Thursday, April 13, 2006

God, Loyola, and Getting Let Go

If you happened to have read Sophmom's comments to the last post then you already know that Loyola announced it's big re-organization plan on Monday. You can read the plan here and read about student and faculty reaction here.

The (selfish) good news - the English department still exists, and I still have a job. The plan doesn't call for letting all adjunct faculty go, which I half expected it would. The bad news is that part of the reason I still have a job is that the English department lost professors who didn't come back after the flood and is losing more this summer. People are retiring and/or getting the hell out of this city, and I can't blame them. The worse news is that other departments, programs, and majors got the ax, including education, communications, and computer science, as well as City College, which is our adult education night class program.

Leading up to this, students had asked me about what was going on or what I would be teaching in the fall. I'd tell them I honestly didn't know the answer to either question, and didn't even know if I would be at Loyola come fall. Since Monday, many of my students have gone out of their way to ask if I would still be around in the fall, and I'm glad I could tell them I will (though I still won't entirely believe it until I have that signed contract in hand). I even got a relieved hug, which almost made me cry. Teaching college is a job like no other (at least no other I've ever had, and I've had more than my fair share) and I am only too aware of what a profound effect my college professors had on me. I can't imagine what it must be like for the tenured and tenure-track professors who have been at Loyola for years and years and intended to spend the rest of their careers there only to lose that because our government is too inept to build adequate levees and maintain wetlands. That the one has led to the other is just too cruel and absurd, and if I believed in God, I would have to conclude that He, She, or It has a seriously sick sense of humor. (I know, I know, an atheist teaching at a Jesuit university, that's absurd in and of itself, but that's part of what makes Loyola so cool.)

So not a good day for Loyola. Even though I still have a job, I left the "Black Monday" I had written into the 10th on the big wall calendar in our office. I don't know if this will be good for the university or not - maybe I'm too close to be objective, and it's hard to know if their plan will work in the long run. Change always sucks to a certain extent and I'm not against it in principle, but it's hard for me to see these changes as anything but harmful and even unnecessary. First off, enrollment isn't down that much - the new class next year is around 700 instead of 850 or so. Significant, but not deadly. Also, if we're trying to position ourselves as a national liberal arts institution, how does cutting programs contribute to that? Finally, what's so awful about running at a deficit for a year or two? The government has been doing it for much, much longer and corporations do it all the time. Why can't we? And if it's that bad, why not dip into the endowment? They say it's "the future of the university," but what kind of future are we planning when we cut programs and fire tenured faculty?

So as far as this goes, today I'm all questions, no answers, a state that seems to be pretty perpetual these days.


Sophmom said...

You nailed it with, "I can't imagine what it must be lose that because our government is too inept to build adequate levees and maintain wetlands."

It's all been hard just to watch. I can't imagine what it must be like to experience. I feel very grateful that my son's program remains, but badly for those faculty and students who have lost theirs. I can see retracting to traditional liberal arts (even Ignatian) roots, but I was particularly sorry to see the loss of Communications Studies. It was well regarded and is training in disciplines that help provide the links between the knowledge gained in a traditional liberal arts curriculum and the greater world, the paths with which to deploy and disseminate that knowledge and perspective. It seems to me that now and in the near future, more than ever, we need great communicators who went to college in New Orleans.

Sophmom said...

Also, I think many of us who do believe in God have noticed the, shall we say bent, sense of humor. I have come to the conclusion that God looks at things quite differently than we do, particularly those things that involve difficulty and pain.