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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Faculty development funds reduced

A recent email from the office of the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences stated that due to the recent budgetary situation, limitation in faculty development funding would be made at Saint Joseph’s University.

Faculty development encompasses anything from traveling to and attending conferences to getting books published. Prior to this year, the university covered these expenses for professors. Robert Daniel, Ph.D., chair of the department of modern and classical languages, explained that previously, each faculty member was allotted a certain amount of money each year to cover the funding for this type of scholarship.
However, with the recent budget problems facing the university, there will now be new funding measures in place that will limit the amount of money given to faculty, hindering conference travel and professional membership coverage.

Melissa Goldthwaite, Ph.D., professor of English, said that she received more faculty development funding when she started at the university 12 years ago than what she receives now as a full-time professor.

“There were budget cuts through the academic year, and a part of that was to figure out what would be most equitable for what we had left in the College of Arts and Sciences to support our faculty,” said Jeanne Brady, interim dean of CAS. “I did not want to cut faculty development, because that would be too critical to take away from faculty at this point; so we tried to figure out what would be most equitable to serve the faculty across arts and sciences.”

Brice Wachterhauser, University Provost, reiterated these claims, saying, “Everything is on the table, I mean with respect to budget reductions. We try to make reasonable reductions where we can, [and] we can’t exclude…faculty development, although we try to minimize the impact. Those are critical areas for faculty to develop their skills and their talents, and I support that fully, but [we] can’t always afford to do everything that we want to in that arena.”

Some faculty are worried about the ramifications these cuts may have on the classroom.

Because professors may not able to learn about innovative developments in their fields by attending conferences and pursuing scholarly opportunities, some believe the experience students receive in their classrooms will decrease along with the quality of education.

Sara Kuykendall, Ph.D., chair of interdisciplinary health services, explained that faculty development helps professors stay current in their respective departments and aids greatly when teaching a class.

“[Not attending conferences is] going to make it harder for people to stay up-to-date in their field…when I go to a conference I come back energized and able to share that information [with students],” she said.

Goldthwaite echoed these claims, saying, “I think that students deserve to have active scholars as professors, and when professor do to these conferences, they’re not only presenting their research and enhancing the reputation of the university,  but they’re also learning new strategies for teaching and new things about their field… we should be changing our syllabi and doing innovative things in the classroom.”

Kuykendall also explained that her main concern is for non-tenure track professors who are just starting out. “I am concerned for junior faculty who are establishing their research agendas and who have not made a name for themselves yet.”

Daniel, however, does not think that fewer opportunities for faculty development will have a major impact on classroom experience. “I don’t think there is a one for one correspondence,” he said. “The quality of what I do in my classroom does not depend on whether St. Joe’s pays for me to go to conferences or not.”

In addition to conference travel and membership fees, the new funding changes will also affect professors planning to go on sabbatical. Goldthwaite is one such professor.

As of Feb. 27, Goldthwaite had still not heard whether or not she would be approved for a sabbatical next semester.

“I have been planning for this for 6 years, [I have] booked contracts with publishers,” she said. “[But] I still do not know when the decision will come.”

The uncertainty of decisions such as these contributes to many faculty members’ recent discontent with the level of transparency between the administration and the rest of the university.

“We hear a lot of rumors, without knowing the truth,” said Goldthwaite.

“The administration has made efforts recently to give a good sense of the financial picture and to help faculty understand some of the financial decisions that have been made, but do I believe that they’re truly being fully transparent? Not really,” commented Daniel. “What faculty think of as being appropriately transparent and what the administration thinks of as being transparent…doesn’t necessarily line up.”

When asked if she shares the same view on the lack of communication from the administration, April Lindner, Ph.D., professor of English, replied, “Oh, absolutely. When we try and weigh in about areas that are our specialties I don’t feel as though we’re listened to. Decisions get made and we don’t have any input into those decisions, and we’re just told about them and we don’t really know how they were arrived at,” she said.

Goldthwaite and Lindner were both recently informed that their requests for sabbatical for the upcoming fall semester had been denied.

According to the emails they received from the Provost’s Office, “[Their] proposal was considered worthy of support by the Board of Faculty Research and Development… [but their] sabbatical cannot be funded because of current budgetary limits.”

“Unfortunately it’s not possible to fund all of the sabbaticals for this year,” said Wachterhuaser, and he continues, “I do believe that the university will continue to have a strong commitment to sabbaticals in the future, and hopefully be able to fund a higher percentage of them going forward, but…we may not be able to fund as many as we have in the past.”

“I’m more sad than anything else,” said Lindner on her sabbatical denial. “I feel as though it’s another sign that the things upon which our reputation as a school rest are being devalued.”

Goldthwaite reiterated the same feelings, saying, “I am deeply disturbed that my sabbatical was denied for next semester. Having made commitments to publishers and co-authors, I need to do the work I have not only promised to do, but that I want to do… Denying sabbaticals for professors who have legitimate projects and who have proven scholarly records sends a negative message not only to those for whom support has been denied this year, but to all faculty who will apply in the future.”

 

Erin Raftery, ’15, contributed an interview to this article.

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