Mass firing in the History department at Boise State

This past week, the History department chair sent out an e-mail with the subject line “Grim News.” In the e-mail, she detailed extensive cuts to the History department’s funding, apparently emerging from the Provost’s office. Among the cuts are:

  • The Public History faculty line I recently vacated
  • 2/3 of the funds we use to support graduate assistants
  • Two lecturerships
  • A visiting lecturership
  • All adjunct funding

I’ll have something more substantive to say about this soon, but right now I’m grief-stricken.

In the meantime, you can read this Idaho Statesman article to get a sense of the university’s party line. As you might imagine, though, “declining enrollment” is not the whole story.

I’ll leave you with these tidbits, calculated by one of our endangered lecturers, who used to work in college finance and administration:

The department offered 49 full-semester 3-credit courses with 1,385 students total in Spring 2015. Of these:

  • 17 classes with 556 students were taught by tenure/tenure-track faculty (41%)
  • 15 classes with 449 students were taught by 3.5 lecturers (33%)
  • 14 classes with 340 students were taught by 8 adjuncts (24%)
  • 3 classes with 40 students were taught by full-time faculty not housed entirely in the history department (2%)

The lecturer estimates the department’s instructional expenses constitute less than 45% of the revenue it brings in through teaching alone, and that there’s no way the now diminished tenure-line faculty can accommodate all of the students currently being taught by lecturers and adjuncts. Even trying to accommodate them will mean History faculty won’t have time to do research during the academic year. Currently we have two NEH fellows, an NSF fellow, a Fulbright scholar, and the editor of a top journal—as well as everyone else’s research agendas—so our department isn’t exactly shirking its research responsibilities. Many of us have also service commitments that already are untenable.

Two quick updates, perhaps burying the lede

Just a couple of things:

  • I’ve been in the new job a month. I’m loving it. It’s a great blend of intellectual work, collaboration, and practical application of all kinds of things I’m thinking about. (Bonus: We’re no longer living hand-to-mouth. I can pay bills without breaking into a cold sweat. That’s a good feeling.)
  • Received tenure and promotion in the History department.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

In my last post, I quoted Frederick Buechner’s thoughts on calling—that it’s “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” And then I asked, “At what point do we acknowledge that the world’s deep hunger has met our deep gladness in a way that is unsustainable, that exhausts us?” As I said, I’ve been […]

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Listening

I. I inhabit a lot of different social and cultural worlds, and sometimes the adjacency of posts on Facebook is stunning. I can’t share tonight’s example because a lot of people might misunderstand my motivation for highlighting it. I will say this: as someone with a diverse circle of Facebook friends, I have the privilege […]

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Humanities = employability

I found myself in a meeting on Friday with several science faculty, and I had the opportunity to share with them what I’m doing in my Digital History course this semester. When I mentioned in particular that my students were mapping the neighborhood’s irrigation ditches, an engineering professor asked me how they were doing that. […]

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On instructional design

On Wednesday morning, I’m interviewing for a director-level position that bridges academic technology, instructional design, and faculty development. As a result, I’ve been even more reflective than usual about the choices I’ve made regarding teaching and technology. I. This semester, in addition to continuing to build or maintain a slate of existing projects, I’ve tackled […]

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All I have are bullets (many of them literal)

 You may recall I fought very, very hard to keep guns off of Idaho’s college campuses. On day 6 of the semester, a gun went off in the middle of a class at a public university classroom on the other side of the state; a professor was negligent with his concealed firearm. Honestly, my money […]

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Nope

Today, a friend and colleague asked me if I was energized for the fall semester. “Nope!” I texted to her. I meant for it to be funny, but in the context of the conversation we were having, my response came across as angry and sad. Why was I sad? I enjoy teaching. I like students. It’s […]

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On fear at 39

Years ago, when I was working in academic technology and faculty development, I teamed up with a group of extraordinary women—Laura Blankenship, Barbara Sawhill, Barbara Ganley, and Martha Burtis—to present in various ed tech venues about a phenomenon we termed Fear 2.0, the constellation of fear-mongering around the use of social media in higher education, […]

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Everyday liberal arts

For more reasons than I could adequately explain here, I’ve been thinking even more often than usual about the value of a liberal arts education in our understanding of the world and the ways we ought to engage with it. As Jeremy Hunsinger has written, Coming to know, as the primary process of knowledge, is […]

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