Oh, the Humanities! (II)

I recently posted on SUNY-Albany’s heavy-handed cuts to its humanities programs, specifically foreign languages and theater.  You can find the university president’s explanation here. I am not going to go into the claims of faculty consultation here. That is covered in the link.

To give credit where credit is due, it is clear that the administration does not exactly relish these cuts. “[M]ealy-mouthed admin-speak” as John Protevi at the link calls it, generally does not include admitting that “these types of cuts are a clear pathway to mediocrity.” That is far and above better than the crap the graduate students at my university experienced when the administration decided to railroad through us. On the other hand, for all the promises of strong efforts and support there are enough qualifying phrases to fill a well.

These are the parts that stood out to me:

No school or college has been exempt from these reductions, and some areas have in fact borne more of the burden only because of the opportunistic way in which the cuts had to be managed in the short term.


I am mindful that the identification of these specific programs makes it appear that the College of Arts and Sciences is bearing a disproportionate reduction.  I want to assure you that larger reductions across the other schools and colleges are being addressed, but simply in different ways. I have asked the Provost to begin the process of initiating other program consolidations and efficiencies.  While the magnitude of the reduction requires significant participation from all units, our approach will continue to be derived from the advice and guidance of each of the Budget Advisory processes:  to be strategic and differentiated with a view towards the future and the goals articulated in our Strategic Plan.

Telling fired, tenured professors that there is less conference support for the other professors is not going to make anyone feel better. Beyond that, though, “it appears that the College of Arts and Sciences is bearing a disproportionate reduction” because it is bearing a disproportionate reduction. This might not be true in terms of dollar signs, as it is possible that a science department has been denied some new equipment or a hire was not made in mathematics. In terms of overall damage, though, these types of cuts will take at least a decade to repair, and that is only if the university immediately turns to trying to rebuild it.

The president of SUNY-Albany needs to address these points: what exactly are the cuts that other departments are suffering and how is it affecting the faculty and students? What about all non-educational systems, such as sports programs? I am not saying those should be cut in lieu of languages. Arguing that everyone is going to suffer without explaining how or why the faculty was left completely in the dark seems disingenuous.

How about this: what sort of temporary pay cuts or freezes are the thirty to fifty highest-paid university employees and officials taking? During the recessions of the 2000s, more than a few major United States corporations, the ones with the mustache-twirling CEOs and their greedy capitalism, enacted wide-ranging temporary pay freezes and cuts for those on the top end of the payroll in order to avoid firing workers. I am not saying SUNY-Albany is not doing this (I do not know, and if it is true that the large majority of the cuts go to administrative units, then kudos, but again hopefully in a manner that is saving as many jobs as possible), but can we accept a president’s argument that the goal is “to sustain the University’s capacity to offer strong academic programs” if it is not? I do not doubt they are doing what they can to avoid cuts. But could there be other directions to go?

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