Dozens of Instructors Will Not Return in the Fall

By Renee Kestenbaum
On May 20, 2012


Professors' contracts expiring this year will not be renewed, according to several of the instructors affected. Numerous departments have slots left vacant for next year, particularly for those of adjunct professors.

The YC political science department has already been reduced to a handful of courses with only one professor currently slated to teach (the rest have not yet been announced). Its speech department is now cut entirely. At SCW, next semester's political science and economics courses are almost entirely staffed by newcomers, with the exceptions of Dr. Joseph Luders and Dr. Dennis Hoover. The computer science department has been subsumed under the umbrella of Mathematical Sciences, and has only one professor remaining to teach all next semester's courses. Physical education classes, which in the past have included health, dance, yoga, and fencing, have been cut, though the athletics teams will still function.

The loss of so many adjunct professors seems to be the latest in a series of cuts slashing $25 million from the budget. The university committed itself to completing the new budget by July 2012, so the time is coming up.

Some of the adjuncts affected have been teaching at YU for over a decade. In particular, Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg, who has taught public speaking at YC for 23 years, took to Youtube after learning the department he helped create in 1966 would "no longer exist." In an impassioned plea for speech, foreign languages, drama, and the longevity of Yeshiva University, Rosenberg calls for solutions: for students to demand the cut courses be reinstated, for administrative pay cuts, to weed out ineffective tenured professors, for increased donations to the university. 

The new belt-tightening budget is incredibly constricting, but of course some compromises are necessary if Yeshiva is to survive its financial crunch and come out ahead. Students showed a remarkable amount of understanding the necessity of putting the Schottenstein Cultural Center up for sale, as a decision that seemed unfortunate but best for all involved. Even the SCDS board members, though they will "greatly miss its presence in our lives at Stern" had to agree that selling the center is necessary.

The hope, and the goal, of "re-imagination" calls for creative solutions to real financial problems, without compromising the education which is, as it ought to be, our primary reason for attending this university. Many out-of-the-box (and facetious) suggestions have been offered.

Members of the women's athletic teams have been campaigning for shared use of the gym on Wilf Campus, rather than spending what they claim is $60,000 per year to rent the gym at Baruch College.

After learning that SCDS was losing their stage, Reuven Russell, Professor of Speech and Drama and Artistic Director of SCDS suggested introducing interactive theater. "I used to do a great, funny Jewish show at Levana's Restaurant," said Russell, "called a Match Made in Manhattan, where it was interactive and in the restaurant itself, which was a great and creative space to be. Maybe we'll choose to produce a show that can use some kind of unique space at Stern College."

The president recognizes the impracticality of some suggestions. "We're not saying every faculty member will get a Segway," said President Joel in an interview with the Observer in October, "and say that from 9-10 they are supposed to be on Beren and hopefully they'll be able to take their Segway up to Wilf."

But seriously, folks.

You can't go too far in scrimping. The problem with making too many cuts is that if you lower the quality of the very thing you are trying to save, then what is it you are protecting? You can't destroy the undergraduate experience in order to save it.

Something which could be more effective on a smaller, reimagined scale is the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at SCW. A suggestion: the honors classes I have taken have been the best of my college career, and researching for my Senior Project is thrilling, but the second component of the program, its cultural and leadership events, could be far improved by teaming up with events and the excellent leadership programs implemented at SCW within the last few years. Instead of attending one or two speakers on leadership, what if honors students were required to take part in their choice of several semester-long leadership programs, such as QUEST or the Women's Leadership Fellowship, or run a club? Students would have gained practicable leadership skills in an immersive environment, using the existing resources that the college already has in place.

The vision from this point forward looks shaky. Dozens of adjuncts are leaving. An entire department has been cut, and many others are hugely downsized. In November, the faculty was informed they would not receive pay raises for a minimum of two years.

We might soon see harsh effects: fewer offered courses, fewer options, larger class sizes, full professors carrying course-loads as heavy as our own. Students feel alienated from the university if they feel their needs are being ignored, and, if they don't feel connected, will be less likely to donate after they graduate. Prospective students might be turned off if current students present them with the image that Yeshiva is shrinking. It's not a pretty picture.

A breadth of classes must be maintained, to keep students excited and interested in classes, whether they're studying for their first year or their fifth. A breadth of disciplines is also critical to building the unique community that is SCW, where a women's studies minor, a pre-law student, and an audiology major can cross paths not just once but again, and again, and again, become friends, and learn from one another's thoughts and lives.

As for the next tough decision, and the next, and the next, be careful while pruning not to sever a branch you can't regrow.

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