Retrenchment, Day 28

Update on something I talked about yesterday. It turns out, students are pretty much unaware anything is happening at all. I began my Women in World History class by asking if they had any questions or concerns about what's happening at BSU. Aside from one student whom I had already talked about the issue with before (because he is in the Student Senate), they all just stared back at me in complete confusion. I was a bit taken aback that no one had a clue that anything was different this fall.

I hadn't planned to be the whistle-blower in this situation, but at that point I didn't feel like I could just say, "okay, never mind." So I told them about the university's financial crisis and the retrenchment. Responses ranged from, "The administration never tells us anything!" to "How is it possible that people didn't see this coming?" I explained that the major issue was enrollment declines that were exacerbated by COVID but have not turned around since then, until this semester (preliminary numbers suggest that fall enrollment is better than projected). I also said that I think students are important stakeholders in the university who may have different perspectives and priorities than the faculty or administration, which could contribute to the discussion. I hope students will get involved, even if they're not invited.

We talked about it for about ten to fifteen minutes, then got on with our discussion of women in Ancient Egypt. It was a pretty interesting discussion and participation was good, suggesting people were not all checked out and had really been pretty surprised by the previous topic. I guess I have to assume from this that not only have students not heard about this from the administration, but that faculty have been largely quiet about it as well. That seems a bit odd to me.

I'm not suggesting that faculty should be trying to alarm students and get them all worked up. And it's early in the semester. So people may be thinking it would be better to say something when we know more. Or, perhaps people are just avoiding an uncomfortable conversation. For those of us who are being retrenched, there may be an effort to avoid making ourselves the center of attention. I didn't focus on the effect this is having on me personally, I don't think that's the point. And for faculty who were not retrenched, maybe they're hoping this will be the end of it and life will go on relatively the same as before.

Maybe it will. I think the point is that students who are not only paying (or going into debt) to attend BSU but who are investing their time and energy deserve to know what's up. It's not quite the same as not telling them the building is on fire. But 15% of the faculty
is being eliminated and maybe some majors and programs too. So it's at least a grease-fire in the kitchen.

am I the only person who thinks it might be valuable to understand rather than just assume what is going to be important to students in this process? As I've already mentioned, my colleague called the administration's recent "strategic priorities" questionnaire a push-poll. The implication was that management was not only disrespecting the faculty and staff, but was missing an opportunity to gain some potentially valuable insights and perspectives. I think the same applies to students. It's unfortunate that for all its talk of shared governance, my faculty union has not really formed an effective alliance with the student senate, in the six years I've been working. Seems like there might be some missed opportunities there.

Link to YouTube: