Putting Our Education On Ice

Cartoon by Derek Zimmerman

The issue of budget cuts has brought up many pressing questions and concerns over these past few months, with ideas regarding a potential hiring freeze being thrown into the mix. We at The New Paltz Oracle believe that this is one method of coping with the budgetary shortfall that should be avoided at all costs.

At the end of every year, department chairs go to their respective dean and put in requests for faculty positions they would like to see filled. This year, out of 30 requested positions, the administration is only attempting to fill 11. Although these crucial needs will be met, future ones may not be because SUNY New Paltz is considering a hiring freeze to save money with the deficit growing thanks to the passage of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget and his 10 percent slashing of SUNY funding.

A hiring freeze would not only put more pressure on full-time professors, but would increase reliance on adjuncts as well. This presents a conundrum as administrators have proposed reducing the part-time faculty budgets by 50 percent across each academic unit. This should be thought through extensively before a decision is made, as you cannot rely so heavily on something you are also reducing.

Also, a hiring freeze would create an all around weaker student experience. Of course any cuts will have an effect, but making a cut that directly affects students should be the last resort. We should be the school’s priority, but the idea of a hiring freeze suggests the opposite.

With the potential adjunct decreases, the full-time professors will need to make up for these losses and fill the gaps. This may prove to be incredibly difficult to handle, having a negative impact on students’ learning. If professors are forced to take on more classes and thus more responsibilities, they could become overworked and might not be able to devote the necessary time to students’ needs.

This brings about another issue of being exposed to the same professors repeatedly. If our school stops hiring, we will continue to be taught by the same professors and the diversity of our education will suffer greatly. Professors have different teaching methods and varied expertise. As students, we deserve to be exposed to this and have our knowledge expanded.

Our class sizes will also undoubtedly grow. This is already visible in the Fall 2011 schedule of classes, as some classes that were once limited to approximately 20 people are now available to 50.

In 2009, SUNY New Paltz had a healthy student-to-faculty ratio of 16 to 1, but with a hiring freeze this would certainly rise. Since our school is small, we expect an intimate classroom environment where we can have helpful one-on-one interactions with professors and develop a rapport. It will become increasingly difficult to achieve this type of environment if more students share the same professor.

If the administration does not add any more professors to the faculty they will restrict the development of our knowledge in our fields of study. Newer professors with more recent field experience are learning new things and are up to date with current developments in the profession. As students who will soon be venturing into the “real world” and finding jobs, it would do us well to learn from those with present-day experience who can teach us about changes in the field and the progressions in technologies etc. We believe it is always beneficial to have fresh pairs of eyes.

This is not to say that our current professors are teaching us less, they have successfully gotten us this far and have their own skills to offer students, but we fear that they are already stretched to the maximum and it will only worsen with a hiring freeze. This is incredibly unfair to the professors as well as to the pupils.

It would be wrong not to recognize that these are harsh economic times and cuts must come from somewhere, but faculty is simply not what should be trimmed. As an institution we should be looking to progress and move forward during fiscally turbulent times, but there is no way we can achieve this is if a hiring freeze is implemented. Schools exist for students. We are the school. If we stop improving this faculty, we are putting students’ educations on hold, which in reality is putting the betterment of this institution on hold.