An Open Letter to Interim President Donald Christian and the Campus Community from Members of the Faculty and Staff:
Like all members of our campus community, we are concerned about the budget crisis and its effect on our campus. Toward the end of the fall semester, the Women’s Rights and Concerns Committee of the New Paltz UUP Chapter convened a meeting to discuss our concern about the past patterns of cutbacks on our campus. A brief look at the history of cuts at SUNY New Paltz in the last three decades reveals that many more female than male faculty members lost their jobs. For example:
• The 1981 elimination of the Campus School led to cuts in 23 faculty positions, 22 of which were staffed by women.
• The 1995 elimination of the Physical Education department led to cuts in four faculty positions, two of which were staffed by women.
• The 2008 elimination of the Language Immersion program led to cutting three positions, all of which had been staffed by women.
• The elimination of the Dual Degree Social Work program, led to cutting one position held by a woman.
• Last year’s elimination of the Nursing program led to cuts of four positions, all staffed by women (an additional woman retired).
Thus, the elimination of programs in the last three decades resulted in cuts to positions held by 33 women and three men. Although we do not believe this results from conscious discrimination, women have been and continue to be among the most vulnerable members of the faculty, suffering from past discriminatory practices and policies, and only recently beginning to occupy tenure line and tenured positions in comparable numbers to men. It is therefore imperative that we all be vigilant about measures that would increase or further enshrine gender inequity and what has been called a “chilly climate” for women on our campus. Administrative communications have referred to the need to make “uncomfortable” choices. Choices that perpetuate gender inequity are more than uncomfortable; they are unconscionable.
Some of the concerns expressed at the meeting that included about 25 faculty and staff are as follows: We agree with the UUP chapter executive board that cuts to personnel and programs should be avoided. But cuts in the number of adjuncts have already occurred, and 60 percent of the adjuncts on our campus are women. These cuts have already had negative effects not only on adjuncts themselves but on the quality of education – our core mission – through increased class size, reduced numbers of sections and overworked full-time faculty. Cuts in the secretarial staff, overwhelmingly female, will also result in overwork for the remaining support staff. Increasing burden on full-time faculty will make it difficult for parenting faculty (usually women) to combine their work and family obligations. Female students are disproportionately affected as well. Departments in which majors are predominantly women, such as psychology and English, have been asked to cut the largest number of classes. These departments are among those serving the largest number of students, yet have been asked to make the greatest reductions in course offerings for next year. Thus it will be even more difficult for psychology and English majors to get into the classes that they need to graduate on time.
The budget meetings that the administrators have held are useful but they have not made the budget process transparent enough for us to examine the impact possible cuts will have on different constituents of our community. The time line for the budget process suggests that when cuts are announced there will be no time for discussion and that the affected faculty and staff will be given very short notice. We believe it is crucial that all members of our campus community have enough information to evaluate the differential impact budget cuts will have on female faculty, staff and students.
We urge the administration to retain the quality of programs for all of our students by using some of the $4.4 million in academic reserves in the short term, and engaging in long-term planning to address continued budgetary shortfalls.