Retrenched!

So I just got retrenched. Retrenchment is a term that describes the situation when tenure-track or tenured faculty are let go because their positions have been eliminated. I wasn't quite tenured, although I was going up for tenure this fall. But plenty of tenured people are losing their jobs too. As I understand it, in addition to the four people who were already retrenched, 27 more have been cut. That will leave 141 faculty at BSU.

The university is in serious financial trouble. Our enrollment was down significantly before COVID. Our recruitment efforts were really pretty lame for the better part of the last decade. The previous president was useless and her cabinet was filled with people who had no business running departments. The chief financial officer retired just after the president did, and when she left her replacement discovered that the deficit the campus was facing was actually not $9 million but $11 million. Almost what you might consider criminal negligence. A bunch of the other people responsible for this debacle are still on the new president's cabinet, still collecting their six-figure salaries.

I suppose it's going to take me a couple of days to decide what my next step is going to be. As I've mentioned before, at the end of last semester I received a grant to explore to possibility of BSU offering zero-textbook-cost bachelors degrees (Z-Degrees). I was planning on recruiting faculty to convert their courses and then writing the follow-up application for the $100,000 grant to implement the program next year. But I won't be working at BSU next year. Maybe someone else will pick that up and run with it. I'd put the odds at...100 to 1. But if we're laying bets, what are the odds BSU will exist long enough to implement a Z-Degree program?

Steph has already begun sending me job descriptions -- the first from Vermont! Guess I better update my CV and my LinkedIn page. I have some friends in other Minnesota State institutions and at the system office. Maybe there will be something there for me to do.

I have been sort-of considering the possibility of this happening for a few days now. I had lunch with my Dean last week and things seemed pretty grim. Part of the impetus, I think, to spend more time uploading content to Substack has been the idea that I might not be teaching at a university soon. I’m not sure, however, whether I’m hoping that will entice another institution to want to hire me? Or am I secretly hoping that I’ll be able to earn a living writing for an online audience? Or teaching classes online, to students who just want to hear about the types of things I cover in my courses?

I’ve been thinking for a while now it would make sense sometime soon to put the courses I teach on the web and actually offer them to regular people anywhere who want to study with me. I guess that time is now. Over the next couple of weeks, in addition to getting my classes ready for my students at BSU, I think I’ll get them ready for the world and offer them online. This is going to take some thought. I guess I’ll get right on that first thing tomorrow.

One last thing, since I’m now facing a countdown to unemployment. I encourage everybody who is getting some value or enjoyment out of the stuff I’m posting on Substack to please subscribe. If you’re already a paid subscriber, thank you very much. If you’ve been on the fence, consider jumping. Although I’m not getting rich working at BSU (I earn about the same as an average High School teacher), that’s going to come to an end soon. If I could offset some of that lost income from subscriptions, that would increase the options I could consider.

They're getting rid of the people who actually DO everything. All the innovation. All the new courses. All the new initiatives like the Equity Certificate program, OER textbooks, Z-Degrees.

In a big way, it's the union's fault. The system (tenure itself) protects the oldest and most senior faculty. They also tend to be some of the most resistant to change and least energetic. But it's also the administration's fault. I was a volunteer faculty member on a "Strategic Enrollment Management Plan" steering committee. After a couple of years I dropped out. Last year they spent the entire year (literally) filling out a five page spreadsheet of great things they could do to improve enrollment. Maybe they should have spent a little less time brainstorming and a bit more effort doing shit. I'll talk more about each of these problems as I move forward.

I'm going to add a new tab to my Substack header, called Retrenched. It will document my journey the next 280 days. Stay tuned and hang on; I imagine it's going to be a somewhat bumpy, wild ride.

Link to YouTube:
https://youtu.be/buxw_4W8CO8