College Calls For Faculty Searches

Last spring, current Interim President Donald Christian said he had heard over 30 faculty hiring requests from deans, in collaboration with their departments, to fill vacancies by faculty who had “left, resigned or passed away.”

Christian said he waited to approve any faculty hiring until he was sure what the budget would entail for the upcoming year. When it was approved last August, only 11 positions were still being considered, the ones cited as “highest priority.”

“They were areas where it just wasn’t an option to continue offering the programs without people in those positions. They are critical teaching needs,” said Chief of Staff Shelly Wright.

Budget constraints have forced the administration to reconsider previous and new faculty searches.

Administrators said these 11 “crucial needs” will be met, in spite of their public declaration that a hiring freeze is being considered to help meet the potential $6.3 million budget deficit the college is facing due in part to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s  proposed 10 percent funding cut to the SUNY system.

Christian acknowledges that gaps will exist if the ratio of tenured faculty to students changes dramatically. He said “a whole mix of things” exists to counter this problem.

“Some of those courses are being taught by adjuncts. Some courses are perhaps being taught less frequently, but by regular faculty,” he said.

Mathematics Department Chair David Clark said during the last four years, college mathematics enrollment levels have increased during the fall semester, but concurrently the mathematics department has lost four full-time tenure track faculty with an additional three expected to leave this May.

“So far none have been replaced, leaving us with five out of 12 returning in Fall 2011,” Clark said. “Under these circumstances we have had to be increasingly creative to staff our classes. We are using a large number of low-paid, part-time adjuncts and faculty borrowed from other departments. Teaching loads and class sizes have gone up.”

One proposed element of the 2011-2012 SUNY New Paltz budget is a 50 percent reduction in part-time instruction budgets across all academic units, according to e-mails obtained by The New Paltz Oracle. Christian said that, although adjuncts do “a great job for us,” tenure-line faculty have to be at the core of New Paltz and how it operates.

“We decided to go ahead this year recognizing that our budget constraints might mean that if we have further faculty retirements this year we may just need to struggle through a year where we do no searches,” Christian said.

The 11 faculty positions, with the academic departments they are associated with and their job titles include:

The art department, two positions for an associate professor of Art Ceramics and an associate professor of Art Education.

The Black Studies department, an associate professor of African American and African Diasporic Literature.

The communication disorders department, a director of Speech-Language and Hearing Center.

The economics department, an assistant professor of economics.

The elementary education department, an assistant professor of Literacy Education.

The English as a Second Language department, an ESL Lecturer.

The library, two positions exist for assistant librarians.

The mathematics department, two positions exist for a lecturer.

The physics department, an astronomy lecturer and Planetarium director.

The secondary education department, two positions for an assistant professor in TESOL education and for an assistant professor of math education.

The theatre arts department, an assistant professor of theatrical movement.

The projected budget deficit is not discouraging potential candidates for many of these 11 positions, according to some. Clark said there is an “excellent selection” of highly qualified candidates due to the bad economic situation while Chui-chun Lee, the dean of the Sojourner Truth Library, said the two job positions for assistant librarians received over 150 applications. Lee said that “adequate staffing is vital” in order to maintain both the quality of information that’s accessible and library instruction programs.

Clark said fundamental math skills are essential and the success in many of the programs at New Paltz depends on those skills such as all of the natural sciences, engineering and computer science.

“It is only with a well staffed mathematics department that these skills can be provided,” he said. “The hiring of two lecturers in mathematics is but a drop in the bucket relative to what our students need and deserve.”

Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Laurel M. Duhaney said nine out of the 11 searches have been filled and six job offers have been extended. Duhaney said these searches continue for academic year 2011 to 2012 to “preserve and advance the caliber” of New Paltz.