- Letters to Editor
At a recent occasion in the desert where Eastern faculty and staff members were present, a question was raised in regard to the now widely publicized 10 percent “reallocation” (a euphemism for “cut”): namely, is it possible to question this radical measure, to push back against it, to argue for attenuation or even any voice at all in the process?
Certainly it has been presented to the university community as an absolute, a commandment from above that may not be greeted in any way other than abject obedience.
It is true that the provost has issued an invitation for email suggestions, but it is far from evident how such emails would be used, by whom they would be parsed, and what authority they might represent other than the lone voice of each sender. Even so, the following objections to the “cut” were raised, all of which seem to me worth sharing:
1. The cut is arbitrary. It is proposed to avert an impending fiscal crisis, likened to a tsunami, which is supposed to justify its undertaking in the hope of surviving the Great Flood. Yet neither the government of the Commonwealth nor any other reliable seismic authority has certified this flood of economic misery or enjoined universities to retreat inland leaving valuables on the shore—such as pianos: pianos do not do well in tsunamis.
2. The cut is excessive. A 10 percent cut across the board, involving the elimination of programs and many staff and faculty positions, is an overreaction, bound to result in the death of programs that took faculty and administrators years to develop and implement; programs that underwent critical examination and approval by departments, colleges and university committees. A cut of this massive size is more like cutting off a hand or a foot than trimming away a few extra pounds. Eastern will be the worse for losing some of the lost programs, in exchange for what new ventures no one knows.
3. The cut is abrupt. In one semester’s time, the university is to determine which programs and positions to cast out and which to preserve. The short window of time is doubtless a deliberate strategy to prevent the rise of opposition or even of rational discourse; it will be over and done before we know it and without significant dissent. It is also assuredly meant to impact the presidential search now afoot: to let candidates know that they will have a presidential kitty to spend when they arrive. The last time this strategy was employed the new president spent the kitty in 18 months and then left on a fast train, but we did get new banners.
4. It is not transparent. Transparency has been promised, but so far the Task Force (an interesting military metaphor) operates in secrecy- enough said.
5. It lacks criteria. If significant cuts are indeed necessary, then the basis of this necessity should be articulated and pertinent criteria should be established, in written English, like the learning outcomes all departments have to write and all professors have to provide on their syllabi. What’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the grander; cuts should be made based on intelligent evaluations of programs that allow for the specific assessment of each program, its academic value and social worth, not just its size and statistical profile.
If anything is apparent, it is that the faculty and staff of Eastern are ready and willing to make sacrifices for the good of the university and its students; we have been doing so for many years, and we have survived hard times before.
No one here, in my estimation, wants an increase in salary or operating funds at the expense of the loss of good programs or colleagues, and no one is unaware that hard times are once again knocking at our door (My Old Kentucky Home, you know). But all parties deserve a voice in a rational attempt to achieve fiscal stability at Eastern without sacrificing what has lately been known as “The Essential EKU.”
Neil H. Wright
Professor of Humanities