle of the words continues.

English Department co-chairs Peter Antelyes and Michael Joyce sent out a statement in response to Cappy's all-campus email yesterday. Here is an excerpt:

"In recent days the dean of faculty wrote to some students that, "With a department of about 30 faculty members, it is completely within their power to protect creative writing." To put it clearly, we see that number of thirty as misleading since it does not include our long-term non-tenure track faculty. We are, in fact, a united department of full and part-time, tenured, tenure line, and continued non-tenure track faculty members. And in response to the economic crisis and the recommendations from the Dean's Office, we have already trimmed eight offerings from our initial proposed staffing plan for the coming year and have offered alternate ways to reduce three more.

"We have shown ourselves to be willing to work with the Dean's Office to address what we all recognize to be a dire financial situation, and we have tried to do so in good faith to maintain a vibrant writing program for our students, while standing by extraordinary faculty who may lose their jobs in a devastated economy.

"We are arguing, finally, for a larger vision of the curriculum as a whole, and have been working with the Dean's Office to find ways for all of us to participate in that larger discussion."


Check out the comments page for this post to see the whole statement.

1 comment:

Mads' Blog said...

As co-chairs we are in the midst of the annual process of staff planning, this year complicated by the financial crisis facing the college. We have tried to respond responsibly to this crisis, keeping our students, our curriculum, and our faculty foremost in our minds. We have been especially mindful of the important role that the English department's writing program plays in the Vassar curriculum. This program includes both the freshmen course seminars and our popular and successful creative writing courses.

We have worked responsibly with our department members and the dean of faculty to devise a proposed staffing plan for next year that will maintain the integrity of our curriculum and preserve the teaching mission of the department, its writing program, and its quality of instruction.

In recent days the dean of faculty wrote to some students that, "With a department of about 30 faculty members, it is completely within their power to protect creative writing." To put it clearly, we see that number of thirty as misleading since it does not include our long-term non-tenure track faculty. We are, in fact, a united department of full and part-time, tenured, tenure line, and continued non-tenure track faculty members. And in response to the economic crisis and the recommendations from the Dean's Office, we have already trimmed eight offerings from our initial proposed staffing plan for the coming year and have offered alternate ways to reduce three more.

All eight of these courses had to be cut from the schedules of non-tenure-track faculty who teach primarily in the writing program, so our course offerings in that area are inevitably going to be affected, though, we hope, not irrevocably. We have, to this end, also offered a plan whereby we can rehire two of our non-tenured faculty who have taught with us for almost a decade. These non-tenured faculty consistently enjoy very high student and departmental evaluations and are active in departmental committees, and participate in pre-major, major, and thesis advising, as well as multidisciplinary programs.

Our revised staffing plan for the 2009-2010 academic year of 114 English sections (plus 27 sections taught by English faculty in the multidisciplinary programs) already responds to the dean's request for substantial cuts, at a point well before final staffing needs can be known. It represents a reduction from the initial staffing plan we submitted at this same time last year for the current 2008-2009 academic year. That plan then included 122 English sections (plus 22 sections in the programs), but eventually ended at 114 sections due to grants, unpaid leaves, and other factors. We expect the same to happen this year.

We have shown ourselves to be willing to work with the Dean's Office to address what we all recognize to be a dire financial situation, and we have tried to do so in good faith to maintain a vibrant writing program for our students, while standing by extraordinary faculty who may lose their jobs in a devastated economy.

Yet our responses are also in keeping with our larger concerns about the curricular changes that are being required throughout the college.

Like most liberal arts colleges, Vassar depends for much of its curricular diversity and innovation on its pool of non-tenure-track faculty. When that faculty is specifically identified as the class that needs to be eliminated for the financial health of the college, then the College risks losing one of its most tangible assets, its curricular richness. So, for instance, we find Arabic supplied by one non-tenure-track faculty member, and world music by another. We find a renowned creative writing program staffed by publishing writers. We believe the administration when we are told that the creative writing program has not been specifically targeted for elimination, but we must point out that the profound and profoundly deformational reduction in that program is nevertheless the inevitable result of the current plan of curricular curtailment. We are arguing, finally, for a larger vision of the curriculum as a whole, and have been working with the Dean's Office to find ways for all of us to participate in that larger discussion.