Carrying the Budgetary Weight

Cartoon by Derek Zimmermann

Monday turned out to be the day that faculty, staff and students anticipated and dreaded for eight months – the budget plan was finally announced. The slicing and dicing required to meet an estimated $6.3 million deficit was calculated, scrutinized and outlined. The waiting game seems to be over, with students in every program emerging victorious since no major or minor was eliminated.

But students, be warned: The game is far from finished, as members of the faculty continue to lose. Adjuncts will be axed.  Full-time faculty will be worked to the bone. And although our academic programs won’t be phased out, we as students should look at the budget and wonder how our education will be affected.

We may have all breathed some sighs of relief when examining the infamous e-mail announcement, seeing that no academic programs are on the brink of termination. However, we cannot let this news give us any false sense of security. The reductions being made in the part-time personnel budget and the subsequent increases in workloads on the horizon for full-time faculty will put tremendous stress on the teachers who are directly responsible for providing us with what we came to SUNY New Paltz for – an education.

Many of our professors will soon be asked not to return. The numbers don’t lie; a $903,000 cut in the part-time personnel budget means that administrators have decided they cannot afford to keep many members of that substantial group of part-time personnel.  At this point, administrators have been unclear as to how many adjuncts we will lose. But no matter how it is added up, a specific and valuable group in the community is shrinking.

Students need to take the time to look outside of themselves and realize what this large portion of the budget plan means for a group of people on this campus who have worked to serve them. These adjunct professors have their own financial struggles. They have bills to pay. They have families to care for at home.  Now, many will be left wondering whether or not a steady flow of income will be clipped.  We at The New Paltz Oracle are deeply saddened that members of our community have to live on edge as these hurtful plans are executed.

Of course, administrators do need to look at the “big picture” and plan for the college’s future. In relation to this enormous task set before them in harsh financial climate, tenure-track faculty may seem like a safer investment. Although they have certain contractual obligations to service and scholarship – and they have committed to spend a designated amount of time at the university – this does not mean that their part-time counterparts care less than they do.

We cannot stress enough that adjunct faculty offers unique insight as educators. Part-timers are working in which they still teach and can therefore offer an up-to-date perspective. They also may not be as motivated to seek a raise, conduct research or involve themselves in other projects. Too often, full-timers live under the “publish or perish” mantra, and this pressure can sometimes be a distraction from what’s happening in the classroom. But oftentimes, adjuncts are here for one purpose: To teach, and teach only. As students, isn’t that all we can ask for?

The sad reality is that the college will lose some talented adjuncts. On top of it all, the full-timers and faculty that will remain are going to be under intense stress as well. With such a drastic slashing of the part-time personnel budget, a slew of new responsibilities for the full-timers administrators sought to invest in. But how can these talented professors be the best teachers they can be when their class sizes increase and their course load soars?

So yes, it may appear that the quality of the educational experience for SUNY New Paltz students was preserved by maintaining all academic programs. But, when one portion of this campus community is hurting, we will all hurt. The termination of adjunct faculty positions will undoubtedly impact the unfortunate teachers who lost their jobs, their colleagues who need to pick up the slack and the students seeking the kind of attention they need to get the quality education that they deserve.