Having a chance to look at the staffing plan is a privilege that not many students are afforded, yet inevitably the faculty that are present on campus during the years that students are enrolled impact experiences on campus.
Every year, departments request positions to hire faculty based on their needs. This is influenced by how many majors are enrolled in the department, how many students in total are taking their courses offered, and their recent loss of faculty members. In order to understand how this process is affecting the academic climate, two departments were asked to comment on how their particular staffing plan may impact the future of academics on campus.
The Gender and Women's Studies Department is in a rough patch this academic year in the wake of recent controversy over the decision to deny tenure to Professor Shubhra Sharma. Professor Ariella Rotramel is currently the only full-time professor, though she does not have tenure track position either. The department then relies on other professors to cross-list their courses for students to fulfill their major requirements. While the major is truly interdisciplinary in nature, the substantial lack of departmental faculty seriously impacts the current majors.
The department is therefore looking to fill three positions in the next three years: two full time tenure-track positions and one full time visiting position. Professor Candace Howes, chair of the Economics Department and/or Chair of the Gender and Women's Studies Department, discussed how the department essentially has to be rebuilt from the ground up and the future plans are still a "work in progress." She said that they were unsure of exactly which direction the department will take, mentioning that affiliated faculty are scheduled to go on a retreat to discuss the future of GWS. The only change that she stated would probably occur would be to change the name of the department to "Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies" in order to "keep up with trends" in academia as scholarship shifts in this direction.
Two years ago, the Literatures in English department also experienced a blow when they lost a position they were hoping to fill to the Film Studies Department, which desperately needed another instructor to handle growing student interest.
Chair of the Literatures in English department, Professor Lina Wilder, spoke about how the loss of this position was hard on the department, and how they are looking to rectify this in the future. Since the department requires majors to take a class focused on world literature, the department has not had a steady position that would provide students the opportunity to take courses centered around non-western and postcolonial literatures. The current faculty have had to scramble to offer options to fill this requirement since the tenure-track Postcolonial Literatures position, formerly filled by visiting professor Jeanne Marie Jackson, was lost. Professor John Gordon, having recently announced his retirement at the beginning of this academic year, will leave a tenure-track position open that the department hopes to capitalize on.
Professor Wilder said that ideally the department is looking to hire someone who specializes in "global modernism" and "postcolonial theory." They are interested in broadening the understanding of modernism as a global movement that would challenge the understanding of modernism as a phenomenon specific to American or British literature. This position would essentially combine both Professor Gordon's specialty with the world literature position the department lost. The position would also strengthen the departmental concentration in Race and Ethnicity, which has had low enrollment rates without a steady position in recent years.
In addition, the department is looking for someone to make connections to revive the Africana Studies major or the newly forming Global Islamic Studies major.
The way that departments are staffed affects the experiences of every student on campus. Other departments requesting faculty positions include Anthropology, Economics and Psychology among other popular departments.
Although these changes to departments will not affect many of the older students, it is still a pressing matter that will be an integral part of how younger students select their majors. The revision of our current liberal arts curriculum is still a work in progress and many departments are planning ahead in order to foster a truly interdisciplinary academic environment on campus.