Letter from the Advisory Committee, representing the Wells College Faculty to the President and Dean.
April 16, 2010
President Lisa Ryerson
Dean Miller-Bernal, Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dear President Ryerson and Dean Miller-Bernal,
As you know, the Advisory Committee recently convened two open meetings. While there are areas of debate among the Faculty in the face of the College’s financial difficulties, there is one overriding area of unanimous agreement: cuts in academic programs and faculty positions must be made thoughtfully and in accordance with AAUP standards.
The current Wells College Faculty Manual Appendix to Article II (approved 3/13/90) begins with the statement: “Wells College is committed to a model for faculty contracts which includes tenure as a basic component and is in accord with the guidelines of the American Association of University Professors.” The college has violated several AAUP guidelines pertaining to the potential elimination of faculty positions. The Faculty has had no role in determining whether the College has met AAUP standards to declare financial exigency (i.e., an “imminent financial crisis that threatens the institution as a whole” and requires that “all feasible alternatives to termination of appointments have been pursued”). Just as seriously, although the AAUP accords to Faculty the primary responsibility for determining any program reductions, the Faculty has played no role in drafting criteria for the potential reconfiguration of our curriculum or the termination of faculty. Moreover, AAUP guidelines clearly stipulate that any faculty member facing termination is entitled to one year of notice or severance and enjoys the right to a hearing before a faculty committee. As was noted at the open meeting of April 8th, the abrupt termination of any faculty member at the close of the spring semester would be not only devastating to that employee but also detrimental to student retention.
Faculty appointments and academic programs should not be cut precipitously in favor of funding new strategic initiatives, especially those that do not directly serve the College’s mission. The AAUP clearly stipulates that the “retention of a viable academic program” must supersede all other considerations for an institution in a state of financial exigency. It has yet to be demonstrated that the college’s budget deficit must be made up by such dramatic reductions to personnel. Before implementing such drastic measures, the college must first consider delaying investment in new initiatives, divesting itself of costly auxiliary enterprises, selling college property, suspending unnecessary expenditures for consultants, and making cuts to other parts of the budget. Honoring commitments to Faculty in tenured, tenure-track, and visiting positions would allow time for Faculty to implement improvements to the academic program that would realize long-term savings.
Lack of transparency breeds fear and mistrust. The absence of specific information has only encouraged Faculty, Staff, and Students to imagine the worst possible scenarios. The Advisory Committee and the Faculty request full disclosure of college budgets, information pertaining to the value of college assets, and information delineating the legal relationship between Wells College and its auxiliary enterprises.
Finally, the Faculty at the open meeting of April 13th insisted that any reductions in salary and compensation for Faculty and Staff be matched by reductions to Senior Staff salaries at a percentage at least as sizeable as those for other college employees.
The Advisory Committee thanks you in advance for your careful consideration of our stated positions and requests. We look forward to meeting with you to continue our dialogue.
Michael Groth, Chair