Letter to the Editor: On retirement

Theresa Balick
Copy Editor

Dear Editor,

I read your article on the incentivized retirement plan (Incentivized, early retirement package leads to dozens of retirements over 2 years), and I can’t help but feel like something is missing.

Why? Well, it’s strange that the university would try to “incentivize” professors, especially well-loved and intelligent professors, to retire early.

What will this lead to? I’ve asked around with some faculty members. This will lead to more adjuncts, who receive a lower salary, so the university does not have to hire full-time employees.

What does that lead to? More online classes, less student-faculty interaction and professors who might not be in line with the mission of the university. As far as I know, adjuncts don’t have to swear the Oath of Fidelity. I could be totally wrong on that point, though.

I just know that I had an adjunct for History of Civilization I online who definitely was not Catholic or even in line with the mission of the university. This was a very unpleasant experience, one that I would hope never gets repeated for any student.

Also, online classes are not a way that students should be learning. Spring 2020 was a miserable enough semester; I’d rather not repeat the online class experience for every core class, and I know other students and even faculty agree with me, too.

It also bothers me that part of their motive for this is to phase out departments with low student enrollment. As Daniel Kempton, vice president of academic affairs, said, “Departments (that) have lost enrollments may lose a position, which is painful, but that means we can move that position to a department that’s actually grown in their enrollment.”

As a French major, I am so hurt by this motive, and I am furious that the administration thinks this is a good idea.

Some back story: I knew junior year of high school that, no matter what else I studied in college, I would also study French. I only applied to colleges that had a French program. That’s why colleges such as Christendom and Belmont Abbey were immediately crossed off of my list. No French program, no application from me. I remember being relieved that Franciscan had a French program in the first place since our study abroad is in Austria, not France.

Fast forward to freshman year here, when I was a communication arts and French double major. And that’s when I began to notice a lot of things.

I dropped my communication arts major because I was so frustrated with the program. And now, two years later, I can see more of a reason why.

I think what frustrated me the most was that the university didn’t offer the Adobe programs free for students. How is it that my sister in a doctorate program for cancer research gets the Adobe programs for free from her university when the communication arts students here who use these programs every day don’t? It made no sense to me, especially since there are such limited lab hours — which I’ve now heard is because the department doesn’t get enough money to pay its lab assistants.

So I dropped that major. I was going to pick up a second, and I dabbled in English for a bit, but then I decided that I really just wanted to study French. I kept communication arts as a minor, but I was so frustrated that the university wouldn’t give more money to one of its biggest departments, especially since communications is such a hot major in today’s job world.

However, once I became just a French major, I realized how lacking the program is. And it’s not due to the professors; I am convinced that Dr. Timothy Williams, who holds a doctorate in French and runs the French program, is one of the most intelligent professors on campus. He just isn’t allowed to do what he wants to do with the program because of “low student enrollment.”

Maybe if the university actually allowed the professors to refine the programs and teach new classes that allow the students to delve deeper into the material, more students would flock to those programs.

I’ve been asked by so many people why I chose Franciscan if I wanted to study French. I could have gone to France herself to study the language. Honestly, I came to Franciscan because of the community. I have made friends here that I know will last my lifetime. I have never felt so deeply connected to my faith. And that’s why people choose to come here.

However, we are here in college to receive an education. Shouldn’t we seek to give students the best education possible so that they can choose Franciscan for its academics in addition to its social scene?

So that’s the excuse of the administration for wanting to beef up its engineering program and other programs. Except that it’s costing other departments.

Take theater for example. I’ve talked to some theater majors, and they feel the same way I do about their choice of study. It’s OK as it is, but it could be far better with more funding and less restrictions from the administration. And they love it so much that they are angry that it’s not getting enough funding or recognition from the university.

The theater program especially needs money to fund its productions; that’s what being a theater major is about. They need the acting experience. Why would a so-called liberal arts university not provide funding for the liberal arts and fund the sciences instead? That seems so backwards.

The bottom line is: I’m glad I came to Franciscan because it formed me as a person. However, I know that I could have gotten a better education elsewhere in my major because I would have had more opportunities in my field. And I know that’s not the professors’ faults; it’s because they couldn’t give me the education I deserved due to low budgets and constant frustration over class cancellations.

Franciscan administration, I’m sure you can at least give a reason for why you are pushing good professors to retire and why you’re moving to online classes with adjuncts. I’m sure you can understand why faculty and students in “unimportant” and “low enrollment” departments are angry with the decision to cut professors and funding in order to funnel that money to a department that currently barely has students in it.

I hope and pray that this is not the intent of the university and that programs like French and theater can thrive and attract more students so that Catholics who want to study in smaller majors can have the opportunity to study at such a strong, amazing, life-changing institution.

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