By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Albion College officials are defending the college board’s decision to reduce 15 full-time faculty positions and eliminate courses amid concern from at least one professor and a national faculty organization.
The concern centers on not only last week’s decision to eliminate the positions and the courses but also with the method used to reach that decision.
One tenured position was eliminated, but that faculty member has been offered a full-time staff role, and the remaining 14 reductions were made through position reviews and resignations, early retirements and the termination of academic programs.
Majors in computer science and physical education and minors in dance, journalism and physical education will not be part of the college’s curriculum moving forward — a reduction strategy that will eliminate about 12 courses, said Dr. Donna Randall, the college’s president.
Randall said these changes were deemed necessary by the board to return the college to a student/faculty ratio closer to the desired 13-to-1.
She said the board reviewed extensive data, including syllabi from 2009-10 courses, graduate placement trends and operating costs of specific programs, and overall achievement and recognition of students in all academic areas.
“It’s a very difficult position for everyone involved,” she said. “The board was very thoughtful, very aware of making a decision that would impact lives of a number of individuals.”
Faculty Steering Committee Chairman Thomas Wilch, a professor and chairman of the department of Geological Sciences, voiced displeasure in the board’s resolution.
“Unlike many businesses, colleges and universities operate under rules of shared governance. The actions of the board have compromised shared governance at Albion College,” Wilch wrote in an e-mail. “Faculty have justly argued that reductions in faculty size and academic programs should be deliberative, involve faculty, and be in accordance with procedures outlined in the board-approved faculty handbook.”
In April, Sarah Briggs, the college’s associate vice president for communications, said certain provisions in the handbook that deal with the college’s relationship with the faculty have changed, but she would not comment on the details of them.
The American Association of University Professors issued a letter to Randall’s office April 15, stating the organization’s disappointment that the college was changing its policy to make reductions possible, as well as providing a “blanket” letter of intent about potential nonrenewal of appointments to 28 faculty members.
“We are very aware there are groups and organizations across the nation that may not be in support of the action that the Board of Trustees has taken, but the board has decided to move ahead with the action that was announced,” Randall said.
“As the president of the institution, I am deeply sympathetic to those individuals whose lives will be impacted.”
Wilch said his “heart goes out” to his colleagues who have been served notice and “the college is losing some very valuable teachers and scholars.”