Note: Below is the email message recently shared with all SLU faculty members by Saving SLU participants. In the few days since the message went out, Google Analytics shows that this blog has been the destination for well over a thousand visits, which hints at SLU faculty members’ interest in preserving important aspects of our institution that are currently under threat. If you’re a SLU faculty member who didn’t receive this message and you want to receive future ones, drop us a note at email@example.com.
Welcome to the Fall 2019 semester at Saint Louis University! We hope you and your students have a fulfilling and productive experience together.
We want to take this opportunity to provide you with information about potential dangers to the best of Saint Louis University: its strong national reputation, its Jesuit identity, its commitment to provide faculty what they need to flourish, and its ability to give all of our students a truly great education.
We are members of a growing group of SLU faculty, simply called “Saving SLU,” from multiple colleges and schools. We began meeting together out of profound concern over the direction in which the University administration is steering our institution. All faculty are invited to participate in our meetings.
In addition to providing some information here, we want to invite you to attend a teach-in on September 18 to become even more informed, and to provide you with several ways you can add your voice to processes that are determining the future of our university.
The administration is widening its years-long reductions to funding for academics. Faculty, staff, programs, and budgets have been cut (despite the announcement of record fundraising again), compromising our ability to carry out our mission. These drastic actions are covered up by seemingly unobjectionable buzzwords like “fiscal responsibility” and “efficiency.”
We wish we could say that the administration’s decisions are the result of careful, strategic, and collaborative thinking, based on a clear vision of a sustainable SLU and with a sense of what departments need in order to educate SLU students well. But that is not the case.
Instead, faculty who leave are simply not replaced, whatever the effect on a given unit. Non-tenure-track faculty are dismissed, whatever their contributions to the university, however dependent on them units are. Graduate assistantships are cut, regardless of what that means to the integrity of a graduate program and however reliant a unit is on graduate teaching, raising profound questions about our commitment to graduate education. Hiring freezes for most academic positions have been in place for years.
All of this leaves significant gaps in course offerings for students. Further, increased teaching loads have already been implemented in some units, and more, across the board, are threatened or even imminent, despite what this means to our research mission or to excellence in teaching. Small classes, so valuable to student learning, may be a thing of the past. In some units, summer compensation has been eliminated despite the fact that faculty must still supervise clinical programs in the summers. And the increased workloads all of this means for so many of us have been accompanied by salary freezes in three of the last seven years. Morale has suffered. This is not efficiency or fiscal responsibility, but harmful mismanagement.
This cannot go on, but unless the faculty act, and act together, it will.
We have set up a website, Saving SLU, which we hope you will check out. We urge you to read it, talk about it, even contribute to it.
In order to further share our concerns, and to strengthen the faculty voices that are so urgently needed right now, we have also organized a faculty TEACH-IN on Wednesday, September 18, from 3pm–5pm. Come for as much of it as you can. Share your concerns, and ask your questions.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
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Finally, be aware that you have faculty representatives on two important committees:
Senate Budget and Finance Committee
The Senate Budget and Finance Committee is set up to “facilitate greater faculty understanding of the university’s budget and the budgeting process.” Know who your representatives are, get in touch with them, and make sure that they are accountable to you.
The Academic Portfolio Review Committee is charged with evaluating, in a single year, all of the University’s academic programs in order to facilitate “program enhancement” in some cases, and “elimination, modification or consolidation” in others. This is a questionable and unnecessary process reliant on dubious metrics and led by an interim provost. Based on the history of portfolio review committees at other universities (see here and here), we are skeptical of its ends and means, and extremely wary of its potential impact. This committee has a website, but there is not much on it yet. We will try to keep you updated, too.
A great deal is at stake. SLU is at stake. Please join us.
Contacts for the Saving SLU group (in alphabetical order):
Robert Cropf, Professor, Political Science
Dave Rapach, Professor, Economics
Rubén Rosario Rodríguez, Professor, Theological Studies
Silvana Siddali, Professor, History
Annie Smart, Professor, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Penny Weiss, Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies
Blog posts available on the Saving SLU website:
Introducing Saving SLU
SLU Economics Professor on Inappropriate Donor Influence
Reflections of a SLU Alumnus
Is SLU Becoming a Trade School? Academic Portfolio Review
A SLU Professor of Theological Studies on Jesuit Identity
The Need for Trustee-Faculty Communication at SLU
Closing the Latin American Studies Program at SLU
The Duties of the Board of Trustees