EFLJ retirements leave department fate in question

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Due to the recent drastic budget cut to higher education, Western President Dr. Vartabedian revealed that everything is on the table to be cut, including programs, aspects of departments and unfilled positions. This cut could hit Missouri Western’s English, Foreign Language and Journalism department hard as two veteran doctorate professors will be retiring at the end of the spring semester.

Yearbook advisor and journalism professor Dr. Ann Thorne will be retiring at the end of the semester. Professor of English and Director of Prairie Lands Writing Project Dr. Jane Frick will also be retiring this semester. Both veteran professors are worried about their legacy and their replacements.

“I’m sure that somebody will come in,” Thorne said. “Administrators and the department chair will decide all that– who they interview and how they interview. Those decisions haven’t been made yet. I have no idea what their plans are.”

The department is currently interviewing candidates for Frick’s position, but due to her certain set of skills and experience, Frick is worried.

“I think we are all railing right now from the financial cutbacks,” Frick said. “I was really worried that my replacement position, even though we had timed it and made sure the job description and everything had been done, would not be filled.”

Frick believes that an adjunct would not be ideal to fill in part-time after she retires.

“I don’t know how that would work,” Frick said. “With Ann [Thorne], I’m also extraordinarily concerned– very, very concerned about bringing someone in to do that work. I’m really sorry that she opted to leave Western; I hired her.”

In Frick’s opinion, an adjunct professor could potentially hinder the department in the long-run.

“One answer unfortunately in the English, Foreign Language and Journalism department has always been in times like this to hire part-time folk and pay them no benefits and slave wage rates to teach courses in English composition because we have such a need to offer those classes and their writing classes,” Frick said. “By nature, you can’t really do an effective job if you teach them in sections that are more then probably 20 apiece. [Part-time instructors] are good folk but are caught up in a job crunch working at these minimum wage rates. They are overworked and overburdened and making very little money.”

Adjunct English instructor Rosetta Ballew-Jennings felt that adjuncts in the EFLJ department are completely overworked and adding additional adjunct will simply make matters even worse.

“The fact is that they can pay someone $10,000 and get the same level of quality that they can for $40,000,” Ballew-Jennings said. “We don’t get paid well. We get paid very erratically. We don’t get benefits. We share an office. We’re not allowed to have personal space. We don’t have our own desks. We get parking stickers that are the same as the students. It seems like the university likes our labor but really doesn’t care in valuing us.”

Michael Cadden, chair of the EFLJ department, said that after Frick retires a replacement will be hired. The department interviewed their third candidate last week  and hopes to make an offer to one of the candidates within the next week. However, Cadden has not heard back yet from Academic Affairs concerning whether Thorne’s position will be filled or not.

“We don’t yet know how or whether we will be replacing that position for the coming fall,” Cadden said. “We have made proposals to Academic Affairs about what we would like to do, but we haven’t yet be given word back yet.”

Cadden stated that he hoped Academic Affairs would give him word back within the next week.

“In regular, flush times, the deans may be able to make those decisions by themselves,” Cadden said. “But because of the budget crisis, Academic Affairs is looking very carefully at all positions and approving them.”

All open positions are being reviewed by the President’s Cabinet to determine if a replacement can be hired, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeanne Daffron said.

“The President’s Cabinet has not reviewed or decided on the position to replace Dr. Thorne,” Daffron said. “That decision will likely be made in the next week or so.”

Cadden said that Thorne’s potential replacement may not be required to advise yearbook, but that they intend to find a yearbook advisor for the upcoming semester. Due to Thorne’s course load and requirements, he doubts that part-time faculty will be considered.

“If possible in Ann’s case,  we can use a one-year, temporary, full-time person while we are tiring to decide how to proceed with that position,” Cadden said. “We do use part-timers when necessary, almost exclusively for general studies courses, foreign language and English. We have limits on what part-timers can do. Part-timers don’t teach more then three sections.”

The retirements have sparked concerns and curiosity within the EFLJ department. The main concern involves hiring individuals that are of the same caliber, Associate Professor of English Dr. Cynthia Jeney said about Thorne’s retirement.

“She’s so vital to the department,” Jeney said. “It’s hard to lose someone that good. I hope we can find someone good to hire. We have to. It leaves a place in our department for someone dynamic that wants to step in those shoes. It’s not going to be easy but there are great people out there.”

If administrators or the department plan to do any downsizing or hire adjunct faculty due to the retirements, the future of the EFLJ department could be in question.

“You just can’t do that to a department,” Jeney said. “I’m not sure that there are many departments like our department. I don’t have anything negative to say except ‘Help!’”

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