Not Just a Number — Student opinion on proposed faculty cuts

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.


  1. Why don’t they just go ahead and throw in a \presidential chalace\ (pimp cup) to go along with that \presidential mace\ (pimp stick) and ask Lil John to be the speaker.

  2. To be fair, some of the items that you are listing (mostly the HDTVs) were donated specifically by alums. Instead of encouraging donations for frivolous itmes such as these, alums should be aware of the dire situation we are facing and (hopefully) adjust their donations accordingly. They want this institution to remain prominent and proud as much as we do.

  3. I believe that the main issue of contention here, for students and faculty alike, is the complete devaluation of tenure for professors.

    Albion’s administration needs to understand that if it starts cutting tenured professors, it will be the beginning of the end for the college. The possibility of obtaining tenure and the job security that comes (er, used to come) with it was one of the only major incentives to working for a school like Albion. Salary alone has never been enough to attract new faculty. No new professors are going to want to work for the school when (if) it starts to financially rebound, as Albion will have no credibility left as an employer. In turn, it will be harder to attract prospective students, whose prospective tuition payments are the primary route out of this mess. I understand times are tough for everybody, but please, Albion, leave the tenured faculty alone. If you don’t, you’ll be sorry.

    Note to the Pleiad Editors: Why aren’t these student-authored follow-up pieces linked on the main Pleiad homepage? I’m sure a lot of people who’ve already read the initial story don’t even know that they’re here.

  4. Just needed to make it clear some info about the Equestrian Center. It was designed with great expectations and has currently exceeded them. The Center itself brings in several students who usually come from a more financially stable family situations. Along with, once the Center is completely finished, it has the potential to bring in close to 500k a year for profits that go back to the school. Currently, the center holds a Winter Jumper’s series competition which allows for profits of about 10k per weekend. The center itself is a fantastic marketing tool to entice students from all over our country to come be a Brit. The facility sells itself – it’s beautiful and state of the art. Definitely one of the nicest places I’ve been to on this campus.

    Also, regarding the Mission Statement of KLAW, we wish to pursue Budget Transparency. Just where is all this money going?! Estimated salaries of the President, the Provost, and other employees such as Dr. Sally Walker are well into the six figures. And we can’t afford to pay our educators? Wait…. Isn’t this a college? Shouldn’t having an abundance of Professors be what we’re striving for? Surely, several of the high rankings admins could take a lesson from Nelson Mandela and take a pay cut for the good of their (academic) community.

    Don’t give up, show up and make your voices heard.

  5. Albion’s faculty are what make this school a great place to be. That’s the reason I chose to attend school here, and I know I’m not the only one who could say that. We are a liberal arts school, and as such we need to embrace all the departments and not just economics & management and the sciences. German, art history, music, gender studies, theater, etc. THESE are the reasons why people choose to go to a liberal arts school instead of a school that focuses on, in President Randall’s own words, “a competitive niche”. I don’t want to go to a school that only cares about the sciences and econ. That’s why I feel that we need our professors. Without the professors the departments that they represent will suffer greatly, and I wouldn’t doubt that in some cases they would eventually close altogether.

    Support our faculty!
    This matters to us!

  6. Donna Randall is claiming there are 162 full time positions at this school, which is why we need this 15 position cut. There are 105/

  7. John, I especially support your post here AS a past science student at Albion. Sure, I had to take my organic chemistry and spend long hours in the Science Complex, but some of my most rewarding courses – those that push me to consider ideas about goodness, humanity, and interdisciplinary thought – were in the English, art history, and political science departments. As a scientist, I don’t who or what I’d be today without knowing about Brian Turner’s collection of poetry about the Afghanistan-Iraq war and the use of art as a political action. And even moreover, the interdisciplinary nature of Albion allows you to simply chat with professors whom you’ve never had a course with and thereby form lifelong mentoring friendships. I am saddened, truly, that these kinds of wonderful – life changing!! – experiences may be denied to current and future students based on the proposed faculty cut.

  8. According to Chronicle of Higher Ed stats from 2007-09, fellow GLCA schools Wabash and Ohio Wesleyan, as well as Calvin College all pay their executives less than at Albion. Yet all these schools pay their female full professors a higher average salary than Albion does. They also pay their instructors a higher average salary. In the salary rankings for assistant and associate professors, Albion comes in 2nd to the bottom of this group. While these figures are somewhat dated and they don’t show the entire picture, it does seem to imply an imbalance. It’d be nice to see data that shows whether this imbalance is present in faculty/administration salaries more generally. I’m unaware of any other comparable schools in Michigan taking such a drastic measure, which makes me wonder about the decision-making capabilities of those in charge. If you want to play with the numbers:

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