First on the chopping block

The University of Florida’s first serious response to the current economic crisis is a proposal to cut their Religion faculty from 15 to 3, laying off 12 tenured and tenure-track professors.

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14 thoughts on “First on the chopping block

  1. Not first, actually — second. Geology was the first. At least they’re only deleting the graduate program in Religion; in Geo, they’re killing undergrad major as well.

    Third up was Communication.

    (This is Special K’s alma mater, and in fact we met on the campus there.)

  2. I’m with you. I hesitate to denounce an entire discipline (with the possible exception of Education), but I have been gravely unimpressed with every Communication department I’ve come in contact with.

  3. Thanks for the info. Why Geology I wonder? They’re just counting the number of kids who major I guess. That’s foresight for you.

    They may not be killing the undergraduate program in Religion officially, but it is pretty much impossible to maintain a major with three professors. The three will become service teachers, lending a bit of cultural and historical flair to other programmes.

  4. Actually, it’s four, not three (at least so I’m told) — one less than your own department, ness pa? The interesting thing is that their argument against dissolution is that their service to other departments isn’t being considered — esp. political science, English, and history.

    I blame the president, not the dean, who was merely told “Cut 10%, but not across the board — get rid of a department or two.”

    Special K was horrified on the additional grounds that UF has always advertised itself as the place where you can major in anything on earth, unlike that trade school up the road (Fla. State).

  5. Why geology? So many geology majors end up working in the oil and gas sector. Isn’t that a hot field right now?

    I am familiar with a certain geology department with endemic sexual harassment issues. It was an expensive hassle for the univ. The suspicious might want to delve into the backstory of that particular department.

  6. And now to look north, I see that Queen’s is cutting Medieval Studies… along with Chemistry, Statistics, and Computing. All apparently departments with very low enrollments. That’s mighty important company my discipline is keeping, I must say.

  7. Just a note to say that given the spending bill that seems to be coming out of the legislature any day now, it is seriously unlikely that this will actually occur. One of the strange things about the Florida higher-education world is that it’s based on brinksmanship. Because there’s no income tax, and because term-limited legislators are always running for other bigger better offices, each year’s legislative session sees more and more tax cuts proposed. Then, once they’re proposed, the university presidents have to go through and say, “But you can’t do this! If you do this we’ll have to cut all of these things that you wouldn’t want us to cut!!” And then they don’t do it: money gets mysteriously found (stimulus! Seminole gambling!), or enough people leave in fright of the environment that the brinksmanship pays for itself.

    Conclusion: the fact that cuts to religion departments are being used as a scare tactic says a lot about the *good health* of religious studies as a field. Counterintuitive, but true.

    • UF started this BEFORE the full-blown economic crisis–I participated in a campaign to help save my friend’s job there: she’s a tenure-track faculty member in Russian whose won a university teaching award and solid enrollments, but jobs like hers were already beginning to be cut a year ago, if I understand correctly. I’m going to call her now to find out if modern languages still exist

  8. esque, what a very interesting comment, full of things I didn’t know, not to mention insightful analysis. But I still wonder a bit. Is ad not right about cuts made last year? I heard something about Russian and German graduate programs.

  9. News is back and forth in the Land Of The Closeted Orange Governor. I still don’t know what’s happening in Gainesville about religion there. The week after the budget was signed (a day when all seemed grand in LOTCOG), there was a proclamation that — since the budget holes had been plugged with non-recurring funds — some universities would use stimulus money to pay one year’s severance to laid-off faculty. All the details should be clear around June 1.

    Gainesville has been worse off for some time, in part because (a) it hasn’t socked away money the way that other state universities have, and (b) it has as its president someone who is from a different culture than state legislators, and who therefore serves as a less than ideal lobbyist for the institution. So about thirteen months ago, UF announced over grad-program closings and two dozen layoffs in arts & sciences, mainly going to foreign-language instructors in underenrolled areas. Those layoffs were mostly, but not entirely, averted. Whether they will be averted this year is still unclear.

    All this being said, I stand by my earlier comments about brinksmanship. Part of the reason why university presidents in LOTCOG are not throwing confetti in the air is that announcements of needed cuts occur throughout the fiscal year, as projections of revenues reveal themselves to be greater and greater overprojections. But still, things never turn out to be as dire as predicted. For example, universities were spared the 2% pay cut for state employees. And summer semester is increasing in enrollment, although I’ve been hearing threats of its cancellation since 9/11. LOTCOG universities *need* summer: only the better first-time-in-college students can begin in August, because these students are the data set for the “Average SAT Score of Entering Class” statistic that keeps LOTCOG rankings sufficiently high in US News rankings.

    The game can only end in LOTCOG’s own impending version of the California Apocalypse, unless some brave soul says the magic words “income tax.” That brave soul will most likely not be Our Orange Governor, who has a senate seat to win and Ugly! Nasty! Rumors! to quash.

  10. “LOTCOG universities *need* summer: only the better first-time-in-college students can begin in August, because these students are the data set for the “Average SAT Score of Entering Class” statistic that keeps LOTCOG rankings sufficiently high in US News rankings.”

    I do not even know what to do with this. Is there no limit to the rancidness of academic fraudulence? A plague on all their houses!

  11. Well, so much for the assertion that UF is worse off than FSU. UF is planning fewer than ten faculty layoffs. FSU is laying off two dozen tenured faculty (including seven full profs), and another score each of untenured tenure-track faculty and non-tenure-track faculty.

    The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at UF still has not altered its website to acknowledge the “Department of Modern Foreign Languages” that was supposed to meld lots of different departments; similarly, the Germanic/Slavic department website doesn’t say anywhere that it’s not accepting graduate applications.

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