By Matthew Taylor
In the past year, the CLA has seen a budget cut of about 5 percent, which translates to the termination of Bishop Wellness Center’s physical health services, a reduction in Sparks Center’s operation hours and the refusal to hire new staff to fill vacant positions/termination of current staff.
Willamette University has already received major backlash from the student body in regards to Bishop Wellness Center, but less is being said about the many adjunct professors who departed the University after the spring 2017 semester. Stephanie Lenox (English Professor), Scott Vandehey (Professor of Anthropology), Brandy Fox (Chemistry Professor), Edwin Armstrong (Professor of Computer Science) and Allison Swenson-Mitchell (Music Professor) all left Willamette last spring after either not having their contracts renewed or receiving employment at a different college, in the case of Lenox. Lenox is now currently employed at Chemeketa Community College, which, as she stated in an email to some of her former students, was a better job opportunity for her. Dr. Anita King also left Willamette this past year, retiring as a Professor Emerita after the spring semester.
This substantial loss of staff leads one to wonder how this will impact the rest of the University, and especially the students. With the loss of so many professors comes a few problems. Without as many professors, there are less available classes for students to take in certain courses necessary for their MOIs or major requirements, as well as a reduced variety of classes. This can make planning schedules or getting into classes extremely stressful for students.
The constant influx and departure of part-time and visiting professors can also make for less effective classes, as new professors must learn the University’s different systems (i.e. administrative, technological, etc.), and student’s level of knowledge on certain subjects, even while they are teaching their courses.
This instability is stressful for professors as well. In an article written in The Collegian from last February, John Steinmetz stated that he didn’t “have any work lined up after May 2017, so the pressure of paying rent and providing for my family is on.” This trend does not seem likely to change, though, because, as Scott Vandehey stated in the same Collegian article from February, “Adjuncts are scared because there is zero job security. If you complain you won’t have a job next semester.”
Teaching staff at Willamette are not the only ones seeing cuts. The housing office was also notably downsized this year, which may cause problems in the future, especially when it is time for the returning students housing lottery, which is a large and confusing affair even with plenty of staff members.
More complications stemming from the possible continued tendency of staff reductions may arise in the next few years, as the College of Liberal Arts continues to stay within their smaller budget and pay off the debt it has incurred. Will faculty size be even more reduced in the coming years? How will that impact current and future student’s quality of education? Will this loss of teaching staff affect the amount and quality of students applying to Willamette?