The campus is absolutely buzzing with indignant grumbling, shocked gossip, and galvanizing organization in response to the board of trustees’ decision to cut the equivalent of 15 full-time faculty positions. Concerned Facebook groups constituting students, alumni and faculty alike have been erupting across my newsfeed, and if anything is clear, it’s that Britons feel strongly about this proposed cut.
Perhaps the most obvious reason that many find this proposed cut unreasonable is that it simply doesn’t add up with other spending policies we see happening around us. For example, the administration is pushing the senior class for donations to purchase a $4000 “presidential mace” for ceremonial purposes. That is all well and good, but the fact is simply that if we are in such serious need of a budget cut, then how can we possibly justify spending four grand on something so frivolous?
More inconsistencies abound.
For instance, if we are “always thinking,” then how can it be that we are paying to add two new varsity sports when our athletics are already underfunded, and that the equestrian program lost over $100,000 this year alone (that sounds like at least one faculty position to me)? Not to mention, the décor of choice for any recently renovated building is flat screen TVs.
Even more unsettling, a simple look through our Web site’s staff directory shows 162 faculty and 366 administrative staff — if we’re counting, that’s well over twice the number of faculty. Moreover, a study done by the college comparing a cohort of 30 similar small, private colleges shows that we are ranked 25th out of 30 in number of full professors, 26th for associate professors, and 27th for assistant professors. Now, I’m not a math major, but something here doesn’t seem to add up. My point is this: if the school wants to show that it is really serious about balancing the budget, it should be cutting from all areas of our spending and we should not see these inconsistencies.
Besides these contradictory practices, many of us are upset by the very undemocratic nature of this decision. Maybe it’s that we’ve been spoiled with autonomy and a personalized education here, but at an institution that tells us that we are not just a number —that we are a community, not just a campus and that we determine our own college experience — a decision of this gravity handed directly down from the administration rightly makes us scratch our heads. Truly, it is these aspects of our time here that we have cherished most, and as our professors have shown us that we are not just numbers to them, we want to make it clear that “15” is not just a number to us.
We understand that Albion is a business as well as a school and that we simply cannot be spending more than we’re making, but a school is also defined by its students, faculty, staff and how well those parties are able to work together to function as a place for learning and growth. Yes, the faculty may be one of the greatest expenses when it comes time to balance the budget, but they are also certainly our greatest asset, and Albion should celebrate them. Simply put, we don’t come to Albion College for the tater starz and the General Tso’s chicken.
This is an administrative matter, but if we as students weren’t concerned and didn’t manifest that concern with voice and action, then we wouldn’t be Albion College students. The faculty have supported us, helped us plan our futures, gotten us jobs, recommended us for graduate and professional schools, researched and presented with us, stayed well past their office hours to help us, cooked us dinner at their houses and even shared a drink at the bar. This is school politics, but as the students of this school, we find it to be our concern as well, and we have something to say about it. Alternatively, we could stay quiet and leave this to the administration to decide, but keeping quiet — well that’s about as reliable as tenure at protecting faculty jobs.
The senior class just had a meeting where we were told about giving back to Albion to show that we care about what has been our home for the past four years. Well, we do care. But you can’t have our support without our opinions, and you can’t have progress without compromise. We all graduate eventually, and some of us might never look back, but most of us will. And when we do, we want not only to love what we see, but also to know that we had a hand in it. That’s what Albion College means; that’s what growing up means.
And that is why we, the students, stand beside our mentors.